These are the people that insists that unless Bach is played on instruments of Bach's time (either original or faithful copies), we are not getting the true Bach experience. And there is certainly a gutsy vitality of music played in this style. The Brandenburgs were never meant to be played by a modern 72 piece orchestra.
On the other hand, there are those that claim that had the composers had access to modern instruments with all their advantages, they certainly would have composed for them.
There is no better proof of this than the Haydn and Hummel trumpet concertos.
The trumpet, in the late 1700's, was a very limited instrument. It had no valves or fingerholes, so the notes it could produce were limited to just its base pitch and the harmonic series of that base note. It was no more than a glorified bugle.
In the 1790's, a trumpeter in the Vienna Court Orchestra by the name of Anton Weidinger, frustrated at the limitations of his instrument, invented a new trumpet. His idea parallelled the woodwinds in that he drilled holes along the top tube of the trumpet, each of which could be opened or closed by valves.
With this new trumpet, for the first time, the player had literally at his fingertips the entire chromatic scale, no longer limited to one key and with the ability to play every half-note within its range.
Johann Nepomuk Hummel
Weidinger set out to popularize his invention. He commissioned trumpet concertos from Joseph Haydn in 1796 and from Johann Nepomuk Hummel in 1803. Both composers quickly realised the advantages of the new instrument and took the task seriously.
As it happens, the two first concertos written for the new trumpet have become the greatest ever written in the genre. Never before and rarely since has the trumpet been so eloquent and (gasp!) beautiful. Remember that prior to this, the trumpet was relegated to marches and fanfares.
What both composers concentrated on was to write music that accentuated the new instruments special abilities. Listen to Haydn's opening movement, with frequent modulations impossible on the older instrument, and to the new-found lyricism in the second movement. The final movement concentrates on technical skills, trills and triads, features possible only on Weidinger's trumpet.
Hummel, too, exploits the new possibilities. Unexpected modulations, and virtuoso style writing are prominent again. Weidinger liked both concertos immensely and made a career out of performing them throughout Europe.
As a contrast, listen to Leopold Mozart's Trumpet Concerto, written much earlier in 1762, well before Weidinger's creation. It counts amongst Mozart senior's greatest works and while full of charming melodies and variations, the simplicity of its harmonies and keys are obvious.
Long respected as a jazz musician, Wynton Marsalis won praise and fame as a classical performer with this debut classical recording, which went on the win a Grammy Award. These are not stodgy, academic works - they scream for showmanship and flair. Marsalis delivers.
Trumpets are not standard classical fare. In fact some brass arrangements of the classics have probably done more damage than good to its reputation. This is a CD that shows what a really great performer is capable of with music especially written for this unique instrument.
And at a bargain price, this is a CD that should be in every classical music collector's music cabinet.
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Johann Nepomuk Hummel
National Philharmonic Orchestra
Wynton Marsalis, trumpet
Joseph Haydn: Concerto in E-Flat Major for Trumpet and Orchestra
- I. Allegro
- II. Andante
- III. Allegro
Leopold Mozart: Concerto in D Major for Trumpet and Orchestra
- I. Adagio
- II. Allegro Moderato
Johann Nepomuk Hummel: Concerto in E-Flat Major for Trumpet and Orchestra
- I. Allegro con Spirito
- II. Andante
- III. Rondo: Allegro