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Trumpets in Bach’s Vocal Works
Part 6

Continue from Part 5

Composing for D or Bb trumpet

Continue of the discussion ‘Justification for period instruments’ from HIP - Part 14 [General Topics]

Dale Gedcke wrote (July 23, 2004):
William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote:
< Someone had led me to believe that only B flat trumpets are in use today and that the D,C, and E Instruments had fallen by the wayside.

I was told this after I had written for a D flat Trumpet in one of my composistions. I spent many frustrating transcription hours trying to get the part arranged so that a B flat trumpet could handle it.

If this is the case then I will go back and use the original score and if the person can not handle it then they will just have to use a piccolo trumpet. >
The Bb trumpet is certainly the most popular trumpet in use today. Virtually everybody who learns to play, starts on either a Bb trumpet or a Bb cornet. Those who specialize in playing in concert bands or jazz bands generally play nothing but a Bb trumpet.or Bb cornet.

The choice between Bb cornet and Bb trumpet is tone quality. A cornet has a more conical profile of tube diameter throughout its length. That gives the cornet a more mellow tone. Some concert bands prefer the tone of the cornet. In England, most concert bands employ cornets. In North America, the trumpet, with its thicker tone, is more popular in concert bands.

You can find a similar comparison between the Baritone (more cylindrical bore) and the Euphonium (more conical bore).

Jazz bands and soloists almost always use the Bb trumpet. Some jazz artists also play the Bb Fluegelhorn. The latter has a more mellow tone than the cornet. Sometimes a Fluegelhorn can sound similar to the tone of a French Horn.

If you write music for a Bb trumpet, a Bb cornet and a Bb Fluegelhorn can play from that same score without any problem, and vice versa.

That brings us to orchestras. Playing in a symphony orchestra calls for almost equal use of Bb trumpets and C trumpets. Modern orchestra music is typically written with the Bb trumpet in mind. But all the great classical composers wrote for trumpets in the keys of F, C, D, Eb, and E. Some of these compositions are written for the Baroque (natural) trumpet with no valves. The players changed a crook on their trumpet to move from one key to the other.

Circa 1815, the valved trumpet was invented, and became popular because it could play the chromatic scale over its full range of notes. It took another 50 to 100 years before all composers took full advantage of that flexibility.

So today, a trumpeter in a symphony orchestra is faced with playing modern compositions written for a Bb trumpet and classical music written for trumpets in a variety of keys. Some publishers provide a transposition for the Bb trumpet, while others leave it in the original key. In the latter case, the player must transpose as he plays. It turns out that the trumpet that makes such transposition most universally easy is the C trumpet. That is why it is so popular in symphony orchestras. It also has a more brilliant sound than the Bb trumpet, and that tonal quality is generally preferred on classical music.

A lot of the Baroque music was written for a D trumpet. Consequently, trumpeters who are serious about playing in symphony orchestras usually also have a D trumpet. Because a D trumpet will see only about 20% of the use of a C trumpet, one can buy an Eb/D trumpet that has interchangeable bells and slides to convert from one key to another. The D and Eb trumpets have an even more brilliant sound than the C trumpet.

A lot of the Baroque music was written in the clarino range, i.e., from the third-space C on the treble clef to an octave and a half above that C. That's because the natural trumpet could play a diatonic scale only in that range. Such a high range is difficult to play with precision, and agility on a mezzo Bb or C trumpet. Consequently, the piccolo trumpet was invented to allow trumpeters with less skill to play those clarino compositions. A piccolo trumpet is approximately half the length of the mezzo trumpet in the same key. The most popular piccolo trumpet is the Bb/A. It can be set up for either of the two keys by changing the length of the leadpipe (the tube from mouthpiece to valves) and the 4 slides. This trumpet typically has four valves to increase its range on the low end. The piccolo trumpet has a very brilliant tone, more so in Bb than A. The A setting is ideal for Baroque music written in the key of D, because the A trumpet plays in the written key of F, a very convenient key for good control and intonation. The Bb setting is often used for music written in C. There are piccolo trumpets in other keys, but they are less popular.

The bottom line is: there are experienced players out there who have all of these trumpets. So you should feel free to write your compositions according to the expertise of the musician you are aiming at, and for the range and tonal qualities you want to produce. If you are aiming at neophytes and inexperienced amateurs, you should write for the mezzo Bb trumpet.

In general, the lower the basic pitch of the trumpet, the thicker and darker the sound produced. The higher the pitch, the thinner and more brilliant the sound. Of course this is also true of any specific trumpet. Its tone is most brilliant in the upper reaches of its range.

If you want a more mellow sound, specify a cornet or a fluegelhorn. Curiously there is also an Eb cornet which is rarely used, but is sometimes employed in concert bands for the stuff in the upper register.

There are many more nuances to the tonal qualities and types of trumpets. But, this should give you the overall perspective you need for most of your composing.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (July 24, 2004):
Dale Gedcke wrote:
< You can find a similar comparison between the Baritone (more cylindrical bore) and the Euphonium (more conical bore). >
The Euph is also bigger...hence better.....I wish...

Unfortunately most composers themselves don't even bother figuring out the distinction, however the euph is way more common, and the label "baritone" on the parts (the sheet music-just clarifying) is just about as common...

What this has to do with composing for D or Bb trumpet is somewhat unapparent-myself included-but I felt compelled to respond.

5000000 bonus marks to Dale for making the distinction between bari and euph!!

Dale Gedcke wrote (July 24, 2004):
[To Matthew Newgebauer] The connection between the baritone/Euphonium and the trumpet/cornet is this:

The first instrument of each pair has a more cylindical bore, the second has a more conical bore.

This makes the tone of the Euphonium and the Cornet more mellow than the tone of the Baritone and the Trumpet, respectively. The name for the Euphonium underscores that more mellow tone. The Euphonium has also been called the Mellowphone, for that same reason.

A composer is painting a picture with sounds and tones. Choosing a generic trumpet or a generic baritone is like choosing red and blue from the palette. Choosing between a Euphonium and a Baritone, or among a Fluegelhorn, Cornet, Bb trumpet, C trumpet, D trumpet or piccolo trumpet is like selecting the shade of blue or red for a particular effect in the painting.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (July 24, 2004):
[To Dale Gedcke] Thanks Dale-however I play euphonium in university, so I'm on the front lines!

With pre-professional and university-level band music (which is I guess pro anyways...), composers very rarely make any distinction at all between baritone and euph. In fact the whole lower section tends to be clumped together as one bass voice (of course, the euph/bari part sometimes has some interesting moments that make it the tenor instrument that it is!!). So if you're talking colours, composers at times have this notion that the bass/contrabass clarinet, bari sax, tuba, euph/bari, at times bass trombone and if included double bass (yes, the string instrument) have the same colour. I guess this is a case of a louder moment in the piece in which as many instruments possible are playing (sounds rather baroque in its aesthetic, doesn't it...)

Oh well-if I end up writing band music hopefully I'll be more careful-or maybe use the "instrument loading" technique described above for it's proper use-most likely I'll do both in the same piece.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 24, 2004):
[To Dale Gedcke] To Dale's excellent discussion I add the following:

You rarely see a Bb trumpet used in A-list professional symphony or opera orchestras today. Rightly or wrongly, for the past 20 years or so the conventional wisdom among classical trumpeters is that use of a Bb trumpet brands you as an amateur, and of course no professional wants to have his ego and his income slighted in that way.

Baroque trumpet playing requires "cleaner" playing (each note hit and held right in the center) than any other style. This is impossible to do on a Bb trumpet in the high tessitura of Bach and other baroque composers' parts, which are most commonly written in the key of D. Playing it on a D trumpet, which was universal practice until the mid-1960s, is better but still not good. Piccolo trumpets in A or sometimes G work much better and are almost universally used. Any trumpeter who plays the A or G piccolo trumpet can easily transpose from parts written for D trumpet. In fact, most players on the A piccolo kind of regard it as a D trumpet with different fingerings, since little or no baroque music is actually scored for A trumpet.

If you are going to write baroque-style music I recommend writing it as if it were in the key of C, and notating that it is in for trumpet in D, F, or whatever. With trumpets today available in almost every key, a professional trumpeter will have no difficulty handling this.

Note that the great baroque composers did essentially no modulations in their trumpet parts; adding an occasional written Bb or F# was as far as they went. This was because the valveless trumpet can't play the other notes. But even with modern trumpets, the farther you get from the fundamental key of the instrument, the more difficult it will be to play with baroque cleanness.

If you are going to write music that modulates a lot, I recommend showing it to a professional trumpeter and asking him what key instrument he would use. Then score it for that instrument.

This was not done in the past, with sometimes regrettable results. For example, Sibelius' Symphony #2 is scored for F trumpet, but it plays best on a D trumpet. This is a difficult transposition; if some publisher were to score it for D trumpet, the players would be grateful although the purists would no doubt be upset.

You can change the scoring in the middle of a piece provided you allow enough time for the trumpter to switch his mouthpiece to the second instrument.

John Reese wrote (July 24, 2004):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] There's a very simple way to avoid this sort of confusion: write for the trombone. Everyone knows what a trombone is. (And here I add a smiley emoticon, even though I know that baritone and euphonium players have a great sense of humor :-)

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (July 25, 2004):
[To John Reese]
(And here I add a smiley
< emoticon, even though I know that baritone and euphonium players have a great sense of humor :-) >

haha!! Practically whenever I pull out my horn I get asked what it is! Even string students need to be informed.

Oh well-probably less people know what a cornetto is, despite watching a video on renaissance-early baroque brass instruments!

Dale Gedcke wrote (July 25, 2004):
Robert Sherman wrote:
"You rarely see a Bb trumpet used in A-list professional symphony or opera orchestras today. Rightly or wrongly, for the past 20 years or so the conventional wisdom among classical trumpeters is that use of a Bb trumpet brands you as an amateur, and of course no professional wants to have his ego and his income slighted in that way."
MY COMMENTS:

Ironically, I have watched the Boston Pops Orchestra play with some pieces on the Bb trumpet and some on the C trumpet in the same concert. The Bb selections tended to be the more modern compositions, of course.

I also watched the National Symphony Orchestra (Washington DC) played a concert on Bb trumpets ( Machine by Higdon; Pavane, OP. 50 by Faure; Three Places in New England by Ives) and also Rotary C trumpets (Brahms Symphony No. 4).

However, there is little doubt that the C trumpet is preferred in today's symphony orchestra, with the D trumpet and Piccolo A trumpet being somewhat less frequently used. Of course, which trumpet is best to use depends a lot on the composition, as Bob explained.

Ludwig wrote (July 28, 2004):
[To Dale Gedcke] Thank you.

I was aware that most trumpets I have been around are B flat instruments. I was surprized to learn that Trumpets in C are still around as I was taught that these went away in the days of Mozart and Haydn.

What other Piccolo Trumpets exist other than one in B flat and one in A? Which one can get up into the area near the fourth c (that is the C note from mid c on the piano this is the note low D for a b flat trumpet in the key of D major) or above the easiest on the player?

Gabriel Jackson wrote (July 28, 2004):
Ludwig wrote:
"I was surprized to learn that Trumpets in C are still around as I was taught that these went away in the days of Mozart and Haydn."
Not only are C trumpets still around but, pace Dale, most contemporary orchestral scores call for C trumpets rather than Bb ones. Partly this is because of the brighter sound of the C trumpet, but also because there isn't much point in writing for a transposing instrument in an atonal pieces (not that all new music is atonal but....). Unless you want the low E (concert) of course.....

Kenneth Edmonds wrote (July 28, 2004):
[To Ludwig] The C trumpet in the time of Mozart and Haydn was the natural or valve-less trumpet. This instrument is twice as long as the modern piston (or rotary) valve C trumpet. The other piccolo trumpets around today are the G piccolo (1 step lower than the A piccolo) and the C piccolo (one step higher than the Bb Piccolo, but neither is that common. (The G is more common than the C.)

I'm not sure which C you are referring to in your statement below. Do you mean middle C (C4)? Or are you talking about 3 or 4 octaves above that? If you are talking about middle C, only the 4-valve G piccolo would really be able the play the note comfortably, but not with the greatest of tone. Better to write for a lower keyed trumpet. If you are talking about 3 or 4 octaves above middle C, that is another story. The Bb piccolo in skilled hands should be able to ascend to F6 (Concert pitch). Some players may be able to ascend to Bb6, but it is not something you really want to hear. The 2nd Brandenburg Concerto (usually played on a Bb piccolo in a Non-HIP recording) requires the player to play three G6's in the first movement.* Some players use a specially designed bell that fits in place of the 4th valve slide in order to play this note. (See: http://www.dmamusic.org/tromba/endsleybrass.html) It creates a shortcut in the trumpet, effectively decreasing the length of the tubing so that the G6 is easier to play.

Unfortunately, the C piccolo will not allow a performer to play much higher than the Bb6 mentioned above. The trumpet player still has to buzz his/her lips at the frequency needed to play the notes, no matter what the key of the trumpet is. A smaller trumpet just makes it a little easier for the player to play in that range. I can play an F6 on the Bb trumpet, but can not really play any higher on a piccolo trumpet.

* Does mentioning a Brandenburg concerto keep this on topic? No? Well, I didn't think so, either. :-)

Robert Sherman wrote (July 28, 2004):
[To Ludwig] To add to Dale's accurate response:

There are plenty of C trumpet parts written in Mozart and Haydn symphonies and concertos. Every one of those pieces with a movement in C will have it written for C trumpet. Likewise, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is written for C trumpet.

Piccolo trumpets in G see consiuse, as they work well for music written in either C or D. Schilke also makes a piccolo trumpet in high C, although I've never seen or heard one. Schilke says it is requested by players who can't transpose but who want to play the baroque C literature. Seems to me anyone with enough money to buy one of these instruments would be able to transpose the C trumpet parts and play them on a G or F picc trumpet, which would probably sound better.

Regarding the upper range limit, this is NOT a function of the key of the instrument, contrary to what some non-brass players seem to believe. It depends first on the ability of the player, second on the depth of the mouthpiece. The highest notes you will ever hear on a trumpet are from jazz trumpeters who use ordinary Bb trumpets with very shallow mouthpieces and specialized high-register technique. BUT they slide and screech, rather than play cleanly. It is the baroque clean playing that requires the piccolo trumpet.

 

Cornetti

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 14, 2004):
re BWV 147:
< Thanks for digging out the reference on the tromba da tirarsi application to this movement. I had not thought of that possibility. >
Nobody has ever demonstrated to my satisfaction that "Tromba" and "Tromba di tirarsi" absolutely specify instruments that MUST not be cornetti. (Maybe the arguments satisfy nigglers for positivistic detail, who would not be personally satisfied until all unconfirmed possibilities are absolutely forbidden from performances, and until no practicing musicians are ever allowed to use musical judgment. But, the arguments hashed and rehashed forever--and typically quoted from only one or two sources, as if that's all that could matter!--don't satisfy me as a practical musician!)

When Bach asks explicitly for cornetto (Zink, the instrument made of wood), in most cases he's also got two or three trombones handy for the piece. They come as a set, like a cornett-and-sackbut ensemble (a very long tradition, still alive today).

How do we know, with absolute surety, that Bach could NEVER have meant (or allowed) simply "cornetto without bringing along the rest of the guys" in even one place where he put "Tromba" [di tirarsi]?

Maybe I'm biased by having friends who actually play Baroque trumpets (of whatever sorts), and cornetto, and modern trumpets (of whatever sorts), and who let their musical experience play some part in the choices they make. They bring in whatever instrument(s) and appropriate playing style(s) best suit the gig, according to what everybody else hired for the gig will be playing, to fit well into the ensemble and the director's level of experience. If at rehearsal something doesn't seem to be coming across satisfactorily, try a different solution, without bothering to write any difference into the parts or the score! Why couldn't "Tromba" mean, to Bach, "yo! play some cupped-mouthpiece instrument that sounds good in this part I'm handing you"?

For comparison, on this same problem, look at the "lute" pieces by Bach. Nobody's absolutely sure he meant an in-your-lap lute, as opposed to a harpsichord-like keyboard instrument with gut strings, or vice versa. He asked for the sound of a lute-like instrument. If somebody can get through it alive with an in-your-lap lute, cool. If somebody has a Lautenwerk, cool.

Or the organ works, as to registration. The organist is entrusted to have a brain, and use it, to select stops appropriate to the instrument and the room and a satisfying musical effect. Ditto for the very few harpsichord works by JSB that specify two manuals at all; they don't say how to register those two manuals but merely point out that there's a contrast, and the player has to figure out some suitable solution. Every harpsichord presents somewhat different resources from every other; we use our taste and experience to do something musical with it.

Why, then, would not this composer approach the orchestration (or "registration") of ensemble works in much the same matter, composing the effects that are to be made and letting the performers figure out some suitable way to deliver that sound, using musical judgment and experience?

How upset would JSB be, really, if somebody used a cornetto on the melodic lines in BWV 147 (scanned by another list member, at: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/files ) on the musical grounds that it sounds beautiful with a present group of singers and other players?

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 14, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>How do we know, with absolute surety, that Bach could NEVER have meant (or allowed) simply "cornetto without bringing along the rest of the guys" in even one place where he put "Tromba" [di tirarsi]?<<
As Ulrich Prinz, in his article on the 'Cornett' in the "Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach [Boyd, Oxford University Press, 1999] indicates:
"Bach was one of the few composers who continued to use the cornett (or 'Zink' as it was known in Germany) together with trombones, to support the vocal parts in his church music at a time when the instrument was becomeing antiquated and being replaced by the fashionable Waldhorn."

and

"Bach used the cornett to support the sopranos in 13 of his Leipzig vocal works, notably in 'stile antico' movements in the annual cycle of chorale cnatatas (1724-1725) [the first Leipzig performance of BWV 147 "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben" with a chorale not in 'stile antico' took place July 2, 1723]. It is used as an obbligato instrument in Cantata BWV 25 [together with trombones in the same cantata all playing colla parte - Prinz is in error here about the description 'obbligato'] and in the motet 'O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht." [1736-1737 - 1 Cornett + 3 Trombones.]"

Anthony C. Baines and Bruce Dickey, who wrote the article on the Cornett for the Grove Music Online [Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 9/14/04} made the following observations:
"The decline of the cornett as an orchestral instrument can be followed in the published scores of the Leipzig Kantors from Schein to Bach. Although Bach wrote for the cornett he used it, except in the motet O Jesu Christ, mein Lebens Licht, BWV 118, merely to reinforce the trebles of the choir." [to which should be added, in order to avoid misunderstanding, the trombones were also being used to reinforce the other vocal parts - the cornett was generally being used in conjunction with the trombones and was not featured as the only wind instrument supporting the voices of the choir as is the case in BWV 147.]

>>Why couldn't "Tromba" mean, to Bach, "yo! play some cupped-mouthpiece instrument that sounds good in this
part I'm handing you"?<<
>>Why, then, would not this composer approach the orchestration (or "registration") of ensemble works in much the same matter, composing the effects that are to be made and letting the performers figure out some suitable way to deliver that sound, using musical judgment and experience?
How upset would JSB be, really, if somebody used a cornetto on the melodic lines in
BWV 147 ...on the musical grounds that it sounds beautiful with a present group of singers and other players?<<
Here we are confronted again with the frequently discussed issue of piano vs. harpsichord, clarinet substitutions for trumpets, synthesizer to replace voices and instruments, etc. etc. Any Bach performance is better than none at all. Some considerations regarding substitutions might lead to better musical results. But all of this must be pitted against the notion of what did Bach possibly intend to hear, or even more difficult, what did Bach actually hear when he performed his own music? These latter questions only become important when the performers lead audiences/lito believe that they are giving a performance that they deem to be authentic. If they are already using instrument reconstructions based upon original instruments and following certain notions of historically informed performance practices, then the assumption is that all this effort is directed at presenting an 'authentic' performance based upon current musicological research as far as this is possible. At this point substituting instruments that Bach did not designate or did not generally use at a certain point in his life simply means that the ideal goal of greatest possibile authenticity has been compromised in favor of simply 'performing the gig as circumstances allow.'

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (September 15, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] Harpsichords like Organs usually have some standard stops even though the sounds from these stops do not necessarily sound the same. In the Harpsichord---one almost never knows what sounds one is going to get from a Harp stop. I have played instruments in which such stops sounded as though I really were playing a Harp and in others it was more of a Buffa stop.

In the Organ: the standard stop is the Principal 8' and this is the stop that distingishes the Organ from other instruments. It is the sound most people associate in solo with "Churchyness"

On the Harpsichord; the standard stop is a Lute 8'. Unfortunatly for composers and performers coming to a different instrument (Organ or Harpsichord) that they are accustom to play---these stop names are almost meaningless and this is particularly true with the Organ where a certain Organ in Idaho that has a stop named

Flute de Julie 8'.

Such stops are called vanity stops. Flute de Julie is something like a Holflote and was named for the donor of the stop and the name gives no reasonable indication of the sounds to be expected.

There is a movement,now particularly in the Organ performance community, to ban vanity stops altogether and to give the same kind of meaning to a stop that instruments in the Orchestra have for instance: Clarinet or Oboe. Any composer or anyone else seeing the names of these instruments knows what these instruments sound like (or should) and that is not a flute sound.

By the same token: A Principal 8' should should like the same stop as built by North German Organbuilders in the baroque period --particularly Schnitger. A Principale 8' should possess the same timbres of a Silberman stop of this type or the Italian type. A Montre 8' should have the French type of sound. A Diapason 8 should have the English type of sound common in all of the Great English builders up to today. Any Diapason that honks like a car horn should be banned but if used should be called a Horn Diapason. Such stops were made in the 1930s by Moller and the Estey Organ firms in the United States who placed them in their instruments for Church use. I can assure you, dear reader, it sounded more like secular society outside than a holy sound.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (September 15, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
"At this point substituting instruments that Bach did not designate or did not generally use at a certain point in his life simply means that the ideal goal of greatest possibile authenticity has been compromised in favor of simply 'performing the gig as circumstances allow.'
I have previously explained more than once, from my own experience, how a composer can be very specific in designating exactly which instruments (or voices) he/she is writing for, yet at the same time be open to, and welcome, performances by forces which are not exactly as described. There is no contradiction.

Thomas Braatz recently stated that he welcomed correction from those who know better. Well, correction has been offered in this instance. I trust it will be received with open arms.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 16, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson stated:
>>I have previously explained more than once, from my own experience, how a composer can be very specific in designating exactly which instruments (or voices) he/she is writing for, yet at the same time be open to, and welcome, performances by forces which are not exactly as described. There is no contradiction.
Thomas Braatz recently stated that he welcomed correction from those who know better. Well, correction has been offered in this instance. I trust it will be received with open arms.<<
Gabriel's correction must be taken and understood in light of what it truly represents: It is the height of hubris for Gabriel, or for any other contemporary composer for that matter, to equate his/her understanding and empirical knowledge of composition gained in the 20th and 21st centuries from personal experience with that of Bach's in the 18th.

The 'firm' evidence for Bach's acceptance of the interchangeability of instruments of the same range with each other can not simply be based upon the fact that Bach, in subsequent performances of the same cantata, or in his parodies or revisions of his own works, did substitute one instrument of one type (types = strings, woodwinds, brass, keyboard, etc.) for another type that was used in the original composition/performance.

The NBA editorial policy to accept and print the latest version of a Bach composition as evidence of Bach's 'last will and testament' has come under sound criticism from Bach experts who can discern intelligently upon musical grounds the superior aspects usually present in Bach's initial/original compositions which were composed with specific instruments and/or soloists in mind. There is no simple way to get around the fact that a composition originally composed, for example, for an oboe, for which it was characteristically written, does not easily translate into a version for flute or violin, since each of these instruments possesses certain characteristics of expression present in the others only to a lesser degree.

In his keyboard transcriptions of some of Vivaldi's concerti for orchestra, Bach, for instance, did reduce and 'flatten out' the characteristic string sound. While the notes are retained as is, the inherent qualities of a string sound are lost. Does anyone in his right mind think that Bach considered these performances (orchestra vs. single keyboard) to be equal, that one is not better than the other?

In his desperation caused by the pressure of time which forced Bach to compose and perform for a number of years a new weekly cantata, not to mention the sacred music required for the special church holidays, Bach was required to make some rather uncomfortable compromises, not at all comparable to those made by a contemporary composers who welcome with open arms any opportunity for their music to be performed in whatever guise it takes to get the music before the public. Of course, this comparison falters due to the assumption that this contemporary music is even worthy of being compared to Bach's inspired creations where he had fathomed the profound possibilities inherent in each instrument for which he composed.

One of the general characterstics that applies to instrumental compositions of the Renaissance is the ideal of homogeneity of sound: recorders did not generally play with shawms or with string instruments, but rather with other recorders of different sizes or ranges [similar to the cornetti as they were being used with trombones until the time of Bach when they gradually died out.] However, in the Baroque, again this generalization is not a fast rule, the great composers exploited the individual sonorities and unique capabilities of each instrument type, particularly when the instrument was featured in an obbligato or solo capacity. Bach certainly explored these instrumental capabilities more than most of the other Baroque composers, some of whom simply indicated on their scores (as then given in the printed editions of their works) of their trios, for instance, that the treble voice/part could be played by either an oboe, flute, violin, whichever one happened to have on hand. There is here a mercenary motivation which came as a result of the titles & scoring of these printed compositions appearing in catalogues from which prospectibuyers would choose what they wanted to purchase. When Bach's original conception of a cantata movement featured an oboe, for instance, the music sounded best when played on this instrument by a worthy instrumentalist because it captured and capitalized upon the unique characteristics which only this type of instrument could offer. Listeners with discerning ears and with the capability of responding emotionally to such a performance will know within themselves that a replacement of this oboe solo with a violin or flute can no longer serve the perfect union between Bach's original intentions and the same music as played by excellent oboists (whether on modern or original instrument reconstructions.) Notwithstanding Bach's own revisions where the music remains the same but is played by instruments of another orchestral type, Bach's music suffers some degradation from its original intent and purpose. Bach, most certainly, must have been aware of this as he spoke of the 'cross' that he had to bear in Leipzig. This included the intense pressure to compose and perform at his own high level of expectation sacred music of all types week after week in the 1720s and by the beginning of the 1730s, his disenchantment and frustration had turned to bitter resignation which caused him to make certain compromises when repeating his cantatas and which also caused him to begin seeking employment elsewhere where he might be able to rely upon having at his disposal a well-paid ensemble consisting of the best vocalists and instrumentalists available in Europe at that time. While 'putting out his feelers' for such an ideal position where he musical dreams might be realized, he nevertheless had to contend with the ever-weakening condition of his musical forces in Leipzig. This situation forced him to compromise his original intentions for the cantatas which he had already composed and contemplated reusing because he lacked some key instrumentalists who could perform the solos well enough to his satisfaction. It would be ridiculous to imagine Bach saying to himself at this point: "This is wonderful! Now the audience (congregation) will hear this cantata in yet another new and different way that is better than the previous performance when this cantata was freshly composed for an instrument that was inappropriately chosen." Or "The listeners will not have to know that my current principal oboist is unable to play this part well enough, so I decided to give this part to the flute (or the violin.) In any case, this is a definite improvement over what I had at my disposal previously because these new instrumentalists are really great."

Gabriel's opinion on interchangeability of instruments based upon expertise in composing for instruments and voices pales considerably when considering that a Bach scholar such as Alfred Dürr has expressed the opinion that the original version/scoring/orchestration of a Bach cantata can often be better than any subsequent revision undertaken by Bach. Such a statement will mean even more for a careful listener who can hear the confirmation of this point when the various cantata recordings offer for comparison earlier and later versions of a cantata. This is far superior to heeding Gabriel's contemporary pronouncement, perhaps also based upon the same type of mercenary motivation as some of the lesser Baroque composers, that Bach would have been just as happy to hear his works performed on whatever instruments were available regardless of the fact that they had been originally composed by Bach only for a single type of instrument, the exquisite possibilities of which Bach uncovered with his consummate artistry for all listeners to enjoy even today.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (September 16, 2004):
Thomas Braatz writes:
"Gabriel's correction must be taken and understood in light of what it truly represents: It is the height of hubris for Gabriel, or for any other contemporary composer for that matter, to equate his/her understanding and empirical knowledge of composition gained in the 20th and 21st centuries from personal experience with that of Bach's in the 18th."
It is not in the least hubristic to demonstrate how a precise designation of instrumentation does not preclude the use of instruments other than those prescribed. No evidence that Bach didn't take the same view has been presented.

"There is no simple way to get around the fact that a composition originally composed, for example, for an oboe, for which it was characteristically written, does not easily translate into a version for flute or violin, since each of these instruments possesses certain characteristics of expression present in the others only to a lesser degree."
There is a very simple way to get around it, which is that composers have frequently written music which is EXPRESSLY intended to be performable by differening instruments. An example (one of a myriad of such instances): Jonathan Harvey's "Ricercare una melodia" exists in versions for trumpet and digital delay, oboe and digital delay, cello and digital. Except for a simple downward transposition in the case of the cello version, the material is exactly the same, whatever instrument it is played on. How does that square with the assertion above?

"In his desperation caused by the pressure of time which forced Bach to compose and perform for a number of years a new weekly cantata, not to mention the sacred music required for the special church holidays, Bach was required to make some rather uncomfortable compromises, not at all comparable to those made by a contemporary composers who welcome with open arms any opportunity for their music to be performed in whatever guise it takes to get the music before the public."
Another assertion that has no foundation whatsoever, but is based on the purest prejudice. Sweeping conjectures about the motives and working methods of living composers, presented without evidence to support them, are quite irrelervant.

"Of course, this comparison falters due to the assumption that this contemporary music is even worthy of being compared to Bach's inspired creations where he had fathomed the profound possibilities inherent in each instrument for which he composed."
The assumption here is that no-one could possibly consider any contemporary music comparable (comparable in what sense?) to that of Bach. This is another sweeping generalisation and is evidence of nothing other than the tastes and prejudices of the author.

"Gabriel's opinion on interchangeability of instruments based upon expertise in composing for instruments and voices pales considerably when considering that a Bach scholar such as Alfred Dürr has expressed the opinion that the original version/scoring/orchestration of a Bach cantata can often be better than any subsequent revision undertaken by Bach."
Alfred Dürr's opinion that he thinks the "original version/scoring/orchestration of a Bach cantata can often be better than any subsequent revision undertaken by Bach" - note, CAN be better, rather than IS better - has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on Bach's own views of the interchangeability (or otherwise) of instruments. It is not evidence of anything.

"This is far superior to heeding Gabriel's contemporary pronouncement, perhaps also based upon the same type of mercenary motivation as some of the lesser Baroque composers, that Bach would have been just as happy to hear his works performed on whatever instruments were available regardless of the fact that they had been originally composed by Bach only for a single type of instrument, the exquisite possibilities of which Bach uncovered with his consummate artistry for all listeners to enjoy even today."
And what kind of 'mercenary motivation' might that be? Instead of offering real evidence to counter my assertion about composers' attitudes to instrumentation Thomas Braatz can only manage an insult, based on......what? For all the gulf in both time and ability between Bach and myself, the unassailable fact is that I know more than Thomas Braatz does about how composers think about their wo. So much for being willing to accept correction from experts....

John Pike wrote (September 16, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] I must confess I am generally in favour of trying to reproduce an authentic Bach sound so far as is possible, whether that means original instruments, the instruments Bach specified, the pitch, the registration, the temperament, the orchestral forces or the choral forces. Clearly, we can never be 100% certain about much of this. However, that does not mean that any other attempts to perform Bach on modern or alternative instruments are unworthy. On the contrary, Bach's music is so resilient that any performance with real musicianship and sensitivity can overcome lack of authenticity and give a satisfying result.

Recently, the motet BWV 118 "Herr Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht" was mentioned in one of Thomas' posts. The first time I heard this was a radio broadcast at Christmas 1999 of the Gardiner recording (although I think it was originally written as funeral music). I was totally bowled over and it remains one of my favourite Bach works. Yesterday, I heard the Rilling recording. It sounded so completely different and I think he must use different instrumentation. For me, it lacked much of the emotional impact of the Gardiner. I'd be interested to hear comments from others on these 2 recordings.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Cantata BWV 118 - Discussions

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 16, 2004):
< Here we are confronted again with the frequently discussed issue of piano vs. harpsichord, clarinet substitutions for trumpets, synthesizer to replace voices and instruments, etc. etc. Any Bach performance is better than none at all. Some considerations regarding substitutions might lead to better musical results. But all of this must be pitted against the notion of what did Bach possibly intend to hear, or even more difficult, what did Bach actually hear when he performed his own music? These latter questions only become important when the performers lead audiences/listeners to believe that they are giving a performance that they deem to be authentic. If they are already using instrument reconstructions based upon original instruments and following certain notions of historically informed performance practices, then the assumption is that all this effort is directed at presenting an 'authentic' performance based upon current musicological research as far as this is possible. At this point substituting instruments that Bach did not designate or did not generally use at a certain point in his life simply means that the ideal goal of greatest possibile authenticity has been compromised in favor of simply 'performing the gig as circumstances allow.' >
I agree with some of that. But:

1. How do you (anyone) know that "simply performing the gig as circumstances allow" is NOT an historically authentic approach that Bach himself used? That's basic strategy of building a performance! Thinking on one's feet, as a performer, bringing a flexible brain and problem-solving skills to the task, is authenticity! (Meanwhile, a competing mindset that Thou Shalt Not Transgress The Holy Writ Score By Doing Anything Insufficiently Documented is NOT historical authenticity; it's misguided 20th/21st century idolatry.)

2. Cantata BWV 147 (the one being discussed) is from 1723. Other concerted vocal works of Bach from 1723-1725 ask for cornetto. So how, exactly, would the practical "substitution" of a cornetto into BWV 147 be the deployment of an instrument that Bach "did not generally use at a certain point in his life", specifically at this point in his life?

3. A professional Shakespeare troupe whose home base is near my town has a spiffy recently built house, modeled on the design and proportions of the Globe Theatre. They even have hard uncomfortable benches, in the quest for accuracy to the historic venue! On the other hand, they use electric lighting, they occasionally interpolate recent pop songs into the plays, and the troupe includes some female players (presumably wearing modern underwear and everything!) whereas Bill's troupe didn't. Should we patrons of the show storm out of there demanding our money back because the show wasn't "authentic" enough to antiquated conditions in several ways, or should we simply enjoy the marvels that the performances reveal in the plays? Personally, I'd much rather attend a performance where it's clear the performers have thought about making it a vital and direct experience for us (as this particular troupe does); not one in which active creative thought is absolutely disallowed through misguided puritan arguments.

4. It seems to me that the points I've mentioned here in #1 and #3 really would matter only to a consumer who's unable to sort out anachronisms for himself/herself. Are listeners to Bach's music (i.e. buyers of produced CDs, sticking them into machines and listening rather passively), and readers of reference books, really that unable to make judgments of musical and historical accuracy? I certainly don't think that the people who buy Bach recordings are that clueless; we're already buying Bach recordings with money we could have spent on less substantial music. Why, then, must we be warned away from performances we enjoy? Are our souls in danger, or something, if we listen to performances that are not as historically accurate as we've been led to expect by the packaging?

Idolatry to a score, and over-reliance on reference books, bespeaks INABILITY (or maybe just unwillingness?) to make thoughtful musical judgments by taste and experience. (When lost, submit to authority, and hope that everybody else does, too! Restrict people's options to receive only that which one can halfway understand, oneself, by reading the cold hard facts as if that's all that could possibly matter. Accuse the real experts of making bad compromises and uninformed judgments!) But, most of us who buy recordings and books are smart enough to figure out what sounds reasonably good and what doesn't. If we don't like it at all, we'll go buy something else. If something seems incongruous, and if we care at all, we'll go figure it out and maybe learn something in the process, maybe coming back to it with more appreciation and understanding the second time. We frankly don't need to hear the judgment of a score-follower--especially one who does NOT ever perform the music but merely censors and sifts other people's work--to tell us when (in his opinion) performers have not made wise choices, and when (in his opinion) performers are not able or allowed to think actively at all. Should our Shakespeare consumer bring the printed text of the play along to the show, to follow along carefully and to protest loudly whenever the performers onstage take ANY sort of thoughtful liberty with it? How is that enjoyable for anybody else who paid the same ticket price expecting to have a good time?

It seems to me: anybody is welcome to have an "I prefer..." opinion, stated as such, and the discussion of such opinions is stimulating, AWAY FROM the performance venue. People enjoy different things, and we all learn from one another, and from arguing about why we have the personal preferences we do. But an opinion stated as "That's categorically wrong!!..." or "The experts have no clue what they're talking about on this!!..." really should be the province of those who have truly studied the material inside out, as practitioners (and not merely consumers), knowing from real experience what works and what doesn't. And even then, such an opinion has to be stated very carefully with respect for other possibilities, and respect for the good in the work that has been done. It has to be backed with direct proof, and clear understanding of both theory and practice. One can't merely cite some preferred expert A to bash on experts B and C as wrong; that's what children do playing with action figures, using little hero dolls as weapons against other hero dolls, to fashion the child's own preferred story l. The citation from reference books doesn't really build a convincing argument. Reference books are terrific resources, of course, but their proper use is in context of really understanding the material first, not as a substitute for understanding it. Citation from reference books, by amateurs, does not prove that experts don't know their own material. It only proves that amateurs are willing to misuse reference books for their own creative ends, to try to make experts look inferior.

My remarks about cornetti have been from a background of accompanying professional players of them (and of the various trumpets); and a background of attempting to play cornetto myself (at a rudimentary level, at least to appreciate its resources a bit). And, of course, I've already read the Oxford Composer Companions: Bach articles about cornetto, horn, trumpet, and much more. Anybody can flip open a general reference book and buzz through it; I don't need an amateur to tell me what he thinks the articles say, or which parts he thinks are most important in them. So, what does the citation of those same articles, as argumentation to try to denigrate my opinion, really do as any sort of proof that my remarks were wrong, or that my musical suggestion of using cornetto has no merit?

Dale Gedcke wrote (September 16, 2004):
Out of curiosity, I checked the web site: http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~wfb/cantatas/minst.html, to see how frequently J. S. Bach specified the cornetto versus tromba, and, just for interest, the trombone and corno da caccia. Here are the approximate results (I may have missed one or two counts):

19 Cantata movements specified the cornetto,
24 Cantata movements called for the trombone,
174 Cantata movements listed the tromba or tromba da tirarsi, and
25 Cantata movements are scored for corno da caccia or corno da tirarsi.

I was surprised to see such an overwhelmingly frequent use of the tromba versus much rarer employment of the trombone and cornetto. The above numbers actually understate the ratios, because some movements called for 2, 3 or 4 tromba, or 3 tromboni. If you count corno da caccia and corno da tirarsi in the tromba category the ratios are spread even further apart. Bach obviously had a strong preference for the tromba!

Does anyone know of an historical explanation regarding why Bach favored the tromba so heavily over the trombone or cornetto? Was availability of players a major factor, or was it a matter of wanting a particular sound in his Cantatas?

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 16, 2004):
< Regarding Brad Lehman's suggestion of trying a performance of the BWV 147 choral, Jesus bleibet meine Freude with a cornetto replacing the tromba:
1) That may sound O.K., with the cornetto blending in more with the soprano voice from the chorus. But, I have a natural bias towards preferring the tromba tone. Partly, this preference comes from being a trumpet player. But, more than that, I like the tonal contrast the trumpet paints against the voices in the chorus. This may be totally a personal preference, and perhaps few others have that same preference. >
I'd suspect that a LOT of people have that same preference, from the modern expectation that trumpets NORMALLY stand out as contrast against (instead of blending into) ensembles of strings and voices. Whether that was Bach's expectation, as well, is neither here nor there; plenty of musicians today simply assume that if it says any manner of "trumpet" it's automatically supposed to be the colorful/contrasting sound that a modern trumpet brings to such a situation, and the problem (if there ever was one) is automatically solved. Call in the local guy who owns a Schilke, or whatever, and don't bother to think about any other musical possibilities; if it says "tromba" it automatically means "cupped brass instrument that contrasts against strings and voices". My objection is to the automatic nature of that non-thought process, not necessarily to the conclusion. Schilke players have just as much right to get gigs as anybody else does! [By the way, I have the same objection to the automatic hiring of a harpsichordist whenever a score asks for "continuo"...whether harpsichord was appropriate for any given piece or not. Again, it's the automatic non-thought process that leads to it. And, I'm a harpsichordist myself, grateful to be hired at all!]

The thing is: Bach pieces and Charles Ives' "Unanswered Question" are not the same composition. Why should the balance between trumpet and strings be any resemblance at all, necessarily?

< 2) The original score called for 1 tromba, I/II violino, I/II viola and continuo. That orchestration should not be difficult to populate today, even if one has to substitute a 3-valve C trumpet for the tromba. If one decides to substitute a cornetto for the tromba, how easy is it to find an adequate cornetto player? Are cornetto instruments and players readily available today? >
Sure; depends whom you know. Think of it from this angle: if one is already assembling a small ensemble of period-string players, it's probably easier to find a cornetto player who can blend with them than to find a player of 3-valve C trumpet who's willing to blend with them. :)

< 3) I have always been impressed with the genius J. S. Bach showed in composing this choral, as he weaves the rapidly moving triplets through the slow-moving melody. I find it particularly enjoyable that there is an enticing accompaniment interlude between each phrase of the slow-moving melody. It builds anticipation for the contrast. I suspect it is this superb contrast in motion and melody that causes me to appreciate the tonal contrast of the tromba against the chorus. We will never know for sure whether Bach tenaciously intended that contrast, or simply used the instruments and players that were available at the time. But, to me, what he ended up with sounds great! The fact that this remains one of his most popular compositions speaks for the simple genius in that choral. >
Agreed! But isn't that simply a roundabout way of saying that Bach was really good at composing music on a cantus firmus? :)

Dale Gedcke wrote (September 16, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
"Agreed! But isn't that simply a roundabout way of saying that Bach was really good at composing music on a cantus firmus? :)"
MY COMMENTS:

Well, you definitely scored a "touché" with that comment! I had to look up the meaning of cantus firmus in a dictionary. Fortunately, this is one of the few music terms that my dictionary supports.

So, my simple answer is "Yes!"
(Given that I now know cantus firmus means: "A pre-existing melody serving as the basis of a polyphonic composition by the addition of contrapuntal voices, as in 15th-century polyphony. From Latin meaning 'fixed melody'.")

My longer answer is: Bach was particularly good at cantus firmus on Jesu bleibet meine Freude in BWV 147, judging by its beauty and popularity through the ages.

 

Trumpets

John Pike wrote (April 4, 2005):
Dale Gedcke wrote:
< Thanks to Thomas Braatz for looking up and listing the ancestry of the names of the instruments related to the trombone, tuba, corno, and trumpet. All in an attempt to understand the confusion between trumpet, horn and trombone in various editions of Handel's "The Trumpet Shall Sound".

It strikes me that tracing the ancestry of any particular brass instrument is like tracing your own ancestry. After going back just a few generations, you find out almost everybody was your ancestor. Of course, I exaggerate for emphasis.

One other thought occurred to me as I read all the excerpts from dictionaries that Thomas provided. Today, one can find a plethora of such references on the meaning of words, both in print and on the Internet. Now make a fast rewind to the 1700s. How easy was it for most people to access the definition of words? How easy was it to become aware of a name that a paticular instrument had in a specific country? With no phones, or means of rapid communication olarge distances, the passing of information relied on slow mail, slow travel, word of mouth, and limited access to a few printed books. It is no wonder that so many different versions of musical instruments were in use in different countries, and it is not surprising that names of musical instruments varied from country to country and among different languages. >
Don't you just love it when Bach brings the trumpets in? I was listening to Herreweghe's recording of the Easter Oratorio (BWV 249) in the car yesterday and, as soon as she heard the trumpets, my 20 month daughter started "singing" for joy in the back of the car.

 

Trumpet recordings

Nicholas Emmerson wrote (January 30, 2005):
I'd be very grateful if anyone could suggest to me any good recordings using natural trumpets (of Bach or otherwise). I've had a look myself but it seems difficult to find out what instruments are used on recordings.

Many thanks

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 30, 2005):
[To Nicholas Emmerson] Yes, this one by Steele-Perkins: Amazon.com

Check the group archives of BachRecordings (on the web), we've discussed this recording in more detail about a year or two ago.

Robert Sherman wrote (January 30, 2005):
[To Nicholas Emmerson] There are few if any recordings of genuine natural trumpets (real HIP) because they are badly out of tune. I can't point you to any; maybe other list members can.

Performances by "early music" conductors (Herreweghe, Gardner, Hogwood et al) use "Hollywood HIP" trumpets that from the audience look like natural trumpets but have totally non-authentic clarinet-like finger holes to get the notes more in tune. The finger-holes serve basically the same function as valves except they don't work as well, but they're less visible so they create some illusion of authenticity.

The Hollywood-HIP trumpet uses a tube length about three times that of the modern valved piccolo trumpet. The longer tube produces a duller sound, smaller dynamic range, and usually some splatty attacks. Some list members like this. I'm not among them.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 30, 2005):
Robert Sherman wrote:
>>The Hollywood-HIP trumpet uses a tube length about three times that of the modern valved piccolo trumpet. The longer tube produces a duller sound, smaller dynamic range, and usually some splatty attacks. Some list members like this. I'm not among them.<<
I will have to agree with you on this. There seem to be many purists who would like to claim that they are listening to or playing 'authentically' on truly 'authentic' instruments, but upon closer inspection (often the key details about the actual instruments used in performances or recordings are skimpy or non-existent) it will be revealed that they are not truly or completely authentic. The term 'Hollywood-HIP' is an apt one that might also apply to other 'authentic' HIP instruments such as those in the string family. This has been discussed before on these lists and a quick search on the BCW will bring up the pertinent questions that are not being directly addressed by current HIP performers. One prominent violinist gave a recital on the same violin in which she switched during the intermission from the 19th-20th century playing mode to the early 18th century simply by removing the steel (or steel-wound) strings and replacing them with gut strings tuned a half-step lower and using a slightly different bow. Voilá! The magical transformation for the audience to believe in has occurred. While there may be a slightly different sound emanating from the instrument and some attempt is made to articulate and phrase the musical lines differently, this in no way can truly represent what a violin must have sounded like in the early 18th century. There are just too many other serious modifications of the instrument that would have to be undertaken (which would essentially destroy whatever good qualities remain in such an instrument,) and even then, an existing instrument can not be made to revert to the state that it might have once had, if it had been old enough to have been made in the older period. Listeners need to be aware of the 'Hollywood-HIP' effect and keep in the back of their minds that that which they hear in HIP groups or from HIP soloists is only an approximation and not a complete 'turning-back-of-the-clock' authentic sound.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 30, 2005):
< I will have to agree with you on this. There seem to be many purists who would like to claim that they are listening to or playing 'authentically' on truly 'authentic' instruments, but upon closer inspection (often the key details about the actual instruments used in performances or recordings are skimpy or non-existent) it will be revealed that they are not truly or completely authentic. (...) Listeners need to be aware of the 'Hollywood-HIP' effect and keep in the back of their minds that that which they hear in HIP groups or from HIP soloists is only an approximation and not a complete 'turning-back-of-the-clock' authentic sound. >
Here we go again with the same old libelous rhetoric: that specialist performers in historically-informed performances practices are dishonest and deluded and worse, ...while critics (some of who don't play any instruments at all!) consider themselves fully qualified to sit in judgment above the art and morality of these specialists who do the work.

Argh. Please, let us grant performers leeway to do our jobs as our experience and training prepare us to do. <>

Nicholas Emmerson wrote (January 30, 2005):
Many thanks for your replies - I should make one small amendment to my original post though - I'm looking for ANY recordings of natural trumpets (whether they're "good" or otherwise!!).

I'm well aware of the "Hollywood HIP" instruments (and of various peoples opinions on them) and I'm not looking to open up that can of worms again!

I am actually looking quite specifically for recordings of natural (non-"Hollywood HIP") instruments - as far as I'm aware the Steele-Perkins recording Brad suggested is using vented trumpets (many thanks for the recommendation though Brad).

I gather Jean-François Madeuf has done a lot of work in this field - does anyone know of any recordings of his playing?

Thanks Again

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 30, 2005):
< Many thanks for your replies - I should make one small amendment to my original post though - I'm looking for ANY recordings of natural trumpets (whether they're "good" or otherwise!!).
I'm well aware of the "Hollywood HIP" instruments (and of various peoples opinions on them) and I'm not looking to open up that can of worms again! >
I think it's only a "can of worms" here because critics have an overdeveloped sense of self-righteous morality about it (i.e. presuming to tell other people how to do their jobs correctly), and can't decide what "authenticity" is in the first place.

This "Hollywood HIP" assessment as a critical response is just made up by people who would restrict historically-informed performance to one tiny single goal instead of many others; it's a restriction to shut musicianship out of the picture, and to pretend to be better-informed than expert players of the historical instruments are themselves. One might characterize it as "Hollywood aesthetic criticism" where the main thing is to give merely the appearance of objectivity, in the quest to put down other people's work that they happen not to fancy or understand.

A couple of practical ways out of that:

- Read the books by Quantz, Kivy, Taruskin, Haskell, Butt, Kerman, et al to develop a fair and objective philosophy as to what "authenticity" entails. It's necessary to understand the artistic goals of using various types of instruments and playing techniques in the first place, and understand the basics of music-criticism, and understand the practical basis of musicianship. (Quantz especially has several strong sections about music-criticism and asseof real quality, and he was there personally.) The reconstruction of "historically informed performance" HAS been studied by scholars who are qualified to study it and offer remarks about the various different quests for "authenticity".

...or...

- Go with Duke Ellington's famous quip that "If it sounds good, it IS good." Good musicianship is convincing. Poor musicianship is not convincing.

Robert Sherman wrote (January 30, 2005):
[To Nicholas Emmerson] You're right: Steele-Perkins uses finger holes.

Ken Edmonds wrote (January 30, 2005):
[To Robert Sherman] The isn't of course the whole picture of "Hollywood-HIP" trumpets, as there are good and bad recordings using the vented trumpets....just as there are good and bad recordings on the modern piccolo. After all, the modern piccolo is "Hollywood" minus the "HIP".

One at the opposite end of Bob's belief spectrum might say, "The modern piccolo produces a shrill, laser-like sound with few overtones that often obliterates the sound of all the other instruments and voices. Some list members like this. I'm not among them." :)

Robert Sherman wrote (January 31, 2005):
[To Ken Edmonds] Ken, actually the picc produces more and stronger overtones, particularly the upper ones. They may or may not be to your taste, but physically they are there. That's what gives the picc its characteristic sound.

As for the shrill laser like obliterator, that does happen at times, although not if it's played properly, not if I'm playing it, and I expect not if Ken is playing it. I've performed Handel's "Bright Seraphim" many times with light solo sopranos, have always received compliments on the balance. It's just a matter of mindset rather than skill.

On the other side of the coin, the long-tube trumpet is frequently weak or inaudible -- but that's bad playing too. As you point out, there are good and bad recordings both ways. I admit to having heard (a very small number of) Hollywood HIP recordings that approached the quality of a fairly good picc.

Those who actually prefer the sound -- as opposed to the pseudo-historicity-- of Hollywood HIP might want to listen to solo recordings by Charles Schleuter. He uses an uncommon (and very expensive) make of piccolo trumpet that gives him a darker, rounder sound more like Hollywood HIP but without the problems of accuracy, pitch, and dynamic range. (He also does fine whole-step trills on high G, which most of us mortals would have thought impossible.)

 

Continue on Part 7

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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