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Trumpets in Bach’s Vocal Works
Part 3

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Natural trumpets (and horns) - harmonic series

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 24, 2003):
there is an .mp3 file of the natural harmonic series, played on an Alphorn. This demonstrates the notes available to it, without any moving parts or fingerholes. Similarly, trumpets and horns have the same series of notes. This is natural intonation.

The lowest note is the fundamental pitch, and depends on the total length of the horn. Each successive note is then 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, 1/6, etc of that length. Relative to one another, these notes are then in ratios 2:1 (octave), 3:2 (perfect fifth), 4:3 (perfect
fourth), 5:4 (pure major third), 6:5 (pure minor third), 7:6 (a different pure minor third), etc. To do anything melodic, a player has to be up high in this harmonic series where the notes are closer together, forming a scale.

Also, as a bonus, there is an .mp3 of a Swiss folktune Brahms heard in 1868. He wrote it down on a postcard for Clara Schumann, and later used it in the finale of his first symphony.

As a further bonus there is an .mp3 of the great Dennis Brain (horn player of the 1950s) playing a Leopold Mozart movement on a garden hose, with his horn mouthpiece...obviously an instrument of cylindrical bore without finger-holes or slides of any kind. This would be, presumably, "Hardcore HIP" for garden hose, although Leopold Mozart did not have a modern garden hose in mind.



Continue of discussion from: Carolyn Sampson (Soprano) – General Discussions [Performers]

Mitsuo Fukuda wrote (August 1, 2003):
Robert Sherman wrote:
< Does he say whether he uses finger holes, modern alloys, and/or modern production methods? >
Yes, he sometimes makes use of tone-hole to ensure a higher degree of accuracy of intonation. As to materials; modern alloys, he does not mention. But I think they would be brass. As to production methods, he makes a prototype trumpet of which figure is S at first, and he fixes up size and length with tooting it. I do not know his way is modern or not. But he believes that trumpeters in Bach's own day may well have done exactly same.

When he performed the Brandenburg Concerto No.2, he dispensed altogether with the use of tone-holes, sliders and bells, but he formed all notes by means of lip-bending.

Robert Sherman wrote (August 1, 2003):
[To Mitsuo Fukuda] Well, I will have to listen if he 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?

The term "brass" is very broad and includes many varieties of metal. One variable is whether it allows the bell to be made seamlessly from tubing, rather than wrapped and brazed from sheet metal. Only some of the best modern trumpets use seamless bells; I'd expect this was well beyond the capability of Bach's instrument makers.

I don't understand the reference to not using bells. Every trumpet has to have a bell, or it will sound like a kazoo.

Mitsuo Fukuda wrote (August 1, 2003):
< Robert Sherman wrote: I don't understand the reference to not using bells. Every trumpet has to have a bell, or it will sound like a kazoo. >
You are right.
I mean that Shimada did not insert his right hand into the bell in order to adjust pitch subtly .

Robert Sherman wrote (August 2, 2003):
[To Mitsuo Fukuda] OK, but I've never heard of trumpeters doing that in any case. Horn players, both valveless and modern, do it but that's another thing entirely.

Mitsuo Fukuda wrote (August 2, 2003):
[To Robert Sherman] I am talking about Brandenburg Concerto No.2. It is not trumpet but "corno da caccia". Shimada performs not only a trumpet but also a horn and a sackbut.


Robert Sherman wrote (August 2, 2003):
[To Mitsuo Fukuda] That would be interesting to hear; presumably it's an octave lower than the usual. I think you'll find, though, that about 99.9% of Bburg 2 performances are on trumpet. I've never heard it done on modern horn. Thomas will no doubt have something to say about what's authentic.


Bbrug 2 performed on horn

Mitsuo Fukuda wrote (August 2, 2003):
< Robert Sherman wrote: That would be interesting to hear; presumably it's an octave lower than the usual. >
BIS CD-1151/1152 is Bbrug performed by BCJ. And its production notes says regarding the pitch as follows;

"All the pieces featured on this recording have been performed at a pitch of a' =392Hz. This reflects the fact that 18th-century performance on wind instruments in Germany was influenced by France(see note), and there is the advantage also that the unusual trumpet in F which appears in the second concerto can be handled as an instrument in D at the Chorton pitch (as employed by church organs in 18th-century Germany) of a'=465." Note: See Bruce Haynes: Johann Sebastian Bach's pitch standards: the woodwind perspective, in JAMInstrSoc II (1985), PP. 55-114.

< I think you'll find, though, that about 99.9% of Bburg 2 performances are on trumpet. I've never heard it done on modern horn. >
Regarding the trumpet as follows;
"The Brandenburg Concerto No.2 is particularly unusual in that Bach makes use of a trumpet in F, which he calls for in no other of his works, and also because of his use of very high partials in his writing for the instrument. The notes Fa and La (the fourth and sixth degrees of the major scale), which lie outside the natural harmonic series, are frequently used, not merely as passing notes but also as important harmonic notes. This means that the music cannot be played naturally by the natural Baroque trumpet. In order to circumvent this problem Toshio Shimada, a trumpeter with the Bach Collegium Japan, has devoted several years to experimenting with various methods of performance and with creating instruments on a trial basis. As a result of these efforts, we eventually decided on the following method of performance: -As regards the shape of the instrument, we decided to use a coiled trumpet, looking much like a small horn."

I think here is 0.1% of Bbrug 2 performed on horn. And I do not like much.

Robert Sherman wrote (August 2, 2003):
[To Mitsuo Fukuda] Wow, going way down to 392 would certainly make it easier. This would be about equivalent to Eb in modern a'=440 pitch.

It is correct that Fa is never in the natural harmonic series, and La doesn't get there until the next octave above. Also Fa# and Cib are not in the series, but baroque composers write for them. That's where the finger holes -- or valves, of course -- come in. To do it without add-on devices would mean lipping other notes into those positions, which is possible but difficult under dynamically limited conditions.

Anyway, do I understand that you don't recommend Shimada's Bburg 2?

Let me know which of the recommended Messiahs you get (hopefully Westenberg) and how you like it.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 2, 2003):
< Robert Sherman wrote: That would be interesting to hear; presumably it's an octave lower than the usual. I think you'll find, though, that about 99.9% of Bburg 2 performances are on trumpet. I've never heard it done on modern horn. >
There was the Thurston Dart experimental set in the 1970s, conducted by Marriner; IIRC the horn in #2 was played by Barry Tuckwell. Another of Dart's "let's try this" ideas in that set was to use sopranino recorders (i.e. F instruments pitched an octave higher) in #4. That certainly helps them stand out. I don't know if this set ever made it to CD or not.

A more recent set on CD, as I mentioned recently, is Ludwig Guttler's where he plays #2 on a corno da caccia. Very nice blend of the four solo instruments.


Trumpet challenge...some sampl

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 9, 2003):
Robert Sherman wrote:
< 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. >
I didn't say that a modern tpt is inherently more equipollent (less gestural). But it makes it easier for a player to deliver a completely even scale, and pedagogically that's a high have the control to be able to play evenly. That sometimes also turns into a musical goal: people playing as evenly as possible because they CAN. For some music that's appropriate; for other music it's not. Beyond technique there's still the important business of musical communication, and fitting the delivery to the needs of the piece.

< 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. >
Agreed. Of course. And the best players have musical judgment that doesn't automatically induce them to play evenly all the time. Their imagination and their control are better than that. It takes more skill and precision to control an asymmetrical shape than a symmetrical one...and to imagine the asymmetrical shape as an attainable goal in the first place.

< 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. >
True; but the inequities can suggest an effective interpretation that might not have occurred to the player of a newer instrument. Inequities can be turned into virtues, especially in music that was written by composers who were familiar with only those instruments. The composers may have known what they were doing in writing the piece the way they did, for the instruments they had.

That is: if the inequalities don't "make musical sense to the player" he might not have appropriate goals or understanding of the music yet! Let's entertain the possibility that the original instruments can teach the player something he didn't know.

< 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. >
I think it's going too far to equate "unevenness" with "having problems."

To me, it's just as much of a problem if one is faced with an instrument (any instrument) that can only play evenly, with no expressive range. For example, a poor-quality electronic organ.

< 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. >
In the same analogy, a battleship can do plenty of things a submarine cannot. These machines have different functions. A submarine is not automatically better just because it can do one specific thing (operate underwater) well.


I've uploaded four samples to the folder

- two performances of Bach's organ prelude "Nun freut euch" with the melody played on trumpet instead of the organ pedals (one equipollent performance, and one more gestural, in my estimation)

- a trumpet rep "old standard", the Viviani sonata #1 [Viviani 1638-c1692] (& a performance sort of down the middle between equipollent and gestural)

- a chorale prelude by a current composer who was familiar with the resources of modern trumpet and fluegelhorn (and definitely a gestural performance here)

In all four of these samples it's modern instruments having a go at it, accompanied by pipe organ. In expressivity and control and musicality, how do these performances stack up against one another, or against other recordings you know? [Anybody, not only Bob.]

Robert Sherman wrote (August 9, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Brad made a number of theoretical points, some of which I agree with and some of which I don't. But I'm a bit worn out on theoretical discussions, so will just comment on the specific cuts Brad uploaded.

In Nun Freut euch, the second trumpeter is clearly trying to put more variety into it, particularly on the attacks, and that's commendable. But mainly that comes with a very pointed attack at the beginning of each phrase. If you do that every time, then there's not so much variety or meaning in it. Both players are good but, despite the somewhat greater variety in the second, I probably lean more toward the first performance because it's a bit more secure and the vibrato is a bit more relaxed.

The Viviani strikes me as well on the equipollent side. It's competent but not awfully interesting.

The flugelhorn prelude is clearly the most "gestural", done with intense jazz idiom. Not my kind of playing, but quite well done and I like it.

I've taken the liberty of adding "3 dances from the French Renaissance", played by Richard Giangiulio, that I think captures a lot of what Brad is getting at. Comments welcome/

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 9, 2003):
< Robert Sherman wrote: The Viviani strikes me as well on the equipollent side. It's competent but not awfully interesting. >
Perhaps. I agree that it's fairly safe; the players might have taken more chances. (I have inside info from somebody involved in that recording: the trumpeter was pretty well wiped out on the day of the session, and had to take it easy on his chops. This is not an easy piece to do that in.)

But I have another recording of that same Viviani piece that is a lot more equipollent, and I chose not to put it up. It makes this one sound quite flexible and fresh by comparison.

Anybody have a recording of this piece on natural tpt...or on cornetto?!

Neil Halliday wrote (August 9, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote: "In expressivity and control and musicality, how do these performances stack up against one another"
1. I think all the samples demonstrate the lovely expressive capabilities of modern brass.

2. The organ in sample #1 is brighter than that in sample #2, and it is difficult to hear the inner part(s) on the organ in sample #2.

3. The combination of the chosen organ registration and the timbre of the fugel horn, in #3, is wonderful - a recording triumph!
(BTW, who is the composer of this lovely music for fugel horn and organ, with the strange title?)

4. The balance between the organ and trumpet is particularly pleasing in the final section of sample #4 (Viviani).

Rather than drawing futher conclusions in terms of the "gestural" qualities of the four performances in these examples (they are all fine, in my opinion), I would like now to go the the substance of Bob's "trumpet challenge", ie, a comparison of the (expressive) capabilties of period and modern trumpets, and report on my impressions, on hearing Gardiner's and Rilling's recordings of BWV 51.

The modern trumpet wins incontrovertibly in the example of these two recordings!

Hannes Laubin, with Rilling, is revelling in his ability to bring the desired expression to his part, while Gardiner's trumpeter appears to be struggling with splattered and cracked notes in many instances. There is also a "breathy" characteristic to the trumpet sound in the middle to lower register, which detracts from the brightness of the aria, IMO. Also, Laubin is able to play the "melisma" runs in the finale, which imitate the soprano (Auger), more clearly and evenly.

On the subject of "gesturalism", there is a clear difference in these performances; the 4th movement of this same cantata, from Gardiner, illustrates the failings of excess in this regard. Here we have concerto-like writing for 2 solo violins (remininiscent of the famous Double Concerto in D minor), but with Gardiner, one violin seems to predominate over the other, and the predictable emphasis given to certain nin a phrase, from this dominant violin, over and over again, becomes tiresone.

In contrast, Rilling gives equal importance to both violin parts (and their elements), and we are treated to a wonderful dance-like intertwining of the two lovely, and clearly heard, violin lines.

Neil Halliday wrote (August 9, 2003):
Robert Sherman wrote: "I've taken the liberty of adding "3 dances from the French Renaissance".
Just a thought, Bob.

Is this music in fact so far removed from our own time that the modern trumpet begins to sound anachronistic? I'm not sure.

(I would place this music firmly in the middle ages; Monteverdi on, I would claim as part of the "modern" era, looking at history from the long term viewpoint, and this is why there exist some wonderful modern instrument performances of his work, IMO.)

Robert Sherman wrote (August 9, 2003):
[To Neil Halliday 2nd message] Neil, you have a point.. But just takng it out of context, I find this performance so thrilling, so elegantly done, that I wanted to share it with the list.

Robert Sherman wrote (August 9, 2003):
[To Neil Halliday 1st message] Exactly.

Theoretical discussion is no substitute for head-to-head comparison, as Neil's reaction demonstrates.

Before anyone argues with me, or with Neil, on this, please listen to the Rilling/Lauben performance.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 9, 2003):
< Robert Sherman wrote::

In Nun Freut euch, the second trumpeter is clearly trying to put more variety into it, particularly on the attacks, and that's commendable. But mainly that comes with a very pointed attack at the beginning of each phrase. If you do that every time, then there's not so much variety or meaning in it. Both players are good but, despite the somewhat greater variety in the second, I probably lean more toward the first performance because it's a bit more secure and the vibrato is a bit more relaxed. >
I'm a little surprised at your description, hearing that second one as "trying to put more variety into it". That's the one I'd characterize as especially equipollent, to a fault...all his notes are the same as one another (the same dynamic shape, same vibrato, same placement into the meter)...I don't hear much musical line from him. It seems that his even delivery is his goal. Yes, each note has a sharper attack than with the first player: but all those attacks and decrescendi are the same, heard next to one another. Ditto for his organist, who brings out no asymmetric shapes anywhere in the piece.

(You and I do agree on which performance we enjoy more, and for similar reasons!)

For further comparison, I've uploaded the first movement of Viviani from these guys ("S&H", the second performers from above). If you thought the other recording of the Viviani was "well on the equipollent side," get a load of this one. :)

I'd say your guy in the 3 French Dances is giving an equipollent performance, too, in the first and third dances. Marvelous tone, clarity, and control...but in his delivery all those notes are pretty much the same as one another. Listening to it I wish to hear more characterful shape to the phrases, and less predictability. In his second dance he's more gestural. It sounds more graceful, natural, vocal.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 9, 2003):
< Neil Halliday wrote:
3. The combination of the chosen organ registration and the timbre of the fugel horn, in #3, is wonderful - a recording triumph! (BTW, who is the composer of this lovely music for fugel horn and organ, with the strange title?) >
It's not called "Awful Tree" as in the shortened file name - it's "Throned upon the awful tree", the old hymn for Passion week. I looked up the text; see below.

According to the organist's notes, the composer took a "Baroque" approach to the composition. He doesn't write any tempo or dynamics or articulation into his scores but leaves it up to the taste of the performers. Here he gave them the four-part vocal score and mentioned that the piece can cause weeping, and they should try to play it that way. He didn't specify instruments but agreed that Fluegelhorn is fine, he'd liked what this player had done in other music. He invited the performers to write or improvise their own parts. He didn't want to limit the performers' imagination by telling them exactly what to play or not to play. Only, if it induces tears it's right; if it doesn't, it isn't.

It doesn't sound like Baroque music stylistically, but seems to have the same goals of rhetoric and Affekt.... It's kind of a dramatic scene that unfolds with the text, getting more and more personal as the "you are there" imagined experience and emotions come into focus. Sort of a mini-cantata or sermon/meditation, sung by instruments? :)

"Throned upon the awful tree, King of grief, I watch with Thee:
Darkness veils Thine anguished face, none its lines of woe can trace,
None can tell what pangs unknown hold Thee silent and alone.

"Silent through those three dread hours, wrestling with the evil powers,
Left alone with human sin, gloom around Thee and within,
Till the appointed time is nigh, till the Lamb of God may die.

"Hark that cry that peals aloud upward through the whelming cloud!
Thou, the Father's only Son, Thou, His own anointed one,
Thou dost ask Him, can it be? 'Why hast Thou forsaken Me?'"

(text written in 1875, music new)

I like how the player chooses to forsake the melody and the beat, illustrating the text. The soul and the body about to come apart? Nice gesture. And the swirl on "cloud." And then at "can it be?" he makes it sound puzzled, but still in musical control, bending his pitch and taking it in the opposite direction. Brilliant. Jesus questioning his faith in that dying moment?

Is the steady organ the world going on as usual, as background; maybe the people whose emotions are still contained? Who knows what it signifies here, if anything. But musically, that's another Baroque technique: the melody can only be free if the accompaniment stays steady and dependable, ignoring it, marking the regular flow of time so the soloist's fluid presentation of time stands out. (I wish we'd hear more of this technique in Bach cantata solo arias! Soloists could be a lot looser with their time than they see on the page. Are they afraid to because it's the sacrosanct Great Composer Bach?)

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 9, 2003):
< Neil Halliday wrote: Is this music in fact so far removed from our own time that the modern trumpet begins to sound anachronistic? I'm not sure.
(I would place this music firmly in the middle ages; Monteverdi on, I would claim as part of the "modern" era, looking at history from the long term viewpoint, and this is why there exist some wonderful modern instrument performances of his work, IMO.) >
Are you familiar with the Richard Stoltzman recording (multi-tracking himself) of Perotin's "Viderunt omnes", on clarinets? 12th century music, heard in the album to good effect next to a similarly multi-tracked clarinet piece by Steve Reich. Perotin as a proto-minimalist!


Trumpet challenge...a new twist

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 22, 2003):
A friend showed me this sample that is claimed to be a newly-discovered trumpet part for the end of Mahler's 2nd symphony. Warning, it's pretty funny.

When I listened to it, one of my cats came running in to see what the problem was.

Robert Sherman wrote (August 24, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] The last note may actually be a triple C. It's so high I can't figure out what it is. Overall, sounds like either Ferguson goofing around, or somebody doing same on a good synthesizer

Arjen van Gijssell wrote (August 24, 2003):
[To Robert Sherman] My guess is that they used a garden-hose. Terrible!

Robert Sherman wrote (August 24, 2003):
[To Arjen van Gijssell] It is terrible, unless you regarded it as a party trick. Most likely, that's what it's intended to be. Assuming this is a real player and not a sythesizer, the guy does have a phenomenal top range, going well over an octave above any thing JSB ever wrote, and staying up there for an amazingly long time. There is a market for trumpeters who specialize in that, although certainly not in the baroque world

Peter Bright wrote (August 24, 2003):
[To Robert Sherman] The greatest exponent being Cat Anderson of course... Just listen to his work on such great late Ellington discs as Such Sweet Thunder and the Far East Suite.

John Pike wrote (August 24, 2003):
[To Robert Sherman] Terrible, but very funny!


Baroque (natural) trumpets vs. piccolo Trumpets

Dale Gedcke wrote (October 6, 2003):
After reading all of the August 2003 discourse on the Trumpet Challenge I offer the following comments on the subject. The focus of the Trumpet Challenge was, "Which is better for the Bach Baroque music, a Baroque (natural) trumpet or a modern piccolo trumpet?"

There are several performance differences between the Baroque Trumpet (no valves) and the modern piccolo trumpet (with valves):

- the fundamental frequency used for the harmonic scale (related to mechanical length of the trumpet)
- the notes that are accessible
- intonation (accuracy of the pitch of each note)
- tone quality
- certainty of the attack to a note
- security in hitting the right note
- trills and other ornamentations

The Baroque D trumpet had no valves. In order to play an approximate diatonic scale in the upper reaches of the treble clef and above, its fundamental frequency is an octave below that of a modern valved D trumpet, and approximately 2 octaves below the fundamental pitch of a piccolo trumpet. Thus the Baroque trumpet is approximately twice the length of a modern D trumpet and almost four times the length of a piccolo trumpet.

Because of its lower fundamental frequency, the resonances of the Baroque trumpet are spaced a factor of 2 closer together than a modern D trumpet, and roughly a factor of four closer than a piccolo trumpet. As a result, it is easy to hit the wrong resonance (wrong note) when playing above the treble clef, i.e., the clarino range demanded by much of the Baroque music. It is a factor of 2 easier to hit the right note with a modern D trumpet with valves. But even a modern, valved, D trumpet runs out of resonant efficiency in the octave above the treble clef. The piccolo trumpet was invented to improve the resonant efficiency in that octave above the treble clef. Because of the improved resonant efficiency and the wider spacing of the resonances, the piccolo trumpet is easier to play with certainty for attacking and hitting the right note.

Listen to Niklas Eklund playing the Baroque trumpet on the CD, "The Art of the Baroque Trumpet, Vol 1", and you will be amazed at the quality of his performance. He makes the lip trills sound as if he had the benefit of valves. He bends the notes with his lip tension to achieve excellent intonation. However, you will notice a few notes where the attack is not clear, like you often hear with a French Horn. The Baroque Trumpet has a long length similar to a French Horn, and the close resonances in the octave above the treble clef make both instruments treacherous for hitting the right note with a clean attack.

Keep in mind that Niklas Ekland is a highly skilled player of the Baroque trumpet. He began practicing the instrument as a very young child. There are few performers who could match the quality of his performance. That's why the piccolo trumpet is important today. It allows many more trumpeters to play the difficult clarino Baroque music with good intonation, no missed notes, a clear attack to each note, clean trills (using valves), and accuracy with other ornimentations. There must have been few trumpeters in Bach's era who could muster a performance with as much certainty on a Baroque trumpet as can be routinely achieved today on a piccolo trumpet.

What about the tone quality? Anyone who has played Bb, C, D, Eb mezzo trumpets and a Bb/A piccolo trumpet, is aware that the tone becomes thinner as the basic pitch rises. Consequently, a Baroque D trumpet would be expected to have a much thicker tone. Can You hear the difference? Compare the tone of Niklas Eklund on the Baroque D trumpet to Wynton Marsalis (CD: Classic Wynton) and Maurice Andre (CD: Maurice Andre, Baroque en Famille) on the piccolo trumpets. You can hear a thicker tone with the Baroque trumpet in the lower range, but in the upper clarino range they all sound similarly thin. This is somewhat surprising in light of the measurements of Arthur H. Benade: (

The bottom line is that a piccolo trumpet can sound as good in the Baroque music of Bach, and is much easier to play accurately than a Baroque D trumpet.

Robert Sherman wrote (October 6, 2003):
[To Dale Gedcke] Dale's technical explanation of the difference between the natural trumpet and the piccolo trumpet is remarkably detailed and accurate. I would just add a few points to it:

Because of its long tube and small bore, the natural trumpet has higher blowing resistance. This has an upside and a downside. The upside is that endurance is easier to get. The downside is that dynamic range (extreme loud to extreme soft) is less. Generally, trumpeters work very hard to build up their strength so that they can play large bore instruments with sufficient endurance. Use of a natural trumpet basically says "don't bother so much with that. You will have good endurance easily but you can't get large dynamic range no matter what you do."

Any trumpet is limited in the trills it can do, but the natural trumpet is more limited. For example, next week I'm performing Händel's Bright Seraphim, and in order to play a third below the soprano's ornamentation on the repeat, she's asked me to do a trill sounding C#-D in the middle of the staff. It's easy on a piccolo trumpet, and sounds natural, as if Händel could have written it. But in fact it would be impossible on a natural trumpet.

Regarding tone quality, it's true that as you get into the upper register, all instruments tend to sound more alike. Still, the better piccolo trumpet players are able to get a richer, more heroic sound than the best natural trumpet players. Listen particularly to Richard Giangiulio, who gets a remarkably round rich sound out of his piccolo trumpet. I believe this is a result of the short tube. Generally, trumpeters try to use as short a tube as possible - that is, to depress the smallest number of valves possible - in order to avoid a foggy tone because of a long tube. But a natural trumpet always uses a long tube and is therefore always a bit foggy.

Advanced technology may also play a part in it. Beryllium bronze bells, computer-aided bore design, and other high-tech innovations unavailable in Bach's time do offer real benefits.

Dale is right: a few of the very best players on the natural trumpet (aided by totally non-authentic finger holes) can sound as good as medium-good players on the piccolo trumpet. Sometimes the effect is quite enjoyable. But they can't reach the level of Andre, Marsalis, or Lauben on the piccolo trumpet.

Finally, I caution about statement's such as Dale's that "There must have been few trumpeters in Bach's era who could muster a performance with as much certainty on a Baroque trumpet as can be routinely achieved today on a piccolo trumpet." There may have been or there may not have been. Since we have no recordings of that time, we will never know. As I listen to the better performances on the natural trumpet, I am struck by how thrilled the listeners must have been, to hear this in contrast to hearing no trumpet. But would they have preferred the modern piccolo trumpet? We can only conjecture. But we can have our own preferences regarding what we hear now, and Dale's thoughts on that matter are a valuable contribution.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. w(October 7, 2003):
[To Dale Gedcke] I would arguethat the Natural Trumpet (or as the Germans would call it Waldhorn) would be better with the exceptions of where a Piccolo Trumpet is asked for. The same I would argue is true in the case of the Violino vs. the Violino Piccolo (which is specified for the erster Konzert of the Brandenburgisches Konzerte).

Thomas Gebhardt wrote (October 7, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] No, we Germans don't call the natural trumpet "Waldhorn"! We call it "Naturtrompete" or "Barocktrompete" and we call a natural horn "Naturhorn", sometimes maybe "Waldhorn" but some people use this term also for a "French horn"... so let's speak about the "Naturtrompete"

I think there's one point missing in all your arguments...

You say that it's easier to play "in tune" on the piccolo trumpet. But what is "in tune"? And what expected Baroque (and earlier) composers, musicians and listeners to be the "right" sound of a trumpet?

Probably not a well-tempered scale played on every basic note you could imagine... no: the "naturals" of the natural trumpet have some characteristic extravaganzas ... "out of tune" if you would ... which are not too rarely implied by composers. They can really be significant for a certain trumpet melody - and they are eliminated by modern instruments. I think this is more our modern expectation of what is "right" and "in tune" than a valuable point in argueing for or against natural trumpets (& horns). By the way - this is much the same with modern performances of Baroque music on strings, woodwind, and - especially - keyboard instruments... don't only try to play "in tune" - our ears (or minds) are (usually) not open enough to decide what is the right "in tune playing" - but think about the meaning of a melody or a note in a certain key wich seems sometimes to be played heavily "out of tune"...

And, please, don't try to argue "what would Bach have preferred if he had known our modern [implying: better(!?)] instruments?" - He would have written nothing of all the music he has written!!! Because we had to ask then, too: "what would Bach have preferred if he had known the Classical, Romantic, Impressionist, Dodecaphonic, Atonal, Modern, Jazz, Pop, Techno and what-the-hack-ever-Period...."!!!

Hans-Joachim Reh wrote (October 7, 2003):

David Glenn Lebut Jr. Wrote: "I would arguethat the Natural Trumpet (or as the Germans would call it Waldhorn) would be better with the exceptions of where a Piccolo Trumpet is asked for."
The german word >WALDHORN< stands for the english word >FRENCH HORN< and is not to be mixed up with >Naturtrompete<. So the conclusion to use a Waldhorn instead of a trumpet is wrong. I guess I don´t have to point out that Bach used WALDHORN (or HORN - which is the commonly used term) absolutely different.

Peter Bright wrote (October 7, 2003):
[To Hans-Joachim Reh] Just to add to the useful message from Hans, for those interested in Bach's use of the waldhorn (and with access to a good music library), they may want to take a look at the following essay:

AUTHOR: Fitzpatrick, Horace
TITLE: The Waldhorn and its association in Bach's time.
SERIES: RMAResChronicle (1965), 51-54.

More info on the Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle is provided at:

Dale Gedcke wrote (October 7, 2003):
In tune vs. out of tune: Baroque (natural) trumpets vs. piccolo Trumpets

RE: Thomas Gebhardt's comment on the modern vs. Baroque meaning of "playing in tune":

The "equal temperament scale" used in today's performances is said to have been invented in 1691 by organist Andreas Werkmeister. Performances before 1691 were in the "Just" or "Pythagorean" scale. Of course, the equal temperament scale must have taken tens of years to spread into wide use.

Bach lived from 1685 to 1750. He would have been 6 years old when the equal temperament scale was introduced. Did Bach compose for the Pythagorean Scale or the Equal Temperament Scale? Which scale were the early performers of Bach's music using? Do we have any historical information?

Modern explanations about historical performance on the Baroque (natural) trumpet claim that Baroque players adjusted the pitch with their lips to bring the trumpet in tune with the other players in the orchestra. Modern trumpet players naturally use that same lip adjustment to solve minor pitch or intonation problems on notes that don't quite play in tune on their instrument.

Maybe we don't have enough information on how the Baroque trumpeters actually played. If so, then we can only speculate concerning how well they played in tune, and which scale was accepted, ... Just, or Equal Tempered. Is there any written record from an original Baroque trumpet player instructing how to play in tune?

It all comes full circle to Sherman's original point. We have two different criteria that can be applied to performing Bach's music. Would we prefer to have an historical reenactment with Baroque trumpets, or a more secure performance with modern trumpets? That decision is usually made by the performers, based on available instruments and skills. The audience gets to choose whether or not to listen to the specific performance that is offered.

Robert Sherman wrote (October 7, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] Other than a few modern pieces and arrangements, music doesn't explicitly ask for a piccolo trumpet. Baroque music is usually written for trumpet in D. About 30 years ago the Selmer company produced the first piccolo trumpet in A that could play decently in tune and had a good tone, and Maurice Andre used that on the D trumpet parts to revolutionize baroque trumpet playing. He was able to play the parts much better than he or anyone else had previously played them on a D trumpet. So it's a case of using a recent invention that's not specified in the score.

Robert Sherman wrote (October 7, 2003):
[To Thomas Gebhardt] As applied to trumpets, "in tune" is an absolute term, not a relative term.

Trumpets don't play a tempered scale unless they're trying to match a tempered keyboard. Whether natural or valved, trumpets try to play a true scale based on the harmonic series. Since baroque trumpet parts don't modulate beyond adding one sharp or one flat to the primary key (which is usually D major, sometimes C major, or F major for the Bburg), it is possible to play a true D major (or whatever) scale without worrying about temperament, and that's what all trumpeters try to do. The laws of physics and the harmonic series have not changed. There's no relativisim involved. A fifth is a frequency ratio of 3/2, a fourth is 4/3, a major third is 5/4, a minor third is 6/5, etc. It's been that way since the time of Bach, or for that matter since the creation of the universe. There is only one true scale in any major key, and either you're playing it accurately or you're not. This has always been the case and always will be.

It is more feasible to play a true scale in tune on a piccolo trumpet than on a valveless trumpet without finger holes. That's fact.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (October 8, 2003):
[To Thomas Gebhardt, regarding Baroque (natural) trumpets vs. piccolo Trumpets]
I made a mistake. However, thepoint is the same. There was in Bach's day no such thing as a "French Horn", or even a valve Horn, but rather a "Waldhorn" or "Natural Horn".

2.) I never said that it was easier to play "in tune" with one or the other. My point was that the sound possibilities are different with one than with the other. Perhaps if I did use "in tune", I meant in tune with the composer's intention.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (October 8, 2003):
[To Hans-Joachim Reh, regarding Waldhorn]
No, it does not.

The Waldhorn (or Natural Horn in English-speaking countries) is a totally different instrument than the French Horn. It is valveless. It has different range capabilities than the French Horn has.

To illustrate the point, listen to a recording of the Haydn Horn Concerto in Eb performed on a French Horn, then compare it to a recording ofit performed on the intended instrument, the Natural H.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (October 8, 2003):
[To Dale Gedcke, regarding In tune vs. out of tune: Baroque (natural) trumpets vs. piccolo Trumpets]
Actually, the "Equal Temperament" Scale owes its creation not to Werckmeister (that is how his last name is spelled), but rather to an earlier master: Johann Kaspar Ferdinand Fischer. In 1675 he composed and published the work "Ariadne Musica" which was a series of 20 (not quite Bach's 24) Praeludien und Fugen in almost all keys.

Dale Gedcke wrote (October 8, 2003):
[To Robert Sherman] Following up on Robert Sherman's appended e-mail concerning tuning of Baroque vs. modern trumpets:

The attached speadsheet summarizes the ideal frequencies and notes played by the Baroque D Trumpet (no valves) as used in Bach's compositions.

To hit these resonant frequencies (which are an integer number times the fundamental frequency) a bell has to be added to the tubing, and adjusted to lift the lower frequencies into agreement with the desired series. In addition, the mouthpiece, the taper of the mouthpiece backbore and the taper of the leadpipe (first section after the mouthpiece) all have to be adjusted to lower the higher resonant frequencies into agreement with the desired series. There is plenty of opportunity not to achieve the ideal frequencies due to design and fabrication limitations. Materials, design tools, acoustic modeling programs, and fabrication technology is much more advanced today than it was in the Baroque period.

Note that the frequency assignment to notes in the spreadsheet is based on today's North American standard of A4 = 440 Hz. Historically, the frequency assignment varied somewhat. But that is irrelevant to this discussion.

A modern D trumpet with valves, is designed for this same series of frequencies, except the series is shifted up by one octave. Valves are used to change the length of the modern trumpet to permit it to play all notes in the chromatic scale (written F#3 and higher) in addition to the basic notes in the valveless series. A modern Piccolo A Trumpet is pitched 7 half-tones above the modern D trumpet, and has a similar basic resonant series shifted 7 half-tones higher. The Piccolo Trumpet has a fourth valve to extend the lower limit by a fourth.

A few surprising limitations for the Baroque trumpet are apparent in this spreadsheet. The "Just" frequency is the target frequency for the basic resonant series. This can be matched up with the closest frequency in the "Even Temper" Scale to name the note in the concert pitch (third column). In the fifth column, the note has been named according to the transposition written for the D Trumpet score. The player reads this score as if he is playing in the key of C. But, he is actually playing in the concert key of D.

The sixth column lists the deviations of the "Just" frequencies (or natural resonant frequencies) from the frequencies assigned in the "Even Temper" Scale. The deviation is expressed in "cents". It is commonly agreed that the average listener can detect and out-of-tune deviation more than 10 cents. A number of the notes available to the Baroque trumpet player are out of tune with the Even Temper Scale by more than 10 cents. Today, a trumpet player would adjust the tension in his lips to bend those notes into conformity with the rest of the instruments in the orchestra.

Now examine the notes the Barque D trumpet could access. The base of the series, C2, is a pedal note which is normally not used because of bad tuning. From C3 through Bb4, the Baroque trumpet can only produce the bell tones generated by the 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 series of resonances. From C5 on up, the trumpet can play the diatonic scale, with one exception: F natural is missing. Actually resonance 11 is about half way between F natural and F#. The player has to bend the note to either F natural or F# using lip tension.

Interestingly, Händel used both F natural and F# in "The Trumpet Shall Sound". The first 11 bars call for F natural. In bars 12 and 16 he specifies F#. That pattern is repeated throughout the piece. Furthermore, the player is required to lip-trill between E and F natural at several cadence points. Both requirements are difficult to accomplish on a Baroque trumpet, whereas it is easy and secure on a Piccolo A trumpet with valves.

How about tone quality? Baroque trumpet fabricators did not have the sophisticated materials and technology available today. Consequently, their tone and intonation likely varied substantially from instrument to instrument. Today the tone quality can be consistently tuned to the desired sound, and valves and valve slides work wonders for eliminating intonation problems.

There are trumpeters who enjoy playing Bach's and Händel's music on a Baroque trumpet. But, many of us are grateful that the Piccolo A Trumpet can make a quality performance easier, more secure, and more pleasing to the ear.

See: Baroque D Trumpet Resonances


Brass and Voices in the Cantatas

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 19, 2004):
Benjamin Mullins wrote:
< I can also personally testify to the fact that real natural trumpets (as opposed to vented instruments) are capable of playing at dynamic levels that would certainly allow "only" four voices to be clearly heard. >
One only has to look at the Brandenburgs where a trumpet and recorder have equality in the solo lines to see how far we are from Bach's sound picture.

A very interesting recording is the "Music for San Rocco" which features historical reconstructions of Gabrieli by Paul McCreesh. Much of Gabrieli's music is written for solo voices against quite large brass ensembles. No one before McCreesh has had the courage to see if the textures and balance work: they do, and it is hard to imagine going back to overweight choral performances that make Gabrieli sound like Mahler.

I mention the early Baroque because there are several Bach cantatas which seem to have this kind of balance in mind. Most notably is "Christ Lag in Todesbanden" (BWV 4) where there is doubling of the voices by cornetto and trombone in several movements -- the Sop & Alto duet, "Den Tod", is a remarkable example where modern brass would simply be horrific. One of the cantatas ("Mein Mut" ??) in fact has a brass quartet of cornetti and sackbutts playing the "Passion Chorale" through the opening chorus.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 19, 2004):
[To Douglas Cowling] A smallish point of clarification, but: a cornetto is made of wood, not brass. Wood with a laminate of leather on it.

I agree, modern brass in there would be horrific, or at least odd. I still think the best modern substitution, if cornetti aren't available, would be some clarinets and/or chalumeaux. (Whether in Bach or 17th century music or Gabrieli.)


Continue on Part 4

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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