Trumpet Books: An Autobiography From Herbert L. Clarke

Herbert L. Clarke as a member of the Victor Herbert Band (c. 1896)

Herbert L. Clarke as a member of the Victor Herbert Band (c. 1896)

Trumpeters and cornetist all over the world usually know a little about Herbert L. Clarke, but what a lot of us may not know is that he wrote a marvelous memoire, How I Became a Cornetist. You can buy this fairly short and easy to read book from various retailers or you can get a PDF version for free from the Kalamazoo Public Library, or from a few other websites. 

Clarke organizes his book into Series (chapters) that were originally published serially in a band magazine, Fillmore’s Musical Messenger. The relaxed style of writing about his pursuit of great cornet playing during an era when cornetist were so incredibly popular helps the reader immerse himself into the time period. 

For me, the most important theme of this book is how much effort cornet-playing at this level was required. In fact, Clarke makes a big point of de-bunking the notion of the “born cornetist.” This book is about the hard work Clarke put in to become great, and it stands as an example for us today. His anecdotes and advice about his family upbringing, the difficulty of buying his first cornet, his first encounters with transposition, and lying about his age to join a band all make delightful reading. 

We can all be grateful to Clarke for his remarkable memory. Even the most trivial stories come to life with his amazing grasp of past details. For instance, his first hearing of Walter B. Rogers when he was about 15 years old: 

At about the middle of the program a young man not much older than myself stood up and without moving from his place began playing a cornet solo which at once so captivated my attention that I forced my way through the crowd in order to get nearer the bandstand and not miss a note. . . . The number, an extremely difficult cornet solo which demanded great endurance in playing was the Excelsior Polka by Frewin. . . . At the ending of the solo the young player was given an ovation of tumultuous applause, in which I joined vigorously. The cornetist again arose, but this time stepped to the front of the platform, and to my wonderment played the entire solo through for the second time without seeming tired or making a slip. . . . His face did not become purple, distorted, or show any signs of strain.

 

Herbert L. Clarke at age 23, Cornet Soloist of Gilmore's 22nd Regimental Band

Herbert L. Clarke at age 23, Cornet Soloist of Gilmore’s 22nd Regimental Band

Learning how Clarke took up the viola to play in the family quartet and how he tried working in a business store, helps us to realize that Clarke kept his career options open. Even so, he still pursued his dream with an enormous amount of hard work on the cornet. The book concludes with him finally getting his dream job–as cornet soloist with Patrick Gilmore’s band at age 23. 

After I had finished, Mr. Gilmore came over to me, patted me on the back, and told me that he had been looking for a great cornet player who could play musically, with the endurance I had displayed this afternoon and at last he had found one! I nearly fell over on hearing this expression of enthusiasm regarding my playing, and had to sit down. 

In closing, Clarke adds an amazing synopsis of his career as a cornetist after that point. Here are some of those facts:

Clarke logged over 8000 miles of travel as soloist with the bands of Gilmore, John Philip Sousa and Victor Herbert. He played over six thousand programmed cornet solos, including 473 concerts in one season. He soloed at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, the Paris World’s Fair in 1900, and the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904.

Anglo Canadian Leather Company Band leader Herbert L. Clarke (left) and C. O. Shaw (right), owner of the Anglo Canadian Leather Company, Huntsville, Ontario.

Anglo Canadian Leather Company Band leader Herbert L. Clarke (left) and C. O. Shaw (right), owner of the Anglo Canadian Leather Company, Huntsville, Ontario.

 

 

Of course, Herbert L. Clarke also distinguished himself as a bandmaster himself, eventually becoming the president of the American Bandmasters Association in 1943.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me at the grave marker of Herbert L. Clarke

Me at the grave marker of Herbert L. Clarke

 

I have visited Clarke’s gravesite in Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC, on a number of occasions, and each time I have a sense of wonder, appreciation and meaning. 

 

 

 

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Trumpet Journey Celebrates Herbert L. Clarke’s Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Herbert L. Clarke!

Happy Birthday, Herbert L. Clarke!

Today, I had a enough free time to go down to the Congressional Cemetery in the District of Columbia to pay my respects to Herbert L. Clarke, perhaps the greatest cornet virtuoso to ever live. For me, the connection is personal, because he is my musical grandfather: one of my teachers, Charles Gorham, was a student of Mr. Clarke for a short while back in the 1940s, I believe.

I took my Conn New York Wonder cornet and played a few Clarke pieces: From the Shores of the Mighty Pacific, The Debutante and his Carnival of Venice. “Our” audience was the fifteen or so dog walkers who pass through the cemetery every morning. One of the administrators came out and took some photos of me playing by the grave.

IMG_3981You will want to know that he is buried a mere 20 feet away from the tomb of the great band leader, John Philip Sousa.

As I was walking back to my car, I was thinking that this could become a very nice tradition for future years!

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Repertoire: Some Suggested Easy Pieces

There are thousands–tens of thousands–of trumpet pieces available today. It would be very difficult to have a comprehensive knowledge of all of them. Nevertheless, I thought I would list a few of my favorite “easy” pieces. These pieces will challenge young trumpeters who have studied consistently for 3 to 5 years. Many of these pieces can ease the difficulty of a more difficult recital program. I think all of them have some artistic merit. I have tried to find videos for each piece that I have included. Some of the videos have young trumpeters playing, but others feature great artists who enjoy playing a tuneful piece.

Baroque

Telemann, Air de Trompette

Here is a wonderful video of Rick Murrell playing this piece on natural (coiled) trumpet, but it is playable on regular B-flat trumpet:

 

Short pieces:

Anderson, A Trumpeter’s Lullaby

 

Balay, Piece de concours

 

Barat, Fantaisie en Mi-flat

 

Bozza, Lied

 

Broughton, Oliver’s Birthday and Folksong

 

Bernstein, Rondo for Lifey

 

Ewazen, Ballade for a Ceremony

 

Goeyens, All ‘Antica (in a baroque style)

 

Hovhanness, Prayer of St. Gregory

 

Ravel, Piece en forme de Habanera

 

Reed, A., Ode for Trumpet

 

Ropartz, Andante et Allegro

 

Starer, Invocation

 

Thompson, Virgil, At the Beach

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Kennan, Sonata (this piece perhaps is not an “easy” piece, but it is not impossible for a young trumpeter)

 

Cornet solos or encore pieces:

Llewellyn, My Regards

 

Goedicke, Concert Etude

 

A Clarke cornet solo, such as Maid of the Mist, Trixie Valse, Venus Waltz, or Victory

 

Simon, F., Willow Echoes

 

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A Second Look at Two 19th-Century Books of Cornet Music: Wagner’s Solo Compositions for Cornet

As I mentioned yesterday in “A Look at Two 19th-Century Books of Cornet Music,” All of the pieces in Philippe Goetz’s “solo” book now owned by Dr. Robert Hazen are for F- or G-crooked cornet. It is my guess that the F- and G-crooking were especially comfortable to horn players who wanted to play the new cornet with valves. It is somewhat analogous to a modern trumpet player performing on the B-flat piccolo trumpet: it allows the player to play more securely in the high register. Indeed, Goetz’s duet book includes many duets for horn unplayable by the cornet, so one may surmise that Goetz played horn as well as cornet. Only later in the 1850s, most notably with Jean-Baptiste Arban, did the realm of the cornet begin to shift to trumpet players. Coinciding with this shift, the cornet was more-commonly played in higher keys (like the now-ubiquitous B-flat).

Title page of J. B. Schiltz's Fantasy on themes from Donizetti's "La Favorita"

Title page of J. B. Schiltz’s Fantasy on themes from Donizetti’s “La Favorita”

In the solo volume, there are three operatic fantasies written by the Parisian trumpeter, cornettist and prolific composer, Jean-Baptiste Schiltz. One of these solos, arranged for cornet and piano, was based on the opera La Favorite by Gaetano Donizetti. This fantasy, Schiltz’s 101st opus, was composed before 1846 and published by the famous music publisher, Maurice (born “Moritz”) Schlesinger. The title page, shown here on the left, indicates that this solo is playable for the cornet with two or three valves.

There is a fascinating story about the publishing of this piece, because it seems that Schlesinger had first commissioned Richard Wagner to do it. Wagner writes in his memoir, My Life:

Portrait of Richard Wagner by Ernst Benedikt Kietz (Paris, 1840/42)

Portrait of Richard Wagner by Ernst Benedikt Kietz (Paris, 1840/42)

As my contributions to the Gazette Musicale proved so unremunerative, Schlesinger one day ordered me to work out a method for the Cornet a pistons. When I told him about my embarrassment, in not knowing how to deal with the subject, he replied by sending me five different published ‘Methods’ for the Cornet a pistons, at that time the favourite amateur instrument among the younger male population of Paris. I had merely to devise a new sixth method out of these five, as all Schlesinger wanted was to publish an edition of his own. I was racking my brains how to start, when Schlesinger, who had just obtained a new complete method, released me from the onerous task. I was, however, told to write fourteen ‘Suites’ for the Cornet a pistons—that is to say, airs out of operas arranged for this instrument. To furnish me with material for this work, Schlesinger sent me no less than sixty complete operas arranged for the piano. I looked them through for suitable airs for my ‘Suites,’ marked the pages in the volumes with paper strips, and arranged them into a curious-looking structure round my work-table, so that I might have the greatest possible variety of the melodious material within my reach. When I was in the midst of this work, however, to my great relief and to my poor wife’s consternation, Schlesinger told me that M. Schlitz, the first cornet player in Paris, who had looked my ‘Etudes’ through, preparatory to their being engraved, had declared that I knew absolutely nothing about the instrument, and had generally adopted keys that were too high, which Parisians would never be able to use. The part of the work I had already done was, however, accepted, Schlitz having agreed to correct it, but on condition that I should share my fee with him. The remainder of the work was then taken off my hands, and the sixty pianoforte arrangements went back to the curious shop in the Rue Richelieu.

I love this account for many reasons. It shows the young Wagner trying to get his start as a composer by attempting a method book for the cornet. It shows how these operatic salon pieces were conceived (by referencing piano reductions of popular operas). I also note that Wagner’s commission was for fourteen operatic suites. When Schiltz took over the job, he would have presumably completed the fourteen. It is not clear whether Wagner had submitted less than fourteen manuscripts, or whether he had only partially completed manuscripts for all fourteen. What is very possible is that this “Fantasy on the Opera, La Favorite” by Schiltz was conceived by Wagner and transposed to a lower, easier key by Jean-Baptiste Schiltz.

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A Look at Two 19th-Century Books of Cornet Music

Two Privately Bound French Cornet Books from 19th Century

Two Privately Bound French Cornet Books from 19th Century

My friend, distinguished scientist and trumpeter Dr. Robert Hazen, acquired two privately-bound music books in 1988 and wrote a very nice article about these two for the International Trumpet Guild Journal (“Parisian Cornet Solos of the 1830s and 1840s: the Earliest Solo Literature for Valved Brass and Piano,” May 1995). Bob loaned them to me for examination in 2005.

 

Signature of Philippe Goetz, of the First Dragoon Regiment, original owner of the two cornet books

Signature of Philippe Goetz, of the First Dragoon Regiment, original owner of the two cornet books

The first book is dedicated to duets, and is signed by the owner, “Goetz Philippe, trompette, 1er Regte de dragons, 3e escadron.” This volume is filled with hundreds of handwritten duets for cornet and some duets for horn, mostly from operatic repertoire. The other book has eight solos for cornet and piano.

19th-Century French Cavalry Trumpeters

19th-Century French Cavalry Trumpeters

This photographic image shows a late 19th-century squadron of French cavalry trumpeters. This is the type of unit in which Philippe Goetz served.

Cornet Solo Book Table of Contents (note Adhémar's name beside the "Fantasy on Haydée"--the third to last piece--with "ditto" marks underneath).  On right, the last page of "The Barber of Seville" manuscript with Adhémar's signature.

Cornet Solo Book Table of Contents (note Adhémar’s name beside the “Fantasy on Haydée”–the third to last piece–with “ditto” marks underneath).
On right, the last page of “The Barber of Seville” manuscript with Adhémar’s signature.

When I began to study the solo book, I thought that the last three pieces were anonymous manuscripts just as Bob Hazen noted in his ITG journal article. But then I noticed that the table of contents had a composer’s name for the first of these three pieces: R. d’Adhémar. In addition, I realized that the last manuscript piece is signed by the same Adhémar, although I could not decifer the signature until I associated it with the table of contents name. In this privately-bound book, three pieces by Adhémar are included: a solo fantasy on Auber’s opera, Haÿdée, a duo on Haÿdée, and an air on Rossini’s Barber of Seville (on the tune, “Ecco rodent il cielo.” Nearly all of the solos in this volume are based on operatic themes.

German posthorn and cornet-à-piston with Stölzel valves

German posthorn and cornet-à-piston with Stölzel valves

All of the pieces in this volume are written for the F-alto or G-alto cornet, pitched a fourth or a minor third lower than our modern B-flat cornet. The cornet would have had Stölzel valves. In English, we call this a “cornopean.” In French, they called it a “cornet-à-pistons.”

Adhémar was not well-known in professional music circles, but I have been able to find out that he was of the French nobility—a count—and that he had written a method book for viola. None of his music was ever published.

Chateau des Adhémar in Montpellier, France

Chateau des Adhémar in Montpellier, France

 

 

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