Archive for trumpet

A Bit of Hummel Again

Posted in Music with tags , , on December 16, 2016 by telescoper

Since I was recently wittering on about trumpets I thought I’d share again my favourite bit from my favourite trumpet work. It’s the central Andante movement of a Trumpet Concerto by Johann Nepomuk Hummel which was written in 1803 and was one of the first major works to be composed for the (then) recently-invented keyed trumpet.  The piece was originally written in  E major, but is often performed nowadays  in E-flat major, as in this recording, which makes the fingering less difficult on modern E-flat and B-flat trumpets.

In his own lifetime Hummel was every bit as famous as Haydn and Beethoven; he was a pallbearer at the latter’s funeral, in fact. He died in 1837 with his musical reputation apparently secure, but was quickly forgotten. Always a bit overshadowed by Mozart, when the romantic era dawned Hummel’s classical style was considered extremely old-fashioned. It’s just another illustration of a fact that applies not only in music but also in many different spheres of activity: popularity in one’s own lifetime is by no means certain to turn into renown thereafter.

I have posted this piece of music before but listening to it today something struck me that hadn’t done so before, namely that parts of the writing for strings in this movement are very reminiscent of the second (Andante) movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major (known to many as the “Elvira Madigan” music).

I don’t usually like the sound of the classical trumpet that much- I prefer the broader and more expressive way the instrument is used in Jazz, whether it’s the brassy brilliance of Dizzy Gillespie or the moody melancholia of Miles Davis – but this piece is really lovely, especially when played with beautiful clarity by Norwegian trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth.


The Trumpet Shall Sound

Posted in History with tags , , , , , , , on December 15, 2016 by telescoper

Following on from yesterday’s post about Handel’s Messiah I thought I’d include this very nice performance of The Trumpet Shall Sound, featuring the excellent bass voice of Alastair Miles with Crispian Steele-Perkins playing the solo trumpet part. One of the reasons for posting it – other than the obvious one (that it’s great) – is that I was thinking about it after Tuesday’s  concert.  The trumpet part at the performance I went to was played (superbly) by Dean Wright on a modern (valved) trumpet, but that wasn’t invented until many years after Handel’s time.

The historical development of the trumpet is a fascinating story but the most interesting technical developments actually happened long after Handel wrote Messiah (which was in 1741).  The keyed trumpet – a forerunner of the modern valved variety – wasn’t invented until the late 18th Century. In fact Joseph Haydn wrote his Trumpet Concerto specifically to demonstrate the capabilities of this instrument; that piece wasn’t first performed until 1800. The modern valved trumpet didn’t begin to appear until about 1818. Before that orchestras used the natural trumpet, which has no valves or other means of controlling the flow of air through the instrument and is therefore only really capable of playing harmonics (rather like a bugle).  Other notes can be generated, but only with some difficulty, using the lip. This kind trumpet is the sort of instrument that would have been played in Handel’s time. The so-called baroque trumpet  is actually a 20th century invention created for musicians who want the “period sound” of  a natural trumpet but with the additional flexibility that comes from having “vents” in the tube that can be covered with the fingers. This is the kind of instrument that Crispian Steele-Perkins is playing in the video. It is valveless but has two finger holes which the trumpeter can close and open with the thumb and little finger of the right hand for fine pitch control.