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Trumpets in Bach’s Vocal Works
Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Brass in Bach

Robert Sherman wrote (January 19, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] My German is so rusty that it would take me a very long time to get through any serious discussion in that language. But in any case, what counts are not the words scholars write but the sounds players make. If it can be done, presumably somebody (one of the Csibas?) has recorded valveless trumpeting that

1) Does not suffer from splatty attacks
2) Is in tune without the use of nodal finger-holes
3) Plays an even scale (this is more of an issue for horn than trumpet)
4) Has wide enough dynamic range to match the soprano in BWV 51, the flute in BB2, and also to soar above the chorus and orch in the Dona Nobis Pacem of the bm and punch out a thrilling finale to the XO (BWV 248).

If you can direct me to any such recording(s), I would welcome it.

BTY, since you mention playing down an octave: I remember hearing a Cleveland Orchestra performance of 80 in 1960, in which the first trumpeter took about half the high notes down an octave. If a trumpeter were to try that today, he'd face instant unemployment. But performance and equipment standards were lower then.


Thomas Braatz wrote (January 19, 2003):
Robert Sherman stated and asked:
>>But in any case, what counts are not the words scholars write but the sounds players make. If it can be done, presumably somebody (one of the Csibas?) has recorded valveless trumpeting that

1) Does not suffer from splatty attacks
2) Is in tune without the use of nodal finger-holes
3) Plays an even scale (this is more of an issue for horn than trumpet)
4) Has wide enough dynamic range to match the soprano in
BWV 51, the flute in BB2, and also to soar above the chorus and orch in the Dona Nobis Pacem of the bm and punch out a thrilling finale to the XO (BWV 248).

If you can direct me to any such recording(s), I would welcome it.<<
Bob, all of the above are covered in this book by the Csibas who also maintain that on these reconstructions of the original, old instruments

1) there should be no splatty attacks

2) the intonation should be excellent without the use of nodal finger-holes (they do not exist on these reconstructed models)

3) the scale passages do not have some notes very loud and others very soft and slightly out of tune

4) the dynamic ranges are exactly what Bach must have heard with the size of his choir and orchestra. Whether this will be sufficient to 'punch out a thrilling finale' to the WO or 'soar above the chorus' in BWV 232 when the other instruments and choral forces are of Richter-like proportions will have to remain to be seen (and heard) at some point in the future.

Jozsef Csiba has used a number of these instruments for actual performances of Bach's music. It is not clear from the German whether he actually played them for these performances or whether someone else used his instruments. If I remember correctly, Csiba is a professional musician in German, but perhaps the orchestra(s) in which he plays do not necessarily play any of Bach's music. In any case, I do not specifically know of any Bach performances that are available in recorded form, and not many CDs are apt to indicate the precise origin of the instrument.

Csiba builds his own instruments and gives a rather interesting description of the methods and materials he uses. Since he is not in the business of creating brass instruments, he recommends, however, that anyone reading the book get in contact with Max and Heinrich Thein in Bremen, Germany.

Here's the link: http://www.thein-brass.de/

I have just found at http://www.koebl.de/ the following new book by the Csibas:

Csiba, Gisela + Jozsef: Barock / Trompeten Hörner - Anleitung zum Spiel auf historischen Instrumenten (mit Texten, Notenbeispielen, Übungen und Abbildungen, richtet sich nicht an den Anfänger, sondern soll dem ausgebildeten Trompeter die Rückkehr zum ursprünglichen Instrument ermöglichen)

This seems to be a method/instructional book for learning how to play on historical brass instruments -- also intended for professional trumpet players who want to learn the techniques for playing original brass instruments.

Hope this helps!

Robert Sherman wrote (January 19, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thanks, Tom.

You are of course correct that intonation should be excellent without finger-holes, and that Bach's instruments didn't use holes. But to say it SHOULD be done is easy, but to DO it is another kettle of fish and the proof is in the pudding, to mix a metaphor.

Still interested in any recordings in which I can hear all this done. I would think there would be a huge market for it if it can be done. So if you ever come across it, please let me know.

 

Bach’s trombae

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 14, 2003):
Christian Panse wrote:
>> And now it's my turn to ask you: What is your basis and documentation for this claim? How do you explain Bachs intention that a trumpet and a recorder are supposed to play peaceful together in the 2nd Brandenburg Concerto?<<
Let’s not compare apples and oranges here.

[From the Csibas’ book, “Die Blechbalsinstrumente in J. S. Bachs Werken” (Merseburger, 1994)]

Based upon the compositions in Bach’s oeuvre which use trombae of various sizes, pitches, ranges, etc., there are 7 different types of trombae (the tromba da tirarsi is not being considered here) that Bach used. Most commonly he used D and C trombae. (This may be one reason why many of his compositions with trombae happen to be in these keys, particularly in the key of D.) In the current cantata under discussion – BWV 171, all 3 instruments are in D. This instrument is featured in the feeble performance given by the trumpeters playing in Leusink’s rendition of BWV 171. The tromba in F is used only once in all of Bach’s works, and guess what? That is the instrument designated for the 2nd Brandenburg (BWV 1047.) It is a different instrument (size, range, etc.) and is even more difficult to play than a tromba in D or C. Of the tromba in G which Bach used only once in BWV 75 (only to play the c.f.) and which is a whole note higher than the tromba in F, J. E. Altenburg, Bach’s contemporary expert on this subject of brass instruments, states: “It is not as easy to play clarino parts on this instrument (tromba in G) as it is on the trombae in D, and the players are exhausted much more quickly because of the effort that needs to be expended.” We can assume that a similar situation prevailed for the tromba in F which is only one whole tone lower.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 14, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Actually, it's not the pitch of the instrument that's the problem, it's the pitch of the notes. The Bburg is harder than the oratorios because it's higher. If it were to be played a step higher, in G, it would become much much harder still. But playing low notes on an F trumpet is easy.

Actually, if you have valves it isn't necessary to play a piece on a trumpet pitched in the written key. Commonly, the D trumpet literature is played on an A or sometimes a G trumpet, and the Bburg on a Bb trumpet. The C trumpet literature goes best on an F or G trumpet. This greatly improves accuracy. So long as you don't move more than one key away from the written key, intonation doesn't suffer.

I would think the same principle would apply to Hollywood-HIP valveless trumpets with finger holes, but I don't know what the practice is there.

 

Instruments at our disposal and taste

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 14, 2003):
Alex Riedlmayer wrote:
< Rather than focus on what was possible in Bach's time, I will remind you that we have means that weren't generally available then; they are at our disposal, and whether to use them depends on personal taste. >
When Baroque trumpets aren't available for a gig, I suggest the following pecking order of substitution, from best (thclosest sonic character) to worst (the most change of loudness & projection):

- Cornetto (Zink)
- Clarinet ("little clarino")
- Soprano saxophone
- modern trumpet or piccolo trumpet or "Bach trumpet" (a misnomer)
- a reed stop on an organ

Brad Lehman
(a big fan of masterfully soulful Zink playing...it's one of the best perks in 17th century music...)

Neil Halliday wrote (July 15, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] In the case of the 2nd Bburg on modern instruments , I would go straight to the piccolo trumpet, for the most "sparkling" interpretation of this work, and, to maintain good balance in the concertante group, as well as in the overall ensemble, replace the recorder with a flute.

On "modern" performance, I have just taken possession of Box 1 (BWV 1-64) of Rilling's cantata cycle; my initial impression of CD 1 (BWV 1-3) is very positive.

The clarity and presence of the instruments is exceptional (even if a litle 'dry' in BWV 1), and this is maintained in the choral sections. The stereo separation and balance of the channels is excellent.

(I would choose a less vigorous , more graceful (slower) tempo, for the opening chorus of BWV 1).

I don't have to engage in my usual trick, as I usually do after purchase of a HIP cantata, of burning my own CD, minus the secco recitatives; here the recitatives are musically interesting with their fully realised continuo, and move naturally and logically into the following arias.

(I cannot maintain interest an unaccompanied human voice for long - no matter how interesting (or boring) the words. I consider the experience of these cantatas, on a musical level, to be too intense to allow for an interruption to the flow of the movements, by an operatic-style recitative 'declaration' from an unaccompanied singer.)

The soprano in BWV 1 - Inga Neilson - has a voice which sounds surprising like one of Harnoncourt' better boy sopranos, and with her relative lack of vibrato, this is an appealing voice.

I expect the vibratos of some of the vocalists in Rilling's set will be a drawback for me (eg, in some of the duets), but the clarity and presence of the instruments, which, in the arias, often contain the most interesting musical elements, should more than compensate for
this.

Speaking of duets, but in a HIP guise, I recently heard a very moving performance of the opening movement of Pergelosi's Stabat Mater, from Emma Kirkby (soprano) and James Bowden (counter-tenor), with the A. of A.M. conducted by Christopher Hogwood. This is how baroque singers should sound, combining beautifully in duet, with minimal but tasteful vibrato.

And Hogwood (unusually for him?) eschewed 'distracting' expressive devices in favour of an even, clear, legato presentation of all the parts in an 'andante' tempo, resulting in a very moving presentation indeed.

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 15, 2003):
< Neil Halliday wrote: In the case of the 2nd Bburg on modern instruments , I would go straight to the piccolo trumpet, for the most "sparkling" interpretation of this work, and, to maintain good balance in the concertante group, as well as in the overall ensemble, replace the recorder with a flute. >
That's a pretty slippery slope there, sir. You replace one instrument with a much louder and more penetrating later one, and then you need to replace a second instrument to balance it...and then before you know it you're replacing all the strings and their bows to make them louder, too, and adding more of them. And then the harpsichord gets miked, too, to stay up with everybody. The whole ensemble gets louder just because you liked that "sparkling" piccolo trumpet substitution, which is a character quite different from Bach's natural trumpet....

Plus, in the case of Baroque flute (made of wood), it's not louder than a recorder; and some of them are more mellow (with less projection/penetration) than a recorder. [Neither are the early fortepianos any louder than the harpsichords they were contemporary with.] Your line of substitutions only works if we've already dismissed the basic sound...and it becomes a circular argument.

A philosophical question comes up: when, among all these substitutions and re-balancing tricks that overrule Bach's texture, does it become a different piece of music? A different piece of music that some people like better, and that some people are much more accustomed to, to be sure, but a different piece...even though all the notes are the same on the page.

I'm reminded of the old metaphysical joke: "Well, yeah, this is George Washington's axe right here. Over the years the handle got replaced three times and the blade once, but it's still his axe!"

Or the other "we've always done it this way" joke about the young chef who always cut the ends off the meat before roasting it, because he picked it up that way as a family recipe. And then, research into the tradition shows that his great-grandmother only cut the ends off because she had a small roasting pan that wouldn't accommodate the whole piece at once.

"Folger's Crystals: so rich it could replace human blood!" - old Saturday Night Live sketch, showing hospital patients with IV tubes feeding them Folger's Crystals instant coffee

Has anybody here actually heard a performance of Brandenburg #2 with a cornetto (Zink), as I suggested? I haven't, but would like to. I have heard the two famous recordings (Klemperer 1946 and then Casals 1950) that use soprano saxophone. Also the notorious Thurston Dart recording (conducted by Marriner) that has the part played on modern horn an octave lower; and Ludwig Guttler's using corno da caccia. In all those, the instrument has plenty of sparkle (IMO) and presence, without dominating the texture. The music is gentle and tuneful, and all the contrapuntal strands are balanced easily in the flow. What a concept.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 15, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] I don't see any slippery slope there. There are lots of picc-trpt and modern flute recordings (e.g. Andre with Muti) that sound just fine without a miked harpsichord or any of that stuff.

Also, you don't discuss the enormous downsides of the natural trumpet, which I've belabored enough here and won't take everyone's time to go through again. I think, though, that in considering the natural trumpet on an idealized basis -- without the warts -- you're positing a solution that doesn't exist.

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 15, 2003):
[To Robert Shewrman] As you'll recall, my solution was: if one can't use a natural trumpet [perhaps because of these "enormous downsides" you mention], it's worth considering a cornetto (Zink) ahead of a picc-trpt. A cornetto is remarkably flexible in technique: able to play almost everything a 17th century violin can, and able to balance well in ensemble without unduly dominating it; and with a well-deserved reputation of sounding more like the human voice than any other instrument does.

Also, possibly, considering clarinet and soprano sax among the viable modern options, instead of automatically going to picc-trpt just because it says "tromba" (or whatever) in the score.

[We've been through some of this discussion before, about a year ago....]

That is, my argument is not about any "downsides" or advantages of natural trumpet, one way or another; but rather, what to do when there isn't one to be played competently. (And you've already made it quite clear that you don't like natural trumpet; fine! I'm not all that enamoured of natural trumpet, either.)

It's not surprising--to me, anyway--that a good substitution is available from Bach's own near past rather than automatically reaching into his future for a solution. Later instruments are not necessarily improvements on earlier ones.

 

Natural trumpets played well

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 17, 2003):
Robert Sherman wrote:
< (...) The best that can be said about the very best valveless trumpet performances is that through heroic effort the players are at times able to sound like lower-middle-quality modern trumpets.>
Have you heard this album?
http://shopping.yahoo.com/shop?d=product&id=1921518464
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B0000028Z2/

I've had it for about eight years and listen to it regularly with enjoyment. Crispian Steele-Perkins and John Thiessen give a performance here that has none of the deficiencies you mentioned. They have beautiful tone, expressive control, good balance, great blend with the oboes and strings. There are even some pieces in minor keys.

The natural trumpet players in Harnoncourt's (live) recordings of the Beethoven symphonies also do well.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 17, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Brad, I haven't heard it but will get it and give it a try.

Philippe Brareille wrote (July 20, 2003):
[To Robert Sherman] You can also listen to Friedemann Immer, playing with the Leonhardt-Consort in Cantata BWV 128 for example. I heard Crispian Steele-Perkins live on several occasions and I always found him impressive.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 22, 2003):
[To Philippe Bareille] I have no other recording of BWV 128, so I can only comment on Immer's Hollywood-HIP version in the absolute.

He does remarkably well at getting the thing in tune and playing an even scale. But he still suffers from splatty attacks, such that if a modern trumpeter were to play that way he would not have employment. This is not a criticism of Immer, whom I presume can play quite cleanly on a modern trumpet. It is simply a difficulty of the instrument.

Beyond that, Immer has the relatively dull, soft tone characteristic of this instrument. Whether one prefers this is a matter of taste, which we can discuss more thoroughly when we have nominations in the different categories that we can compare back-to-back.

BTW, in the first movement of this recording, the horns have a much worse case of the splats. They are really getting into the "may my children never know I played this way" level. If anybody in Dennis Brain's horn section had played that way, Brain would no doubt instantly have, uh, brained him.

Philippe Bareille wrote (July 23, 2003):
[To Robert Sherman] Whether you want or not this is the kind of trumpets Bach had in mind when he wrote this music. It is not even a question of taste but a hard undeniable fact. I personally think the natural trumpet is ideal to capture the spirit of this music. Instruments have evolved over the centuries as music has adjusted to their new sounds and developing ranges, but it is a truism to say that neither music nor instruments have improved. My father plays the modern trumpet in a brass ensemble and cannot comprehend why some trumpeters use a valveless trumpet! It is perhaps a matter of generation, education and "ear".

Robert Sherman wrote (July 24, 2003):
[To Philippe Bareille] Well, actually Bach had in mind trumpets that not only lacked valves but also lacked finger-holes, so Immer's in-tune playing and even scale were not what Bach had in mind. I agree, though, that your father seems to be well educated and to have a good ear.

But, again, can't we move beyond philisophical generalities? I've posted a list of exemplary playing of best-known baroque works on modern trumpet. I've challenged anyone to propose exemplary natural or semi-natural trumpet recordings of these same works, so we can compare sounds and not words. So far NOBODY has responded.

So how about it, Philippe?

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 24, 200-3):
[To Robert Sherman] A week ago I mentioned this Steele-Perkins CD (including the Vivaldi double) but you said you couldn't find a copy:
http://shopping.yahoo.com/shop?d=product&id=1921518464
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B0000028Z2/
Did you at least listen to the web samples in that first link? The booklet says that Steele-Perkins is playing a trumpet by "David Edwards, 1986, copy of 'Simon Beale, Londini fecit 1667'". Thiessen plays a trumpet by "Stephen Keavy, 1987, after Nuernberg, 1720."

This disc also includes the Telemann D-major concerto you mentioned; and the booklet notes point out the prominent C#. "To be sure, this note occurs in other works of the time, but not normally on stressed down-beats as it does here, suggesting that the intended performer utilized some device that enabled him to produce this note accurately, possibly by means of a node-hole in the instrument's tubing, which Hamburg players are known to have tried out in the mid-18th century."

I also have (just bought last weekend) the Naxos CD of the Vivaldi double, played by Eklund and Segal, and conducted by the venerable Tarr:
http://www.naxos.com/scripts/newreleases/naxos_cat.asp?item_code=8.555099
The web site allows the visitor to listen to the complete performances. The program notes say nothing about Segal's hardware. About Eklund's hardware, the only sentence is: "On the present recording he plays a baroque trumpet by Rainer Egger of Basel, modelled on an original instrument by Johann Leonhard Ehe II (1663-1724)." But there are two whole paragraphs by the concertmaster (Gabriel Bania) about how all the string players in their orchestra are playing "instruments stringed according to original baroque principles" where most other period bands do not. The difference, according to this note, is the equalized tension on all four strings. [That is, to use your terminology, this "Wasa Baroque Ensemble" clearly tries to distance itself from "Hollywood HIP" insofar as hardware issues are concerned.]

Brad "NOBODY" Lehman

Bob Henderson wrote (July 24, 2003):
[To Robert Sherman] Well, Bob S,

I just happen to be listening to the wonderful Bach Collegium Messiah. I can think of no better example of natural trumpet than that of either Toshio Shimada or Yoshio Kobayashi ( soloist not specified in notes) in David Thomas's superb 'The Trumpet Shall Sound''. Clear, transparent yet gentle. With that wonderful baroque rasp.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 24, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] If it uses a garden hose, it would need to be classified as as "soft-core" hip, unless of course the hose were hardened and cracked with age.

The "hosaphone" is a standard party-gag device for brass players. You put your mouthpiece in one end and an automotive oil-change funnel in the other, and if the hose is about 8 ft long, presto, you have a natural trumpet and can play tunes on it.

Brad's description of the harmonic series is correct, and can be demonstrated by any brass player. But the catch is that, for reasons that are not fully understood, it's difficult to get the tube in practice to play those notes spot-on as they should be in theory. So since the 1960s the best trumpets have used slight bore constrictions or expansions at the appropriate nodal points to pull the harmonics more into place. (This raises another potential category of "Computer-designed HIP" for trumpets without valves but with shaped nodes that were impossible with baroque-era construction.)

The 7th harmonic, while consonant with the 6th, is out of tune for our Western scale, and is generally not used as such. Players on valveless trumpets lip it up a bit in order to transform it into a Bb. Players on valve trumpets ignore it and wish it weren't there.

On a natural trumpet, the diatonic notes begin with the 8th harmonic. Below that, you can only play the major chord like a bugle.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 24, 2003):
Brad Lehman shared the following:
>>The booklet says that Steele-Perkins is playing a trumpet by "David Edwards, 1986, copy of 'Simon Beale, Londini fecit 1667'". Thiessen plays a trumpet by "Stephen Keavy, 1987, after Nuernberg, 1720."<<
The key word here is ‘after.’ This can mean anything generally except that the instrument is an exact copy of the original. More likely it means “generally based upon the original in principle, having similar shape and form, but using modern materials, modifications and techniques of instrument making as needed.”

The key word ‘copy’ might imply a much closer reconstruction of the original instrument, but the word ‘exact’ is not mentioned here, hence some variations (nodal fingerholes, etc.) are possible.

>>About Eklund's hardware, the only sentence is: "On the present recording he plays a baroque trumpet by Rainer Egger of Basel, modelled on an original instrument by Johann Leonhard Ehe II (1663-1724)."<<
The key words ‘modeled on’ are very similar to ‘after.’ Looked at from this perspective, it is very likely that some kind of 'cheating' by using modern solutions/improvements is involved in the creation of these instruments. Perhaps this is the same type of fine distinction that may be lost on the general listener who may not be able to distinguish the type of plectra (modern plastic vs. bird quills) used on an 'historical' harpsichord built after or modeled upon an original museum piece. Out of sheer interest, I would at least like to hear a 'completely authentic' instrument, if there is such a thing, appropriately played. What I do not care to hear are versions of Bach's music that claim to be authentically performed, but are, in reality, rather inferior performances (all the numerous 'bad' aspects of trumpet playing that have already been pointed out), which are still being extolled as having a 'genuine' or 'authentic' sound that listeners should admire because that was all that these past natural tromba players were capable of producing on their imperfect reconstructions.

>>This disc also includes the Telemann D-major concerto you mentioned; and the booklet notes point out the prominent C#. "To be sure, this note occurs in other works of the time, but not normally on stressed down-beats as it does here, suggesting that the intended performer utilized some device that enabled him to produce this note accurately, possibly by means of a node-hole in the instrument's tubing, which Hamburg players are known to have tried out in the mid-18th century."<<
Anthony Baines in his “Brass Instruments: Their History and Development” (Dover, 1974, revised 1993) explains on p. 241 that the idea of ‘fingerholes’ (nodal holes) for natural trumpets to play difficult clarino parts (7 ft. clarino) in D (typically used by Bach) was first conceived of by Anton Leichner of Vienna in 1952. This was further perfected [very much the same way that the “Bach Bow” was created in the 20th century to play Bach’s music ‘authentically’] by Otto Steinkopf and Helmut Finke in 1959. Baines states: “The clarino [the word, as used here, refers to the instrument, not the range of the part] allows baroque parts to be performed with a commendable approach to authentic effect, with intonation acceptable to the record companies and a welcome relief from the rather monotonous articulation of the valved instruments. It is now also made in normal trumpet format.”

The reference to the ‘Hamburg trumpeters playing possibly by using a nodal-hole’ is very likely a wishful misreading of a report by the commentator above, a report quoted directly in German by the Csibas in their book, “Die Blechblasinstrument in J.S.Bachs Werken” (Merseburger, 1994) p. 29:

This report comes from a facsimile edition by J. S. Hiller (Hildesheim, 1970) vol. 3, p. 48 of “Wöchentliche Nachrichten und Anmerkungen die Musik betreffend” (dated August 8th, 1768, Leipzig): The report is regarding the mysterious capabilities of the trumpeters who belonged to the “Thürmer” [brass ensemble players, who play from the church tower, particularly around Christmas], in this case, specifically those who played from the tower of the Petrikirche in Hamburg. It is stated that Mr. Meyer ‘nebst seinen noch lebenden Bruder’ [along with his brother who is still living] possessed the secret “die halben Töne, die tiefsten sowohl als die höchsten, auf der Trompete mit der größten Reinigkeit auszudrücken, vermittelst eines Mundstückes, das diese beiden geschickten Tonkünstler so viel uns bekannt, selbst erfunden haben.“ [to play semi-tones, the lowest as well as the highest, with perfect intonation by using a mouthpiece which, as far as we know, was invented personally by both of these very clever musicians.] [Nothing here even hints at ‘nodal’ fingerholes being used!]

Elsewhere the Csibas also refer to such a possible mouthpiece depicted on an illustration of a trumpet used by John Shore (1662-1753), the royal trumpeter for the King of England – this illustration appeared in Roger North’s “Cursory Notes of Musicke”, dated November 22, 1704, where only a single ‘extension’ of Shore’s tromba is visible.

This is perhaps the main point of the book by the Csibas: no nodal ‘fingerholes’ were ever used in playing the typical Bach tromba parts in C and D, no set of extensions or crooks, only a single, separate mouthpiece with a slightly longer ‘built-in extension’ than the original mouthpiece. Armed with such an instrument (this is NOT a tromba da tirarsi), very good players with practice (proper breathing and use of lips) could overcome all the difficulties posed by natural trombae by using this single aid.

The conjecture that nodal fingerholes were possibly used by baroque trumpeters is based on imagination influenced perhaps by the Leichner-Steinkopf-Finke experiment, which was a modern-day (1950s) attempt to approximate the baroque-trumpet sound (getting away from modern, valved trumpets, including piccolo trumpets) without having to learn to use the actual techniques originally used, techniques which have only come to light in the past decade. This combination of correct hardware and proper playing technique will eventually eclipse the well-meaning, but musically imperfect past attempts at playing natural trumpets. We can now hope that new musicians who are willing and capable will continue to improve the sound that will emanate from these instruments.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 25, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] I agree with Thomas. If you are going to think you are hearing what Bach heard, then you should hear the real Ultra HIP. But still, it's interesting to hear what can be done with Hollywood HIP, so long as we are clear that this is not authentic.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 25, 2003):
[To Bob Henderson] OK, thanks. Will add this contender.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 25, 2003):
[To Bob Henderson] Have you listend to and compared the Terfel/Mackerras TTSS, or to the Bennett with Marriner on the other Messiah sections that I listed?

Robert Sherman wrote (July 28, 2003):
[To Bob Henderson] OK, this is your contender and I'll put it in the table.

Regarding Thomas' TTSS, he has a bottom range that could crack an ICBM silo at a hundred paces. His low C# (actually a C-natural if we were to think A=440) at the end of "corruptible" is amazing.

Overall, though, how would you compare this to Terfel/Mackerras?

 

Trumpet Challenge

Robert Sherman wrote (July 21, 2003):
The entire HIP debate on this list, including my own contributions, has consisted too much of philosophic generalities and not enough of discussions of specific recordings.

To continue the debate in concrete terms, below I list what are IMHO fully satisfying performances of the standard baroque works on modern trumpets. I've made no deliberate effort to include a large variety of players, but I'm pleased that it worked out that way.

I invite anyone to submit competitive entries in three categories:

1) Hollywood HIP -- that is, using nodal finger holes, which are totally nonauthentic but enable a visual illusion of authenticity that seems to satisfy some people. The vast majority of performances advertised as "historic" are done this way. (Note: The Steele-Perkins recording in this category recently recommended by Brad appears to be no longer available.)

2) Medium HIP: No tuning aids of any kind, but modern materials, design, and manufacturing methods permitted.

3) Ultra HIP: An all-out attempt to re-create what Bach heard. No tuning aids, no computerized nodal analysis, no CAD/CAM, no seamless bells, no alloys not used by Bach's trumpeters, no modern production tools or machinery. In all respects the metallurgy, design, and manufacturing methods which were used oBach's instruments. This is what Tom Braatz describes as being the ultimate solution.

All can then listen to the contenders back-to-back and provide comments to the list.

Here are my modern-instrument candidates. HIP fans please fill in the other cells.

JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH:

BRANDENBURG CONCERTO #2
Modern: Maurice Andre, trpt, with Muti, EMI CDC 7 47311 2
Hollywood HIP:
Medium HIP:
Ultra HIP:

MASS IN B MINOR
Modern: John Wilbraham, trpt, with Marriner, Philips 416 415-2
Hollywood HIP:
Medium HIP:
Ultra HIP:

CHRISTMAS ORATORIO
Modern: Haken Hardenberger, trpt, with zu Guttenberg, FARAO Classics B 108 015
Hollywood HIP:
Medium HIP:
Ultra HIP:

CANTATA 51:
Modern: Hannes Lauben, trpt, with Augér, Rilling, Hänssler Classics - #92017
Hollywood HIP:
Medium HIP:
Ultra HIP:

CANTATA 21 finale
Modern: Unnamed trumpet with Rilling, Hanssler 94.028 (also has 51 and a lot of other good stuff)
Hollywood HIP:
Medium HIP:
Ultra HIP:

GEORG FRIEDRICH HÄNDEL:

MESSIAH, "Glory to God", "Hallelujah"
Modern: Mark Bennett, trpt, on the second Marriner recording, Polygram Records - #434695, also available on videocassette
Hollywood HIP:
Medium HIP:
Ultra HIP:

"The Trumpet Shall Sound"
Modern: Of my 40-odd recordings of this, I've found none that are musically fully satisfying. This piece needs heavy ornamentation in the repeat, which I've yet to hear on record. But setting that aside, the best is probably the unnamed trumpeter on Bryn Terfel's recital disk with Mackerras, Polygram
Records - #453480
Hollywood HIP:
Medium HIP:
Ultra HIP:

Michael Haydn:
CONCERTO IN D (This little-known but very pleasant baroque piece has the highest note in the repertoire, and is a severe challenge to even the best of the best)
Modern: Wynton Marsalis, trpt, with Leppard, Sony #42478
Hollywood HIP:
Medium HIP:
Ultra HIP:

GEORG PHILIP TELEMANN
CONCERTO IN D
Modern: Carole Dawn Reinhardt, trpt, with Marc Andraea, ACANTA 43 324
Hollywood HIP:
Medium HIP:
Ultra HIP:

ANTONIO VIVALDI
CONCERTO FOR TWO TRUMPETS IN C: Gerard Schwarz & Norman Smith, trpts, Schwarz also conducts, Delos D/CD 3002
Hollywood HIP:
Medium HIP:
Ultra HIP:

Bring on the contenders!

Neil Halliday wrote (July 21, 2003):
Robert Sherman wrote: "The entire HIP debate on this list, including my own contributions, has consisted too much of philosophic generalities and not enough of discussions of specific recordings."
Yes, this is a problem, brought about by the fact that very few of us have access to more than one or two recordings of any given cantata, (if at all) - even Brad apparently does not have internet access to (and presumably, has not heard) all the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt series (he doesn't have DSL in his area), around which at least some of the debate swirls.

Nevertheless, (if you will allow me to get a little more of "philosophic generalities" out of the way - skip the next two paragraphs if your'e not interested); while watching a historical documentary on TV last night, I was struck by the enormous amount of time which the camerman spent on meaningless close-ups of horses' and soldiers' feet, nibs writng on paper, close-ups of swords held aloft (in a battle scene), blurry images, views in the far distance of the actors concerned, in fact, anything to avoid a straight-forward view of the subject - is this analogous to the excessive micro-management of indivdual notes of a music score, by some period groups, that
Rilling referred to in his article?

Brad likened the Rilling (and my) view to a preference for a black and white, as opposed to a coloured (HIP) 'hearing' of the music, but my anology would be the illumination of a nave of a cathedral (the score) by an even white light (Rilling), compared with spot-lighting of certain features of the nave (HIP).

OK, now, getting back to actual examples (a good idea), Phillipe has already started with your "trumpet challenge" by referring to Friedemann Immer with the Leonhardt Consort in BWV 128, which I presume is the one we can hear on the internet (located at the Bach-Cantatas web-site). If so, (and thanks, Philippe for directing us to this lovely cantata), this is a good overall performance from Leonhardt - good tempos, and a reasonably non-idiosyncratic performance (no distracting HIP "expressive" exaggerations).

While the horns in the opening movement display some uneven intonation, and the trumpet in the 3rd movement (Bass aria "Auf, auf, mit hellem Schall") shows "cracking" at the beginning of many notes, (is this what you call "splatting"?), the music is very enjoyable.

My own personal criticism would be of the "scratchy" string sound rather than any short-comings of the brass, but I am not an expert; and I believe Aryeh has referred to this "ancient" sound as having its own charm.

In the meantime, my acquisition of the Rilling cycle has not progressed as far as BWV 128, so I cannot make a comparison of this particular aria with a modern instrument performance/recording.

Christian Panse wrote (July 21, 2003):
< Robert Sherman wrote:
1) Hollywood HIP -- that is, using nodal finger holes, which are totally nonauthentic but enable a visual illusion of authenticity that seems to satisfy some people. >
I hereby protest against the label "Hollywood HIP" (and also every other attempt to establish sub-labels into the big label "HIP"). It's so amazing: If it comes to natural trumpets with additional finger holes, you give the purist turning them down; and in the next sentence you're able to praise the so-called "Bach trumpet" (an instrument light years away from every trumpet Bach saw in his lifetime) for its superior playing in tune and so on. I don't know how to deal with this ambiguity in your approach to the discussion, but it bars me from taking your challenge. I named a number of cantata movements where I like Leusink's trumpeters very much.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 21, 2003):
[To Christian Panse] I've never used the term "Bach trumpet" to apply to a modern piccolo trumpet, and I don't know any trumpeters who use that term. My support for this instrument, and my dislike of valveless trumpets, is based on their sound, not their historicity. My point is that finger-holes would be as foreign to Bach as valves, and that is fact. Finger-hole trumpets are not historically accurate.

Tom Braatz has written repeatedly that today's performances on allegedly-historical trumpets are defective because the instruments used are not literally historic, or copies of historic instruments. This is a fair point, deserving to be put to the listening test. Hence the subdivision of HIP.

Sorry you won't be contributing to the comparison, but I hope others will.

Peter Bright wrote (July 21, 2003):
[To Robert Sherman] I'm confused by all these trumpet discussions. Is this a 'Bach' piccolo trumpet or not: http://www.selmer.com/brass/stradtrp/196.html

Can someone describe again what the kind of trumpet Bach wrote for looks like - presumably no valves and no finger holes (i.e., the only holes are the mouth piece and the bell (?)) - like a military horn?

Robert Sherman wrote (July 21, 2003):
[To Peter Bright] Vincent (not JS) Bach was a designer and manufacturer of trumpets, beginning in the late 1930s. His Bb and C trumpets became the symphony standard through the 1950s, and still have their enthusiasts today although I'm not one of them. His company was bought up by Selmer in the 1960s, but continues to make trumpets on his original design concept and with his name on them. So the instrument you refer to is a "Bach trumpet" in the sense that Vincent designed it, not in the sense of being made to play JS.

I haven't played the particular instrument you link to, but generally Vincent Bach piccolo trumpets aren't very good and are not widely used. They have "dry" attacks and don't play easily in the high register. The best, and by far the most widely used, piccs are made by Schilke. They use seamless beryllium-bronze bells which yield a marvelous shining sound but which, of course, weren'tfeasible in JSB's time.

You are correct that the trumpet Bach wrote for has a mouthpiece at one end and a bell on the other, with no other openings. The tubing in between is basically cylindrical and about 8 feet long. This is about twice as long as a garden-variety modern trumpet, and about four times as long as a piccolo trumpet.

Christian Panse wrote (July 21, 2003):
< Robert Sherman wrote: My point is that finger-holes would be as foreign to Bach as valves, and that is fact. Finger-hole trumpets are not historically accurate. >
To my ears, a natural trumpet with finger holes sounds and behaves definitely very much closer to the baroque trumpet than a modern piccolo trumpet.

< Tom Braatz has written repeatedly that today's performances on allegedly-historical trumpets are defective because the instruments used are not literally historic, or copies of historic instruments. >
Since I plonked Mr Braatz some time ago, I'm normally safe from his way of arguing.

Here is my point: How it is possible that some people reject the trumpet with finger holes as being unauthentic and at the same time favour the piccolo trumpet calling it "better"? IMHO this is agitation.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 21, 2003):
[To Christian Panse] It's a question of whether one gives higher priority to musical merit or to historical authenticity. If you want a historical experience, Mr. Braatz points the way. If you want musical merit, the question can be addressed by listening comparisons, which is what I propose.

I don't want to keep going around in circles on this, but I don't "reject" finger-hole trumpets as unauthentic. I reject them because I don't like the way they sound.

I point out their non-authenticity because commentators frequently praise them on the basis of erroneously perceived authenticity. Authenticity means nothing to me, but apparently it means a lot to some.

You are right, a finger-hole trumpet sounds more like a natural trumpet than does a valve trumpet. Whether it is better than a valve trumpet is the proposition I propose to test. So far I have received no responses to my challenge.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 21, 2003):
According to the Csibas in their fairly recent book on this subject, there are no nodal holes used in a 'genuine' J.S.Bach-type tromba. At most there is a single additional 'extension' or 'bit' that is necessary for correcting some notes. Much emphasis is placed upon the manner in which this bit (or is it even a 2nd mouthpiece?) is made.

The Thein Bros. in Bremen, Germany sell historic brass instruments, but still include a vast array of 'bits' which the Csibas believe are not necessary. If you can not view this page directly, go back to the home page (thein-brass.de) and select 'Instruments' / 'historical brass': http://www.thein-brass.de/index_en.php

In his famous portrait, Gottfried Reiche is depicted with a corno da caccia in C (which is a coiled trumpet 8 ft. long - it belongs to the trumpet family even though it looks more like a horn.)

Robert Sherman wrote (July 21, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Are the Csibas trumpet players? Have they recorded?

Neil Halliday wrote (July 21, 2003):
Robert Sherman wrote: "Authenticity means nothing to me, but apparently it means a lot to some."
I think this 'reverence' for authenticity is related to the depredations of the present consumerist ethic on society and the environment at large. The reaction to this depredation is encapsulated in the conservation (green) movement, which includes a desire to preserve things from the past, no matter how little intrinsic value they may have.

For example, recently a group of people mounted an all-night vigil around a decrepit 80 year-old pub in Adelaide, to save it from the developers, even though it had no architectural value. (In Australia, anything 100 years old belongs to ancient history!)

This 'reverence' for authenticity appears to take on a quasi-religious aspect.

This is probably why the use of a modern piano in Bach's continuo has not been investigated; my hearing of one example convinced me of the wonderful possibilities - especially for recordings, in which more often than not, the chamber organ comes across as a pitchless (or one, or at most two tones) 'tootling', and in the case of the harpsichord, a pitchless 'tinkling' sound, adding nothing of harmonic worth to the structure of the music, and in effect, denying the harmonies of Bach's figured bass to the listener.

(This becomes critical when there are only three performers in the aria or (secco) recitative ie, vocalist, cellist/bassoon and keyboard).

Anyway, on with your trumpet challenge!

(BTW, what a feast of brass in the Rilling cycle, with trumpets and horns and trombones ( and sometimes flutes and recorders as well!) soaring brilliantly over the choir in many of the chorales, transforming them from mere hymns into the most ecstatic music; and then there's the choruses...

Robert Sherman wrote (July 21, 2003):
[To Neil Halliday] Thanks, Neil. Generally I do prefer harpsichord in baroque chamber works, but I understand your reasoning and certainly agree with your general points.

If everyone will pardon a brief OT, I can top Neil's Adelaide pub story: In the 1930s and 1940s there used to be a company called Diamond Reo that made trucks at a factory in Michigan. They were crude and inefficient, so the company went out of business. Forty years later, GM wanted to open a new automobile assembly plant on the same site, creating hundreds of jobs in an area that badly needed them. But historians objected to tearing down the old Diamond Reo plant on the grounds that it was "historic." Can you imagine the throngs of visitors who must have come there every day to see an ugly decrepit plant that made ugly decrepit trucks? Fortunately, the legislature stepped in and told the historians to stuff it, that oldie isn't necessarily goodie.

Johan van Veen wrote (July 21, 2003):
< Neil Halliday wrote: I think this 'reverence' for authenticity is related to the depredations of the present consumerist ethic on society and the environment at large. The reaction to this depredation is encapsulated in the conservation (green) movement, which includes a desire to preserve things from the past, no matter how little intrinsic value they may have. >
I can't see the connection you suggest. At least in my case it doesn't exist. I am interested in an 'authentic' performance for the simple reason that I want to know what the composer wanted to say, what 'message' he wanted to deliver. And since he used the tools of his time to communicate that message, the best way to discover what that message is, is by using the same tools. A performance with modern tools, unknown to the composer, is like reading literature in a translation: better than nothing, but always second best. So if we have the tools of the composer / if we can read a playwright in his own language - why not using those tools / why not reading his plays in the original language?

Why would we want to be satisfied with the second best?

I have no problems with people fighting others convictions, but make sure you understand what the arguments of your opponents are. Otherwise you will fight windmills.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 22, 2003):
[To Johan van Veen] Making words is easy; making music is not. OK, your words say you want to hear it as Bach actually heard it. This means no finger holes or any of that other newfangled jimcrackery.

Now let's hear the music, Johan. Fill in my table with Ultra-HIP listings.Tell us what recordings of the standard works played your way are, in your view, exemplary.

Then each of us will have a more informed basis for thinking that

--Bach got what he wanted and it's that's exactly what we should hear

or

-- Bach must have gone to bed each night asking himself "is this as good as it gets?" and praying that God would send him, or his descendants, brass instruments as well as eye surgery that worked.

Again, bring on the contenders!

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 22, 2003):
Bob Sherman wanted more infon Jozsef Csiba:

Look for Jozsef Csiba’s ‘short correction ‘extension’ for the tromba. Only one such ‘extension’ is used, there are no nodal holes, and everything else is a copy of the original instruments from Bach’s time:
http://www.thein-brass.de/historische_preise.html

Although outdated, it refers to the Csibas’ book after it had just been issued and has some interesting discussions on the ‘ideal’ trumpet sound.
http://www.trumpetguild.org/journal/m96/9605HarE.pdf

On the internet I found Jozsef Csiba playing in the group called “Die Clara-Schumann-Sinfoniker” of Düsseldorf.

Originally he had been a member of the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, then he was the solo trumpeter for the Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra. He currently teaches trumpet at the Clara-Schumann Music School in Düsseldorf. His wife, Dr. Gisela Csiba, teaches musicology and church music at the university level in Düsseldorf and both have performed as a trumpet-organ duo in Germany and in other foreign countries. He makes his own instruments (reconstructions according to the specifications of those existing in museums.)

I am not aware of any recordings by him.
In the Historic Brass Society Journal Vol. VI (1994)
there is a review of the Csibas’ book ("Die Blechblasinstrumente in J.S. Bachs Werken"
by Gisela Csiba and Jozef Csiba (Merserburger, 1994)
ISBN 3-87537-260-3) by Edward Tarr.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 22, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] OK, thanks. But I still need to hear it.

Johan van Veen wrote (July 24, 2003):
< Robert Sherman wrote: Now let's hear the music, Johan. Fill in my table with Ultra-HIP listings. Tell us what recordings of the standard works played your way are, in your view, exemplary. >
No, why should I do that? I only reacted to some remarks about the reasonings behind the preference for 'authenticity' in which I didn't recognize any of my ideas regarding this issue.

And there are no 'examplary' recordings in the sense that they fulfill all the wishes one could have on the basis of one's understanding of Bach's - or any other composer's - intentions.

Interpretations and recordings only give a insight in the state of affairs at the moment. Besides, there are always practical problems which are difficult to solve.

For me it is more the 'approach' that counts. I can live with deficiencies in a performance when the general approach is right. But if a player or singer does deliver a stylish performance - technically speaking - with the right kind of instrument - is doen't mean very much to me when the approach shows a lack of understanding of the world - the ideas, the thinking, the aesthetics etc - behind the music. In the end it is the message that counts.

< Then each of us will have a more informed basis for thinking that Bach got what he wanted and it's that's exactly what we should hear >
What Bach may have wanted is not relevant. We can't ask him, and as long as here are no letters or something like that in which he talks about something he badly wanted but wasn't able to realise, we have to stick with what he was able to realise. He had to be satisfied with it, so should we.

This speculation of what he may have wanted is usually used as a pretext to do what we - generally speaking, not referring to specific people, let alone myself - would like to hear. The fact is that some people can't believe Bach could ever be satisfied with what some people today consider shortcomings, because they don't sound right. But what does sound wrong in some 21-century people's ears not necessarily sounds wrong in 18th century ears.

The basic question in this endless debate is: who decides how the music should sound, the one who has created it. or the one who has the great honour to perform it, or the one who has the honour to be allowed to listen to it. My answer will be clear, I assume.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 25, 2003):
[To Johan van Veen] OK, you have no candidate performances.

Johan van Veen wrote (July 25, 2003):
[To Robert Sherman] I can't give an answer to a wrong question.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 25, 2003):
[To Johan van Veen] OK, if asking about music rather than words is the wrong thing to you, so be it.

Johan van Veen wrote (July 25, 2003):
[To Robert Sherman] You know what I mean - I hope. If not, it is even worse than I thought.

So, for your convenience, let me repeat it: you asked me to mention a perfect recording. In my view that is the wrong question, since there are no perfect recordings. How on earth can I mention something which doesn't exist - and can never exist?

There are plenty recordings I like, but none of them can't be criticised for something, however small. If you look for a perfect recording, good luck.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 25, 2003):
[To Johan van Veen] I never said perfect, I said fully satisfying. If you prefer to use another standard, "The best I've heard", or something like that, that's fine. I'm trying to move this discussion beyond quibbling over words and into the performances themselfes.

Ludwig wrote (July 26, 2003):
[To Robert Shewrman] Think I missed something here----I want to write high
parts but can not find players who can play such high parts--2nd c above mid c area.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 26, 2003):
[To Ludwig] The terminology is probably causing confusion. If by mid C you mean the piano's middle C, any decent trumpeter can go two octaves above that. If you mean the C in the middle of the G clef, two octaves above that is feasible, but maybe not in the way you want.

Let's use trumpet-speak rather than piano-speak. So low C is just below the treble staff, mid C is in the middle of the staff, high C is above the staff, and going up from there is double C and triple C. Other notes are defined by the C below them so, for example, high D is two ledger lines above the staff.

By using a piccolo trumpet, most good trumpeters can play the Bach oratorio range, which has a lot of high Ds and a few high Es. The best ones can do the Bburg,which has a lot of high Fs and a few high Gs. A very few (Marsalis does it well, and I've read that Scherbaum did it well but I haven't heard him do it) can do the Michael Haydn trumpet concerto, which has a high A. That's the top of what you can get with "classical" playing.

At the same time, there are lots of "screamers" (Maynard Ferguson is the best known) who play big band music much higher, using regular Bb trumpets with very shallow mouthpieces. They frequently go to double C or above. Some even claim to get triple C.

But they're not playing clean baroque-style notes. They're sliding and screaming up and down. Volume can be quite high to double C or so, but to go way above that means degenerating to a whistle.

So it's a question of what kind of playing you want. If you want it clean, I recommend limiting yourself to high D and getting a trumpeter who does a lot of baroque on piccolo trumpet. If sliding around is OK, get a high-note specialist pop trumpeter, and you can go to double C or a bit above.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 1, 2003):
< Robert Sherman wrote: Well, I will have to listen if he [the BCJ player] does the Bburg without tone-holes. Do you have the recording number? Do you recommend this recording as a fair basis for comparison against Maurice Andre and other modern trumpeters? >
I'm curious about the goal of the comparison in this challenge, both in this piece and the others.

Is it to find out if Maurice Andre is able to sound passably like an original-instrument [and no cheating] trumpeter, simulating the production of a sound Bach probably knew? That is, is he able/willing to produce the same asymmetric nuances of tone/intonation/timing that emerge from a skilled player of an appropriate natural trumpet?

Or is it to find out, aesthetically, if anybody on a simple instrument (no moving parts) sounds as pleasing as Maurice Andre does on a complicated instrument (valves and tuning slides)?

I mean, it's pretty hard to top Andre for slickness and cand suavity and the other goals ("Baroque clarity" etc) you extol in picc tpt playing. But, those are modern expectations from hearing how well he and his colleagues play on an anachronistic instrument, and modern expectations of how Baroque music 'should' sound.

Does anybody really expect a trumpet that has no moving parts to sound 'as beautiful as' these guys on picc, who strive for a seamless and smooth (i.e. equipollent) delivery? Any comer would be automatically doomed to failure, if that's the standard held up as ideal!

Bob Henderson wrote (August 1, 2003):
I have the same reservations about the comparison. It seems to me that the modern trumpet is as much like the "natural trumpet" as the recorder is the contemporary flute. They have very different sounds. Their construction is obviously different. And I believe that the set of values which underpin their use is different. Industrial civilization values precision and a kind of technological showing off. Machine culture. Can you imagine a contemporary trumpeter wanting to construct his own instrument? There appears to be more of a craft or pre-industrial orientation in the "old instrument" (notice Brad, I did not say HIP!) movement. Please, I am not arguing for a return to the 17th century! And I am not saying that one way of doing things is superior to another. I am only saying that comparison might be specious. Like comparing apples and trumpets. And a young musician of today at least has a choice of pursuing the modern ideal and/or that of pre-industrial society where the sound and perhaps the ethic was different.

Robert Sherman wrote (August 1, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] It's to determine which is musically preferable. Although I would have used different words, it's pretty close to your second way of framing the issue. Of course Andre is not trying to sound like a natural trumpet, and he
shouldn't.

There are some who maintain, sometimes on this list and with much heat, that what you refer to as the anachronistic instrument actually sounds better. So I proposed to put this to the test. You appear to be saying that the test is unfair, because the modern instrument has the benefit of better technology so of course it sounds better. This is also my position, so it appears that we agree and for you the test is unnecessary. That's fine. But for some others, that is not the case.

I take issue with you on just one point: That because the modern trumpet can play a more even scale, it is therefore equipollent, less gestural, less meaningful. Not so.

A player on a modern trumpet can, like Heather Harper singing, choose which notes and phrases to stress or de-emphasize in whatever way his musical judgment leads him.

A good player on a natural trumpet will try to do the same thing. But he is also burdened by inequalities built into the instrument that are present whether they make musical sense to him or not.

Any player on a modern trumpet can easily create similar inequalities. For example, play the XO or the Bm on a modern Eb trumpet, and boy will you get some uneven notes! Out of tune, foggy tone, split attacks, the works. But that's not gestural playing. It's just having problems -- as is the case with the natural trumpet.

This analogy may be overdoing it, but consider that a submarine and a battleship can each go under water. Standing by and watching, you would see two ships going under. But only one is intentionally controlled.

Robert Sherman wrote (August 1, 2003):
[To Bob Henderson] It's easy to imagine a contemporary trumpeter wanting to design his own instrument. In fact, most of the best modern trumpets are made by trumpet players. Renold Schilke, who designed what are probably the best trumpets available today, played first chair in the Chicago Symphony before he turned to trumpet design and manufacture because he was dissatisfied with the instruments then available. Vincent Bach and Eldon Benge were also successful professional trumpeters before they turned to instrument making. And all of today's greatest players spend a significant part of their time with the instrument designers, working with them to get the final tweaks, and sometimes entire new models, for their "Excaliburs".

Of course the old and new instruments are different, although not as different as recorders and flutes so long as you're not trying to go chromatic. And if anyone wants a historical experience, fine, I find them fascinating myself. But many on this list have said that the two can be compared, and the old instrument sounds better. It's that proposition that I suggest putting to the test.

 

Continue on Part 3

Trumpets in Bach’s Vocal Works: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Baroque D Trumpet Resonances | Bach's Compositions using trumpets or horns with timpani

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Last update: ýAugust 21, 2012 ý23:04:24