Friday’s Five Things: Five Compositions Every Trumpeter Should Know for Christmas Season

Are you looking around for your trumpet friends at this time of year and can’t find them? That’s because trumpeters do a LOT of gigs at Christmastime. Here are the five most important gigs to learn:

  1. The Messiah by George Frideric Handel. This immensely-popular oratorio, written in 1741 by one of the 18th-century’s greatest composers, is a nice gig for trumpeters in that there is not a whole lot of playing throughout–only five numbers: “Glory to God,” the chorus “Hallelujah,” the very important trumpet obbligato aria (with bass singer) “The trumpet shall sound,” “Worthy is the Lamb,” and the “Amen.” The main endurance issue is if the conductor wants to do a da capo on “The trumpet shall sound.” This piece calls for two trumpets in D. Here’s a video of British baroque trumpeter Crispian Steele-Perkins playing  with Alistair Miles singing. 

2. The Christmas Oratorio by J. S. Bach. This is really a collection of six cantatas. If performed altogether, it is really long. There’s another obbligato aria in the first cantata that is very famous. But there are many pyrotechnical passages in this piece. For three trumpets in D. In the example video, I present Jean-François Madeuf on the natural baroque trumpet. Video is not great, but it is rare to hear this played this authentically. 

3. The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. This ballet is performed everywhere each Christmas season. Usually the deal is that it is performed many times, so the lucky trumpeters get to play it over and over. The big solo is the Spanish Dance, or Chocolate. Two trumpets (in A and in B-flat) are needed for this popular work.

4. Magnificat by J.S. Bach. This great piece, much smaller in length than the Christmas Oratorio, is frequently performed during the Christmas season. It was actually first performed on Christmas day in 1723. Here’s Crispian Steele-Perkins again in a 1985 recording of the Monteverdi Choir directed by John Eliot Gardiner. This is the “Fecit potentiam.” It has interesting (and high) writing for three trumpets in D.

 

5. Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson. Hardly a trumpeter has escaped playing the horse whinny in this pops orchestra Christmas-time favorite. Here’s my own band, the U.S. Navy Band, performing this on their 2014 Holiday Concert at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. MUCS (now retired) Bob Couto is the “whinnier” (it happens at 2’39”). 

 

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Throwback Thursday: National Trumpet Competition Historic Division 2007

Today, I wanted to share a competition that I organized from 2004 to 2009 in conjunction with the National Trumpet Competition: the Historic Division, which mainly focused on baroque trumpet. It was a lot of work, but very satisfying. From those years, a lot of trumpet players started an illustrious career in early music. For this post, I’ll share some photos and some information about the competition. I’m pretty sure the photographer was Vera Hørven Olcott. 

A look back at the NTC Historic Division 2007

Judges:

Chair, Dr. Stanley Curtis, U. S. Navy Band, George Mason University (that’s me!)
Niklas Eklund, Honorary Chair (Niklas’ presence was made possible by Naumann Trumpets)
Barry Bauguess, Nationally recognized Baroque Trumpet Artist
Ray Burkhart, Claremont Graduate University
Robert Civiletti, Baroque Trumpet Artist
Dr. Thomas Huener, Eastern Carolina University
Dr. Elisa Koehler, Goucher College (who organized the finals in my absence)

Jennifer Cabot, performed with Niklas on his recital.

John O’Brien accompanied not only the competitors on his Klop Baroque Continuo Organ, but also playing on Nik’s recital.

Melissa Coombs sang three different arias with 13 different finalists yesterday. She only had one day notice to rearrange her schedule and prepare for this competition.

Winners of the 2007 Historic Division

Baroque Trumpet Ensemble Award (open age, no monetary award)          

Kentucky Baroque Trumpet Ensemble

 

Winner: Kentucky Baroque Trumpets

 

Fray Antoni Martín I Coll Award (named in honor of the prolific Catalan trumpet composer-monk, this award is offered as a new solo category not allowing the use of finger holes, in other words, just as they played the natural trumpet 400 years ago).

1st Prize: Baroque trumpet made by Francisco Pérez of Alicante, Spain

winner: Nathaniel Cox  (who is now an amazing cornetto and lute player)      

2nd Prizes: Free Tuition was offered to the International Natural Trumpet Making Workshop held in Rostock, Germany or in Bloomington, Indiana, and taught by Robert Barclay, Richard Seraphinoff, and Michael Munkwitz. Also offered is one week’s tuition to the Baroque Performance Institute at Oberlin Conservatory. At the time, taught by Barry Bauguess.           

Tie for 2nd:

Chris Campbell 

Justin Bland

 

 

Justin Bland (living now in Denmark and making a very fine career playing baroque trumpet)

 

 

 

 

 

Shore Award (solo category up to age 18)

1st Prize: The Baroque Trumpet Shop Award–gift certificate from The Baroque Trumpet Shop of Barry Bauguess

Dominic Favia

 

 

 

winner: Dominic Favia (who was 13 years old at the time!)

 

 

 

 

Fantini Award (ages 19 to 28)

1st Prize: The Baroque Trumpet Shop Award–gift certificate from The Baroque Trumpet Shop       

winner: David Wharton (now teacher at Hartt Music School)

2nd Prize: The Bendinelli Award–anonymous cash gift          

2nd prize: Don Johnson III

Reiche Award (ages 29 and up)

1st Prize: The Naumann Award For Artistry—winner got a Naumann Baroque Trumpet

winner: Nicholas Althouse (now a member of the U.S. Army Field Band)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Interview with Julian Zimmermann, natural baroque trumpet soloist

Julian Zimmermann

Baroque trumpeter Julian Zimmermann grew up in Kriens, Switzerland (near Lucerne). After receiving a trumpet teaching diploma from Bern University of the Arts (studying modern trumpet with Marc Ullrich and Markus Würsch), he went on to study the natural baroque trumpet (without vent-holes) at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis with Jean-François Madeuf, where he earned a master’s degree in Early Music Performance.

In groups like Capriccio Basel, De Swaen, Berlin Baroque, Neue Hofkapelle Graz, Jeune Orchestre d`Atlantique, Das kleine Konzert, and Trondheim Baroque, Julian has worked with such renowned directors as Philipp Herreweghe, Hervé Niquet, Jos van Immersel, Herrman Max und Sigiswald Kuijken.

Instruments:
17th-century repertoire (Fantini, Schütz, Lully, Torelli, Biber):

Natural trumpet in C, A=466 (or, D, A=415), made by Aron Vajna (after Michael Nagel)
Mouthpiece: Egger-Renaissance trumpet mouthpiece with short 17th-century back-bore, altered slightly by Nathaniel Wood

18th-century continental repertoire (Bach, Telemann, Fux, early Mozart, Haydn)

Natural trumpet In D, made by Graham Nicholson (after Wolf Wilhelm Haas, 1730; since the Engraving says 1730 the maker would have been Wolf Wilhelm Haas)
Mouthpiece: Graham Nicholson, after Leichnamschneider (Graham Nicholson can be contacted at graham.nicholson “at” inter.NL.net) 

Museum trumpet by Wolf Wilhelm Haas (Basel Music Instrument Museum)

Natural trumpet in C, made by Aron Vajna (after Friedrich Ehe, ca. 1700)
Mouthpiece: Egger, MZ-Prototype (mouthpieces developed by Egger with input from Jean-François Madeuf and Julian Zimmermann: this line has a longer back-bore than the standard Egger Bull model. Note: this line of mouthpieces is not advertised on the Egger website at this moment; it is necessary to ask for it by contacting them directly)

Tirarsi (slide trumpet) in Eb, body made by Graham Nicholson (after Ehe with altered bellform) and slide made by Egger
Mouthpiece: MZ-Prototype, Egger

18th-century English repertoire (Handel, Arne)

Natural trumpet in Eb, made in collaboration with Nathaniel Wood (after Nicholas Wingkings, English maker, mid. 18th Century)
Mouthpiece: Bull 1/3 (original Bull) known from the article on early British mouthpieces by Eric Halfpenny, Graham Nicholson. (for more information, see this scholarly article)

Nathaniel Wood and Julian Zimmermann after finishing the Wingkings trumpet.

 

Early 19th Century “Classical” repertoire (Beethoven, Mendelsohn)

“Inventions-trumpet” with original bell dimensions made by Aron Vajna (after Michael Sauerle)
Mouthpiece: Egger KSB-4, KSE-4 and KFG-3

Interview with Julian Zimmermann, natural baroque trumpet soloist

The interviewer is Stanley Curtis


SC: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview, Julian! I have really enjoyed seeing some of your videos that you have recently posted!

JZ: My pleasure, I am very happy for the positive resonance of those videos and I hope they give motivation to trumpet players discovering real historical instruments, because, as you know yourself, playing them is fun, it brings us back to the core: singing with our instrument.

SC: Tell me about your childhood—how did you get interested in music and in the trumpet?

JZ: I grew up in Kriens which is a small city, near Lucerne, in the center of Switzerland. My mother was very supportive when it came to arts, and she listened to a lot of classical music. When I was quite young, I enjoyed listening to CDs of Glenn Miller and Louis Armstrong, while building Lego-Castles.

At age seven, I went to a presentation of musical instruments at a local music school, where I met my first teacher. A year later, Ying Nie, a Chinese student of renowned British trumpeter, Philipp Jones, started teaching me. He introduced me to recordings of trumpeters like Maurice André, Timofei Dokschitzer, and Rafael Méndez.

SC: When and how did you get interested in Baroque trumpet and, specifically, the natural trumpet?

JZ: My first exposure to the baroque trumpet was when I were about 16 years old in what Teacher-training College. I got the Vol. 4 of Niklas Eklund’s “The Art of the Baroque Trumpet,” and I was just thrilled. At that time, I didn’t know about the difference between a baroque and a natural trumpet.

SC: Which of your teachers do you think influenced you the most?

JZ: Maybe the stongest influence in my professional formation was Marc Ullrich. I think the most amazing thing about him was that he could play more or less in every style and genre. For more than 30 (or even 40) years he was principal trumpet in Basel (Switzerland). Nevertheless, he really liked to play jazz. He introduced me to the recordings of Clifford Brown (“Clifford Brown with Strings” is still inspiring me when it comes to control of sound color and articulation). And, of course, he was one of the very early students of Ed Tarr. He was basically one of the pioneers with the baroque trumpet.

Marc had this amazing patience and seemed to believe in every student without hesitation. For example, I decided unilaterally during one summer holiday to totally change my embouchure. Imagine a student, who comes to his first lesson in the new semester and is basically not able to play a straight note anymore! Marc just said “Okay, then let’s do it.” So, he guided me through the mental hell that I had chosen (without asking his permission). The embouchure approach and psychological resiliency, which I got through this embouchure change, turned out to be very helpful, when I was able to adapt them later to the natural trumpet. He was a big help, as well, in overcoming parts of my stage anxiety, which was really strong at the time I was studying modern trumpet.

Marc knew both Niklas Eklund and Jean-François Madeuf quite well and strongly suggested that I go to Basel and study with Jean-François.

SC: Tell me about Jean-Francois Madeuf.

JZ: My first “one-on-one” exposure to the natural trumpet (without vent-holes) was in the trumpet room of the Schola Cantorum with Jean-François. I had heard an older recording of him, which left me quite critical about the whole thing. But when I heard him in person about ten years after that recording was made, he sounded so much better! I understood at that moment, how much potential and space for development the natural trumpet still had!

Few people know so much about the natural trumpet, its music and surviving original instruments like Jean-François Madeuf. Since I am a person who likes to question authority, and he has a strong character, I think we were a good challenge to each other, and it really helped me to find my own voice. Today I am happy to call him a colleague and friend.

Schola Cantorum trumpet studio reunion

The Schola offers a diverse curriculum for students from all over the world. It is a place where a lot of different ideas can be pursued and discussed. I spent a lot of time in the cafeteria, hanging around and discussing these ideas with colleagues.

SC: Tell me about some of these colleagues that you met at the Schola.

JZ: I met my wife Daniela, who is the voice of reason to my stubborn trumpet mind. She reminds me that things which are important to me, are not necessarily important to the rest of the world. We played a lot of organ and natural trumpet together. More and more, we realized how a good continuo player is able to mask the intonation clashes: it is all about good voicing.

My colleague, Mike Diprose, is the one who got me interested in reading primary sources and to have a closer look at other instruments than only the trumpet. His big interest were tuning systems and how they fit into the bigger picture.

The last person I would like to mention is Nathaniel Wood. He gave me the incredible opportunity to build instruments together.

SC: What makes you so sure that the natural trumpet was the instrument they played in performances during the 17th and 18th Centuries?

JZ: Of course, I could just say look at all the museum examples of instruments from the time when clarino playing was in its hey-day. They are all natural trumpets. But I think to answer that question it is also good to show examples where iconography, written music and historical figures interlink.

At the court of Schwerin we have the court conductor and composer, Johann Wilhelm Hertel  (1727-1789). He was born in Eisenach into a musical family. Being court composer in Schwering, he wrote three very difficult concertos for trumpet and a double concerto for trumpet and oboe.  He demanded the same, if not higher, level of difficulty from his chief-trumpeter as J.S. Bach did from his trumpeter. Hertel’s trumpeter was Johann Georg Hoese (1727-1801). He was born in Leipzig, so he was seven when Gottfried Reiche (Bach’s trumpeter) died. I am pretty sure Hoese was familiar with Reiche’s performances of Bach, and I am even more sure he heard the trumpeter Ulrich Heinrich Ruhe, Reiche’s succesor. The great thing about Hoese is that we have a picture of him (done in 1770 by painter G.D. Matthieu) playing the natural trumpet in concert.

1770 painting by G.D. Matthieu of musical performance at court of Schwering

He holds his trumpet in one hand and the sheet music in the other hand (if you look closely enough, “clarino 1” is marked on the paper). Note that there is no music stand for him. So how could he operate any finger system on his instrument? That looks like a Haas-made trumpet to me (and in that time it would be the grandson of J.W.Haas, Ernst Conrad Haas).

Also, there is a second picture from Schwerin with three trumpets in concert.

Painting of music concert at court of Schwering (18th C.)

Considering that Hoese was right at the end of the Golden Age of the natural trumpet, I assume it can be viewed as the general way of doing things for that period—that is, playing without fingerholes. Also, we have the iconic pictures of Gottfried Reiche (Bach’s trumpeter).

Portrait, oil on canvas of Gottfried Reiche (1667–1734) by Elias Gottlob Haussmann (1695–1774), 1727

And another of Valentine Snow (Handel’s trumpeter), which show the same evidence of playing the trumpet one hand.

Portrait of Valentine Snow (1700-1770), c. 1753
Artist: Unknown
Location: Fenton House, England

Having said all that, recently a great thing happened. In a phone call with Graham Nicholson (a British trumpet maker and natural trumpet pioneer living in the Netherlands) discussing Reiche and his instrument, Graham said to me “You know Julian, there actually is a picture of Reiche in concert, playing that instrument”. And it is true: Reiche was in Leipzig much earlier than Bach, and there is a picture of Bach’s predecessor Johann Kuhnau (1660-1722) conducting a cantata. We can see Reiche with his round Instrument and two colleagues with long trumpets.

Frontispiece of Leipzig Gesangbuch, Johann Kuhnau, 1710

 

SC: Those are some fantastic images, Julian! I think there is a general ignorance in the early music world about authentic baroque natural trumpets. We have had decades of “period instrument” performances by trumpeters who use fingerholes. I use them, too, for most of my performances, but I have misgivings. Talking with conductors, I usually find a lack of interest in authenticity, and I think conductors mainly want to hear clean, “in tune” trumpet playing. What are your thoughts on this?

JZ: The divine creator obviously had a misunderstanding with Signor Vallotti when defining the laws of nature! (Interviewer’s note: the “Vallotti” system of tuning, named after Francesco Antonio Vallotti, was used in the 18th Century. It is used frequently in baroque music groups today, but its intonation does not line up ideally with the harmonic series of the natural trumpet. In a mathematic sense, the only interval that lines up between the natural trumpet and the Vallotti tuning system are the octaves, because Vallotti gave more emphasis to the 5th than the  3rd in general)

I think the natural trumpet can serve as an instrument to challenge the approach we have with historically informed performance practice (or “HIP”) today. In music, all is interconnected!

But Intonation is a good topic to discuss, what does “in tune” mean? Here is a quote from Tosi in his book on singing:

“… If one were continually to sing only with the above-mentioned Instruments (keyboards), this knowledge might be unnecessary, but since the time that composers introduced the custom of crowding the operas with a vast number of songs accompanied by bowed instruments, it becomes so necessary, that if a soprano was to sing D-sharp like E-flat, a nice ear will find he is out of tune. Whoever is not satisfied in this, let him read those authors who treat of it, and let him consult the best performers on the violin. …”

–Tosi, Introduction to the Art of Singing (Bologna, 1723), page 21 in the English Translation of 1743

To make it short: why do so many schools of the baroque era make a difference between sharps and flats, big semitones and small ones and where is that fact reflected in our current performance practice using keyboard temperaments as a judge of what is right and wrong? The amount of correction to the 11th and 13th partial becomes much smaller when using a “relative,” or “just” system like Tosi describes, where notes change their position with their harmonic function – as opposed to a “fixed” system like Vallotti’s keyboard temperament.

On the other side of the coin, there is a lack of accepting the character and nature of historic trumpets and horns, and this character gives them their identity! This would be as absurd as a conductor talking to a cembalo player: “in this bar, I would like to have a real pianissimo and you are too loud, so please push the key down softer.” After repeating that bar five times, the conductor finally says “it’s getting better!”

SC: What is the way forward to develop an interest in the baroque natural trumpet? Is there some “marketing” type of strategy we need to embrace?

JZ: As a marketing strategy, it is very important to show people historic iconography to our performances, pictures are a lot of times stronger than words. But, as well, we should be able to talk about what we do in context, that shows we have a deep interest in the time where the music we perform comes from. We should expand our knowledge in all possible aspects.

SC: If a trumpeter wants to learn how to play the natural baroque trumpet well, what are some suggestions that you might have for him or her?

JZ: Having a good instrument, with a fitting mouthpiece from the start, helps a lot. Then, you should take separate time from your daily practice, with a rest time of at least three to four hours (so that the different mouthpiece rims don’t confuse the embouchure). And don’t over do it. You should make, for exemple, two 15-minute sessions with a rest in the middle. 

To play with big mouthpieces, it is important to start in the middle register (middle C, 8th partial) with the aperture not too wide open. This is why I don’t use the Tarr method anymore, since it has an approach which is more from bottom to the top. About four years ago, I developed my own routine (something comparable to James Stamp and Vincent Cichowicz). It is on my website www.naturtrompete.ch. I use it today to get well-centered on an instrument. For example, if I have to play in C, which is a low and somewhat clumsy key, compared to D, or if I have to get used to a 17th-century instrument in a short amount of time.

When it comes to music, I think the repertoire from Purcell and Handel are good to start with. Especially because Handel wrote some very good second and third voices, which create a stable low and middle register.

Swiss historic natural trumpet ensemble, Trummet

The third trumpet part is, in a lot of cases, not getting enough attention in our practice. I think it is essential to work on military signals, which we find in Fantini, Mersenne, Philidor, Altenburg and Dauverne. If you carefully consider, for example, Bach’s low trumpet parts, you will not only find the style of military signals, but also the actual signals everywhere in his works with trumpet, as for example, in BWV 119. Another very important aspect is practicing to hear difference-tones as a trumpet section (a good place to start is with Ed Tarr’s second book). The first thing that will convince people is a trumpet team that sounds good as a unit. That was the reason that gave birth to the trumpet ensemble “Trummet” (www.trummet.com).

 

Another thing I would like to mention is that it is very important to get stage experience without holes. To build up the confidence on stage, it is good to increase the stress gradually. I was lucky to meet players, that were supportive with me! Although they usually play with holes, they provided me the opportunity to play third and second parts without holes in the actual concert. That took a leap of faith for them, and I offer my sincere thanks to Henry Moderlak, Frans Berglund, Andy Hammersley, Roland Callmar and Giuseppe Frau.

For (an) interested young students that means: question what your teachers do! Go to the museums! Get a faithful copy of a historic instrument! Practice it with an open mind! Read primary sources! Discuss them with colleagues! Try them out seriously!–Julian Zimmermann

SC: Tell me about the trumpets and mouthpieces you play. Why do you think they are effective for what you are doing?

JZ: I think an important thing to know is that a natural trumpet of fixed length changes its playing characteristics with time according to the player. After playing an instrument for some time, it gets easier to place and vibrate the Fs and As in tune. What is really interesting to me is the experience of playing on some original instrument (one that is found in a museum), and sometimes I can still feel how the original player played on it.

To find out if an instrument is good, I check first to see if the basic notes, the frames, are purely in tune (the tonic and dominant notes). It is also important to say that natural trumpets played with a modern approach are going to sound flat in the low register. But this doesn’t mean the instrument is bad. So, if possible, get a player with real experience to choose an instrument for the beginner!

Today, for 18th-century repertoire, I play a cup with a diameter of 19.5to 20 mm. I have also started to play with larger mouthpiece throats in recent years (up to 5mm in diameter). Those provide more space to move notes, but it’s not for beginners!

Close up of original baroque natural trumpet mouthpiece (made by Jacob Steiger)

SC: What kind of trumpeters and other musicians do you like to work with?

JZ: First of all, I like musicians with an open mind. If someone approaches early music with concepts and sound pictures rooted in the 20th Century, I find it very difficult. I enjoy when people are able to take original information and authentic copies of instruments, and create something aesthetic and beautiful with those ingredients.

Personally, I like an emphasis on a strong, driving bass, and I love, in general, the sound of string instruments strung all in gut—making equal tension on all the strings!  That authentic way of stringing instruments seems to have been predominant throughout the 17th and 18th Centuries. L. Mozart still describes it in paragraph 4 on page 5 of his Violin-School (1756). I find violinists like Oliver Webber amazing to hear!

SC: Tell me about some of your favorite performances.

JZ: I had two performances that really changed me! Both with Bach cantatas, the trumpet parts of which were written for Reiche. The first was during the 2013 Bach Festival Leipzig, where I played Cantata 77 in the Michaeliskirche with students from the Hochschule in Leipzig. I had a lot of discussions with colleagues about which instrument to use to perform it. The first movement is basically a “no brainer.” It says “Tromba da Tirarsi” and it is playable on a single-slide instrument like I have, even though it goes up to high C. The alto aria (“Ach, es bleibt in meiner Liebe,” (no. 5), is the big question. The original part just says “Tromba,” but it has a lot of notes outside the harmonics. Although they are possible to bend, it is quite difficult to play in tune, because Bach voices the 13th partial very often as a perfect fifth and as octave to the bass. This is a harmonic voicing that you can’t really get in tune on a natural instrument, because the 13th partial is so flat. When I went to Egger to get my tirarsi, I talked about it with Gerd Friedel and he asked “what does the text say.” And with this question, he really got to the right point…. It says “Ach es bleibt in meiner Liebe lauter Unvollkommenheit! Hab ich oftmals gleich den Willen, was Gott saget zu erfüllen, fehlt mirs doch an Möglichkeit.” roughly translated: “in my love (to God) there is so much imperfection! Even though I often have the will to do what God tells me, I don’t have the ability.” So, it is about being an imperfect human being that tries so hard and still struggles to get it right. In the end, I decided to do the aria on natural trumpet. It felt very special while performing it, and I had an inner peace which stayed with me the whole aria.

Julian Zimmermann

The other time was the performance of Cantata 66 on Easter 2016. I played it twice that day, in the morning for a church service and in the evening for a concert. In the morning service, there was a moment when the sun was shining into the church, and I was so inspired that it felt like I wasn’t playing it under my own power, but that the music played itself.

SC: Wow, that’s an inspiring story. Julian, what do you think is the future of early music?

JZ: Hopefully, young explorers will enter the field of early music and revive it’s core values. History repeats itself, and early music was born because people felt that authenticity was absent in the traditional way of performance. Today we are there again, because early music is now a huge market, and it is too big and inflexible to deal with new (old) ideas! 

SC: So what can we do?

I think a new subculture will arise. The internet links musicians that are really interested! The great thing is that there are a lot of original texts, schools and iconography already online. This means you can live anywhere and have access to the important information, and that is a game changer.

For interested young students that means: question what your teachers do! Go to the museums! Get a faithful copy of a historic instrument! Practice it with an open mind! Read primary sources! Discuss them with colleagues! Try them out seriously!

SC: What do you like to do when you are not playing trumpet?

JZ: I really like to do Tai-Chi Chuan.

SC: So, what do you want to be doing in five or in 20 years?

JZ: Hopefully still being happy with my family! And playing the natural trumpet, of course, and I would love to get the opportunity to teach interested students.

SC: Julian, thanks again for sharing all of your really great insights into playing early music on the natural trumpet!

JZ: As I said in the beginning, my pleasure!

 

 

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Tell a Story on the Trumpet: The Cadence

When I play trumpet, I want to communicate with the listener. I want to tell a musical story. If my fundamentals are working on the trumpet (breathing, articulation, fingers, lips, tongue placement, etc.), then I can shape and pace notes in ways that help deliver this story, from the details up to the big picture. Perhaps the smallest detail of the story that we musicians can tell is the cadence, which is that part of a phrase that harmonically resolves, usually with a dominant chord leading to a tonic chord.

The melody, which cannot fully convey the harmonic movement, nevertheless can support the underlying cadence. From the Sixteenth Century until today, a very good rule of thumb with cadences is to give more intensity throughout the dominant and relaxing this intensity on the tonic. The reason for this is that the dominant chord is harmonically “far” from the tonic. The dominant has tension, dissonance, or “drama.” Will the dominant resolve? Maybe yes, or maybe no–that is the drama that the listener is confronted with. Imagine a movie where the camera follows the protagonist down a dark hallway. Something will happen. Will it resolve peacefully or will there be a shock? Watching the scene, your anxiety increases, and your heartbeat quickens. This is drama. In a very similar way, the dominant chord sets up expectations which can be fulfilled or denied.

A good movie director underpins the dramatic hallway scene with lighting, music and pacing that helps the audience feel the anxiety more. In the same way, a good musician can highlight the drama of the movement from dominant to tonic with more intensity. This intensity usually means more volume, but it could also be a change of vibrato, timbre (tone color), pacing or articulation. This helps the listener hear the harmonic framework of the music better. It helps to draw him into the “rhetoric” of the music. 

To me, nothing is more “rhetorical” than Renaissance music, so, as an example, I offer this cued-up YouTube video of cornettist Bruce Dickey playing Josquin des Prez’s Mille Regretz. Notice the intensity swelling and then releasing as the dominant resolves to the tonic (this happens twice at 1:24 and 1:29). 

Let’s look at another example from the second movement of Joseph Haydn’s Concerto for Trumpet. I want to contrast two great performances with the small difference of this device. In the eleventh bar, we hear a line descending by steps with the longer notes on dominant harmony and the shorter notes on the relative tonic of each successive dominant. In the first (cued up) example, a young Wynton Marsalis, teamed up with John Williams and the Boston Pops, performs this passage smoothly.

But listen to the contrast in rhetorical delivery with more emphasis on these dominant-underpinned notes in a performance by French trumpeter, David Guerrier (who plays a historically-accurate keyed trumpet). This video is also cued up to the same musical passage (it is pitched lower, at A = 430). 

For me, the subtle difference of “leaning” on the dominant notes that Guerrier does in his example helps us hear the harmony more vividly. 

One more example comes from the end of the first movement of G. P. Telemann’s Concerto in D (the “first” concerto). In the first example, listen to the great Maurice André play this last phrase. He has a gorgeous tone, he has chosen a very luxurious tempo (very slow), but his shaping of the inner dynamics from the dominant to the tonic (where he is playing a trill) is pretty straight. There is not much contrast. 

Another example (on baroque trumpet) by Niklas Eklund, shows the dynamic tension on the trill followed by a slight release on the last note, which coincides with the dominant-to-tonic harmony. Notice, in both examples, that the trill starts slow and speeds up, which also helps the drama of the line. This cued-up video is pitched at A = 415, which is lower than the example by André.

 

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Happy birthday, and the importance of Story, Song and Support

It all started three years ago with a little post about, well, starting this website. And now Trumpet Journey has grown to more than 90 published posts about all kinds of trumpet-related things. There have been many interviews, but also “Top Ten Lists.” There have been posts about jazz, renaissance and baroque music, orchestral playing, the jobs market, and even language learning. 

Of the 117,000 people who have visited Trumpet Journey, I am really happy to receive the occasional comment or question. Especially from places like The Netherlands or Italy. Or even India! (sorry, India, I haven’t gotten around to answering you, yet). 

15th-century manuscript with a bearded figure blowing a trumpet

15th-century manuscript with a bearded figure blowing a trumpet

I haven’t posted much of my own writing in a while, because I have been doing so many interviews. So, I’d like to shake off the dust and talk about the three “S”s. These are what I think are the three key elements that each great trumpet player has: Story, Song, and Support

Each of us has a unique story. That story may be an actual account of some event, or even the story of our life. But we also have our own stories that we keep coming back to, such as “beauty is great,” or “old things are cool” or “technology is what I’m about.” These are our thematic points that our choices point to. Choices about repertoire, style, equipment, venues, and even the clothes we wear when we perform can help create our own story and the story that each generation needs to hear. Many players perform to a story that is going on inside their heads. As listeners, we can sense that something dramatic is happening. 

Trumpeters like Jean-Francois Madeuf, Doc Severinson, and Philip Smith seem to have a really strong story. Their playing seems to spring effortlessly from their personal story. 

Authenticity (played on an authentic natural baroque trumpet–very rarely heard):

Showmanship–notice how Doc adjusts his story to suit the Lawrence Welk Show audience:

And this story telling in the orchestral realm. I remember hearing Philip Smith talking about the way he thought about this opening excerpt from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. He said he pictured Death (as the shrouded skeleton) reaching out from a dark fog. Closer and closer he comes, until you see his grotesqueness clearly. Sound quality is not quite perfect in this example.

 

Then there is the song. This is how we play what we play. This song can be sung with heart-on-the-sleeve romanticism, laser-beam clarity, or rhetorical interpretation. This is our personal song we sing on the trumpet when we play. Each of our voices are different–and they should be. Our song is the meeting place of our phrasing, our interpretation, our experience and, of course, our tone. I learned a beautiful lesson about tone from a former colleague of mine, the great euphonium player named Roger Behrend. He said it helps him to think about tone in terms of color, texture and taste. So, for instance, if you are thinking about maroon, velvet and chocolate, you get an especially luxurious sound. Or, perhaps you’re thinking golden, rough and with the taste of jambalaya, like I do, when I hear this trumpeter:

Trumpeters that have a great sense of song are many, but for me, some of the most astounding “trumpet singers” have been, besides Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and Maurice André. 

I found this unusual example of Maurice André playing the Hindemith “Trumpet Sonate.” While this is not normal repertoire for André, nor is it a standard interpretation of the renowned German composer’s piece, it so well shows André’s glowing song-making style.

 

But to keep the song going, which keeps the story fresh, we all need the support of our technique, our fundamentals, our use of air, and our “chops.” For most of us, this comes down to consistent, mindful practice over many years. We are also looking for the right equipment to help us get there. Equipment and practice routines seem to be the subjects of most the trumpet chatter out there on the web and in studios. We all want to be able to play better, faster and higher. I know I do. But I think we all understand the limitations of mouthpieces, technique and high notes without a great singing style. Or without a musical story to tell. Let’s let support be what it is: help for a greater cause. Nevertheless, there are some great examples of technique and equipment.

Wynton Marsalis’ amazing technique and unique equipment do not get in the way of his song or story.

Malcolm McNab is a paragon of fundamentals, and he spins them into the most amazing recordings.

And, or course, there are the high note players like Arturo Sandoval and the late, great Maynard Ferguson. 

Talk about support!!! 

I think all of these examples show exceptional Story, Song and Support, and hopefully will give us some inspiration to communicate with our audiences, too.

In a very meaningful way, Trumpet Journey has been one of my trumpet stories that I have been able to tell over the last three years. 

 

 

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