With 2012 drawing to a close, I would like to remember one of the most notable trumpeters of the 20th Century that passed on this past year.
Maurice André, trumpet soloist extraordinaire, died on Feb. 25 in Bayonne, in France. He was 78. A coal miner during his teenage years, André also played cornet, following in his father’s footsteps. He always claimed that mining gave him the strength to play the trumpet so well. His family could not afford to send him to the Paris Conservatory, but by joining a military band outside of Paris, he was given free tuition. He graduated in 1953, going on to play in several orchestras in France.
In 1963, André won first prize in the Munich Competition on trumpet (this has been equaled only by Manuel Blanco Gómez-Limón of Spain in 2011 and David Guerrier of France in 2003). He went on to become a soloist and to star on many recording projects. He arranged numerous oboe, violin and flute pieces from the Baroque period, in addition to commisioning original pieces by Henri Tomasi, André Jolivet, Boris Blacher, Antoine Tisné and Jean Langlais.
I will remember André mainly for his beautiful tone, stunning articulation, his legendary consistency and effortless high notes. He popularized higher-pitched instruments, such as the E-flat trumpet and the piccolo trumpet (for most of his career, a Selmer instrument). The one time I met him in person (backstage after a concert), I was struck by his charming personality.