Fanfares and Finesse: A Performer's Guide to Trumpet History and Literature

Fanfares and Finesse: A Performer's Guide to Trumpet History and Literature

by Elisa Koehler


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780253011794
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Publication date: 03/01/2014
Edition description: Annotated
Pages: 264
Sales rank: 775,153
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Elisa Koehler is Associate Professor of Music at Goucher College and Music Director and Conductor of the Frederick Symphony Orchestra.

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Fanfares and Finesse

A Performer's Guide to Trumpet History and Literature

By Elisa Koehler

Indiana University Press

Copyright © 2014 Elisa Koehler
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-253-01185-5


Fanfares and Finesse: An Introduction

Few instruments have endured the lengthy evolution of the trumpet. The violin has remained essentially the same since the seventeenth century, as has the piano since the middle of the nineteenth. Even the flute and the clarinet have enjoyed a relatively stable existence for the past two hundred years. However, the trumpet, in its current form, was not standardized until the middle of the twentieth century. Before that time, composers scored their music for a colorful menagerie of different trumpets of all sizes—with or without valves—as well as trumpetlike instruments (the keyed bugle, the cornet, the flugelhorn) and downright imposters (the cornett, or cornetto) (figure 1.1).

In other words, when trumpeters perform any music written before 1930, they need to realize that the composer possibly had an instrument in mind that was radically different from our familiar valved trumpet in B-flat or C. Thus, trumpeters today are forced to transpose, translate, and otherwise decode the music they perform, and this book is designed to help. This is not a history of the trumpet but rather a guidebook for those who have to put that history into practice. It is also intended to introduce techniques and issues related to playing period instruments for those who may be interested in trying them out. Playing the natural trumpet is a revelatory experience that changes the way modern trumpeters approach their instrument as well as the music composed for it.

The trumpet has always enjoyed a prominent position by virtue of its regal associations and demanding presence, but in terms of repertoire, there are notable gaps. For example, no major composer wrote a concerto for the trumpet after Joseph Haydn in 1796. Of course, Johann Nepomuk Hummel's delightful concerto was written seven years after Haydn's, but nobody would accuse him of being a major composer today. Also, the keyed trumpet, for which both concerti were written, was considered something of a novelty. It is useful to reflect on the solo brass writing of Hummel's teacher, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, to shed some light on this situation.

Mozart's favorite brass instrument was undoubtedly the horn. He favored the horn with four major concerti and several fine chamber compositions. One of Mozart's best friends was a horn player, Joseph Leutgeb, for whom he wrote most of his major horn works. The natural horn, playable chromatically with hand-stopping technique at softer volumes, was the most versatile brass instrument in the late eighteenth century. Although Mozart inserted a bugle-like posthorn solo in the trio of the second minuet of his Serenade in D, K. 320 (1779), he did not write any significant melodic parts for the trumpet in his operas, symphonies, or other genres. When Mozart rescored Handel's Messiah for a German-language performance in 1789 (K. 572), he gave most of Handel's trumpet solo for "The Trumpet Shall Sound" to the horn and shortened the aria considerably. And in his Requiem, K. 626, he scored a similar text, "Tuba Mirum Spargens Sonum" (The trumpet will send its wondrous sound), with a famous obbligato solo for tenor trombone.

While it is true that Mozart wrote a trumpet concerto at the age of twelve (K. 47c), the manuscript is lost and the only evidence of its existence is a reference in one of his father's letters from November 1768. The work was originally performed at the dedication of the Waisenhaus (Orphanage) Church in Rennweg, Vienna, on December 7, 1768, along with Mozart's Missa Solemnis in C Minor (Waisenhausmesse), K. 139 (47a). Two divertimenti for five trumpets, two flutes, and timpani (K. 187 and K. 188) originally attributed to Mozart have now been shown to be spurious. These two outdoor works were most likely arranged by Mozart's father, Leopold, from dance movements by Starzer and Gluck. Leopold also included a two-movement trumpet concerto in his Serenade in D Major in 1762; however, he did not pass on his fondness for the trumpet to his son.

Unfortunately, the rumors that Mozart disliked the trumpet are true. Documentary evidence shows that Mozart was extremely sensitive to loud sounds as a child and had a morbid fear of the trumpet. A family friend, the Salzburg court trumpeter Johann Andreas Schachtner, tells the story:

Until he was almost nine he was terribly afraid of the trumpet when it was blown alone, without other music. Merely to hold a trumpet in front of him was like aiming a pistol at his heart.... Papa wanted me to cure him of this childish fear and once told me to blow [the trumpet] at him despite his reluctance, but my God! I should not have been persuaded to do it; Wolfgangerl scarcely heard the blaring sound when he grew pale and began to collapse, and if I had continued he would surely have suffered a convulsion.

Hardly a myth, this episode from Schachtner's 1792 reminiscences of Mozart's childhood appears in several sources. Little Wolfgang's acute sensitivity to poor intonation also diminished his view of the trumpet after he experienced some bad performances. Later in life, Mozart's affinity for warm sounds and dark instrumental colors—especially the viola, horn, and clarinet—further confirms his disregard for the trumpet, especially when it was played stridently and out of tune.

Mozart eventually overcame his fear of the trumpet and forgave Schachtner (also a poet who played violin and cello), who revised the libretto for Mozart's first opera, Bastien und Bastienne, K. 50 (46b), and wrote the text for the Singspiel Zaide, K. 344 (336b). And it also might have been Schachtner (or his teacher Johann Caspar Köstler) who premiered Leopold Mozart's trumpet concerto.

This episode demonstrates several pertinent points. Intonation was noticeably problematic on the natural trumpet in the late eighteenth century, and court trumpeters like Schachtner were often versatile musicians who played several different instruments. More important, following the heyday of the great Baroque trumpet soloists, tastes changed, skills declined, and perceived imperfections in trumpet design consigned it to the back of the orchestra.

Although several developments in the nineteenth century improved the chromatic capability of the trumpet with keys and valves of various types, issues regarding uneven tone quality and intonation plagued the trumpet and hindered its acceptance into more exalted artistic circles. As is shown in later chapters, cultural factors persistently denied the trumpet and the cornet wider acceptance in the late nineteenth century, when they were much improved instruments. At that time, the cornet was associated with cheap entertainment, rightly or wrongly, and its warm, buttery tone was deemed a less virile substitute for the noble sound of the natural trumpet or the larger valve trumpet in an orchestra.

Trumpeters should understand their instrument's history and cultural associations because those factors shaped their repertoire for two hundred years. For example, because the cornet was popular in Paris in the middle of the nineteenth century, it found its way into the orchestral works of Berlioz, Debussy, Tchaikovsky, and even Stravinsky. It also explains why the natural trumpets with which the cornets were paired were pitched in different keys; the cornet could play all of the chromatic pitches, while the natural trumpet was restricted to the harmonic overtone series in only one key. Although parts for these different instruments are often performed on homogeneous modern trumpets in contemporary orchestras, the original instruments sounded quite different from each other.

No contemporary trumpeter can escape the burden of transposing, but he or she may not be aware that the sound ideal of the original instruments also needs to be reproduced along with the notes themselves. This reality confronts young trumpeters the first time they play in an orchestra for, say, a Beethoven symphony and realize that they have to play a part for a trumpet in D on a modern trumpet in C or B-flat (transpose up a whole step or two whole steps, respectively). They also discover that the printed dynamics are fiction (older trumpets were larger, with a less penetrating sound) and that they rarely, if ever, get to play a melody because of the limits of the harmonic overtone series in the lower register (Beethoven's original trumpets did not have valves). This scenario is quite a shock for trumpeters accustomed to performing technically demanding melodic parts in school bands.

But this is just the beginning. Orchestral trumpeters are faced with numerous factors that must be considered to perform the major repertoire. Instrument choice is not always clear, and national differences persist in some orchestras. Rotary-valve trumpets are preferred in Austria and Germany for most repertoire, and American orchestras often employ them for repertoire from the Classical era. While the modern trumpet pitched in C is standard equipment in American orchestras, British orchestras prefer the trumpet in B-flat. As is discussed in later chapters, the use of smaller trumpets pitched in D, E-flat, and F (yet more transposition) for enhanced security in performance is a popular practice as well. Yet again, it must be emphasized that the artistic quality of the musical product is always the primary concern. Trumpeters must choose the equipment that helps them personally perform with the utmost confidence and artistry.

The unique case of the modern piccolo trumpet deserves special mention. It is ironic, to say the least, that the music that Bach and Handel composed for the natural trumpet in D (seven feet of tubing, 236 cm) is performed regularly on the modern piccolo trumpet in B-flat or A (approximately two feet of tubing, 74 cm), an instrument only one-quarter the size of the original. Although they sound radically different, both instruments have their place and can produce beautiful music in the hands of able players. However, the performance of Baroque repertoire on the piccolo trumpet is immeasurably enhanced by knowledge of the unique characteristics of the natural trumpet. And of course, the growing popularity of period instrument performances has attracted more than a few professional trumpeters to learn to play the natural trumpet or a modern Baroque trumpet with vent holes, as well as the challenging cornetto.

One of the by-products of the evolution in trumpet design over the past four hundred years is the increased demands on physical stamina required for performance. In Handel's well-known oratorio Messiah, the trumpets play for a total of twenty minutes during the entire piece (which can be as long as three hours depending on the edition used for performance) and often sit idle for periods of more than thirty minutes. Contrast that to a two-hour brass quintet performance (of serious literature) during which the trumpeters are required to perform highly technical solo parts for the entire duration, or a two-hour jazz band concert in which the trumpets play high-energy music in the stratosphere at loud volumes with little or no respite.

Speaking of jazz, it is significant that the B-flat trumpet has not changed substantially since the 1930s. Trumpeters who specialize in jazz and commercial music may not be as concerned with their instrument's checkered past because they perform contemporary music. But in light of the growing demands for versatility, jazz trumpeters will need to be informed of appropriate styles and issues when performing classical repertoire. At the same time, classical trumpeters need to be conversant with jazz styles because of the rise in crossover artists. All musicians owe a tremendous debt to the pioneering jazz trumpeters of the early twentieth century who extended the range and technique of the instrument and expanded its sound world through the invention of a host of different mutes.

While the development of jazz and the institutionalization of wind bands vaulted the trumpet to new heights of prominence as a solo instrument in the twentieth century, the early music revival simultaneously brought new attention to the trumpet's ancestors and legacy. The revival of early brass instruments flourished primarily in the second half of the twentieth century; however, the early music movement, in general, began in stages, depending on the repertoire and philosophy under consideration. For example, England's Academy of Ancient Music regarded anything written before 1580 to be "ancient" in 1731. From Mendelssohn's 1829 revival of Bach's St. Matthew Passion to the neoclassic movement of the 1920s, the concept of rediscovering old music seems never to have gone out of style.

Today, as in the past, the early music movement continues to generate controversy among mainstream critics. It has been variously derided as reactionary, countercultural, and puritanical while being championed by supporters as a revelation. Regardless of such shifting opinions, the proof is in the performance. Paul Hindemith defended "historically informed performance" (HIP) in 1951 by pointing out that

all the traits that made the music of the past lovable to its contemporary performers or listeners were inextricably associated with the kind of sound then known and appreciated. If we replace this sound by the sounds typical of our modern instruments and their treatment we are counterfeiting the musical message the original sound was supposed to transmit.

Although Hindemith later admitted that it was not possible to re-create period audiences as easily as period instruments, attempts at "musical time travel" attracted a growing following among those disenchanted with twentieth-century modernism.

Trumpeters familiar with Hindemith's majestic Sonata for Trumpet and Piano (1939) written for the modern B-flat trumpet may be surprised to learn that the composer and virtuoso violist also played the cornetto and is considered the father of the collegiate early music movement in North America. Following an appointment at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin in the 1930s, Hindemith joined the faculty at Yale University in 1940, where he founded the Yale Collegium Musicum. His primary goal was to broaden the horizons of his students by providing them hands-on experience with music they were studying. Hindemith often conducted performances on period instruments borrowed from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and private collections. Such performances included Dufay's Mass Se la face ay pale at Yale in 1946 and Monteverdi's L'Orfeo in Vienna in 1954.

Throughout the Baroque revival of the 1960s and 1970s, HIP grew more professional as musicians gained experience and proficiency on period instruments. The 1980s and 1990s witnessed a surge in HIP recordings as well as institutions devoted to fostering early music, such as the Historic Brass Society. Today, early in the twenty-first century, HIP finds itself in the curious position of becoming a mainstream phenomenon. Regardless of the philosophical debates and artistic turf wars, there is no denying that brass musicians—and trumpeters most especially—have more repertoire and convincing interpretive options available thanks to the early music revival.

Improvements in trumpet design continue to this day, but it is safe to say that the instrument in its many forms has at last become standardized amid an everchanging artistic landscape. Even without considering period instruments like the cornetto and the natural trumpet, few musicians are expected to be as versatile as today's classical trumpet players. Like a professional photographer with a dozen different lenses and filters, classical trumpeters are required to possess a small army of instruments and accessories along with a broad base of knowledge to cover a wide variety of styles (figure 1.2). Regardless of the details of equipment, transposition, and history, it remains the emotional power of great music that inspires trumpeters to solve the mysteries of the past and perform at the highest artistic level possible on instruments both old and new.


Excerpted from Fanfares and Finesse by Elisa Koehler. Copyright © 2014 Elisa Koehler. Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Author’s Note
1. Fanfares and Finesse: An Introduction
2. The Natural Trumpet
3. The Modern Baroque Trumpet with Vent Holes
4. The Cornetto
5. The Slide Trumpet
6. The Quest for Chromaticism: Hand-Stopping, Keys, and Valves
7. Bugles, Flügels, and Horns
8. The Cornet
9. Changing of the Guard: Trumpets in Transition
10. Smaller Trumpets
11. Pitch, Temperament, and Transposition
12. Early Repertoire and Performance Practice
13. Baroque Repertoire
14. Classical Repertoire
15. Signals, Calls, and Fanfares
16. Strike up the Band
17. The Modern Orchestral Trumpet
18. Jazz and the Trumpet
19. Solo Repertoire after 1900
20. Brass Chamber Music
21. Trumpeting in the Twenty-First Century
Appendix A: List of Names and Dates
Appendix B: Significant Events in Trumpets History
Appendix C: Selected Recordings: An Annotated List
Appendix D: Museums with Instrument Collections
Appendix E: Period Instrument Resources

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Louisiana State University - Brian Shaw

Elisa Koehler’s book is a resource all trumpeters will not want to be without!

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Fanfares and Finesse: A Performer's Guide to Trumpet History and Literature 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
BrentF More than 1 year ago
In this essential volume for the curious modern trumpeter, Elisa Koehler masterfully paints a detailed, scholarly and at the same time completely accessible journey through the history of the trumpet. Each chapter presents concise information about historical instruments, notable musicians, periods of music history, repertoire, and performance practice. Dr. Koehler does an outstanding job of making what some might consider "dry" subject matter come to life. Through witty turns of phrase and an academically conversational approach, "Fanfares and Finesse" provides a unique approach to history. Rather than an island of boredom which bears no resemblance to the present, this book connects history to the present and provides ways for the modern trumpeter to embrace stylistically appropriate performance, instrument selection, and ensemble playing. For anyone who has the least bit of curiosity about the trumpet, this book should quickly find its way into their collection and onto their bookshelves. In addition to trumpet players, conductors, teachers, church choir directors and anyone else who works with trumpet players would greatly benefit from the knowledge enclosed in this wonderful volume!