Interview with my baroque trumpet teacher, Friedemann Immer

Friedemann Immer, born 1948 in Duisburg, Germany, is one of the most well-known trumpeters in recent times. He specialized during the 1970s in the playing of the baroque trumpet, performing in groups all over the world, such as Concentus Musicus Wien, the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, the Academy of Ancient Music Berlin, the Musica Antiqua Köln, La Stagione Frankfurt, Academy of Ancient Music London, Boston Baroque, and Aston Magna Music Festival. Working with conductors such as Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Frans Brüggen, Thomas Hengelbrock, Ton Koopman, Philippe Herreweghe, Marcus Creed, Martin Pearlman, Ivor Bolton, Christopher Hogwood, and Hellmuth Rilling, he has made more than 200 audio, and video recordings. This includes more than ten recordings of J.S. Bach´s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 on period instruments.

Friedemann Immer has played concerts for more than 45* years in all important centers and festivals for “Ancient Music” all over the world and continues to play today. He was invited to two Historic Brass Symposiums in Amherst (1995) and New York (2013) and to several ITG Conferences, the last one in 2014 in Valley Forge/King of Prussia.

Mr. Immer is the leader of the “Trompeten Consort Friedemann Immer,” which he founded in 1988. The ensemble specializes in music for Trumpets with Timpani and Organ. He and other members of the ensemble have published more than 200 pieces under the name Edition Immer–repertoire for trumpets, other instruments, and singers ranging from Baroque to jazz, published by Musikverlag Martin Schmid, Nagold, Germany.

Friedemann Immer is Professor for Baroque Trumpet at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln. He also taught for 20 years at the Sweelinck Conservatorium, Amsterdam and for some years at the Royal Music-Academy in Copenhagen. He continues to give masterclasses all over the World.

(*) Mr. Immer has really played concerts for 56 years, but for only 45 years on the baroque trumpet.

Equipment:

Baroque Trumpet without holes: Trumpet in Db, made by Friedemann Immer in the Trumpet Workshop with a Baroque, bell, made by Bob Barclay.

Baroque Trumpet with 3 holes: the “new Egger 3-hole model”, made by R. Egger consulting with Friedemann Immer; Meinl & Lauber 3-hole from 1976, playing only in D, Db and C

Short Meinl & Lauber in F and E; Egger short Trumpet in E and Eb;

4-hole Baroque Trumpet: Egger (not used much)

Keyed Trumpet: developed with Friedemann and friend Günter Hett, one with 5 Keys and an long model with 3 Keys

Piccolo Trumpet: Schilke Bb/A 4 Valve
Eb trumpet: Schilke
C Yamaha Rotary Valve
Bb piston trumpet: -Bach

(And a lot more!)


Interview with Friedemann Immer. The interviewer is Stanley Curtis

SC: Friedemann, it has been a big goal of mine to interview you. You were so important to me when I was younger—you helped get me a Fulbright Scholarship to study with you in the Netherlands, and you taught me how to play the baroque trumpet. Thanks for helping me in my life and thanks for agreeing to chat about your career! And, of course, congratulations on receiving the Historic Brass Society Christopher Monk Award for 2021!

FI: I remember very well a tall young guy from US, very talented, who played the Brandenburg after a few weeks! – And I am very proud to receive the Christopher Monk Award, it is a great honor for me. I remember very well when I visited Chris Monk in his house in the 1980s. I bought some cornetti and a tenor serpent from him. He was a very nice man!

 

SC: I remember you telling me once that you came from a musical family. Could you tell me more about how music was part of your early life?

FI: I did grow up in a musical family! My father was a priest and he played the fluegelhorn when he was in school. My mother played violin and piano. I grew up with 6 brothers and sisters, and all of them played an instrument. I learned to play recorder, viola da gamba and cello, but my first instrument was the “Flügelhorn.” My father played Flügelhorn in the church and at the age of seven, I also wanted to play this instrument. My father showed me the fingering and how to produce a tone —- that was the beginning! All of my family sang in the local choir!

 

SC: Who were some of your teachers as you progressed on the trumpet?

FI: After having learned from my father the very first steps at the age of seven, I started to have lessons with Heinrich von Senden, when I was 17. He was the principal trumpet player at the Duisburg Symphony Orchestra. I learned a lot from him. We toured through the towns and churches in our part of Germany, playing a lot of Christmas Oratorios and other pieces.

 

SC: Did you study other things besides trumpet?

FI: After regular school, in Germany we have the “Abitur,” and for this I studied Mathematics and Physics. My plan was to become a teacher with these subjects as well as making music when possible. But I could not finish this curriculum, because of I was too much into music. My first tours and recordings made it impossible to make an exam. So, I studied (modern) Trumpet in Cologne.

 

SC: Eventually you connected with Walter Holy at the Hochschule für Musik. He was one of the earliest pioneers on the baroque trumpet, so this must have been a pivotal point in your life.

Walter Holy, German pioneer on the baroque trumpet

FI: I studied with Walter Holy, the pioneer of the baroque trumpet. We not only spoke about the baroque trumpet, but also about other music for trumpet. I still remember his great interpretation of the Hindemith Sonata! Other musicians from whom I have learned a lot have been Helmut Hucke, an oboe professor in Cologne and one of the pioneers of the baroque oboe and Nikolaus Harnoncourt, perhaps one of the most important influences on me. I had the privilege and honor to play first trumpet in his orchestra for 20 years–the Concentus Musicus Wien. We had a nearly countless number of recordings and concerts together. I think he was my greatest teacher!

 

SC: Those were amazing recordings! What were some of the earliest gigs you did on the baroque trumpet?

FI: My earliest gigs were consort music, Fantini sonatas and Viviani sonatas. But after about one year, I played my first Christmas Oratorio, my first B-minor Mass and my first Brandenburg on baroque trumpet. But I must say that I had played all of this pieces before on the piccolo trumpet! I bought my first baroque trumpet, a Meinl & Lauber with three finger holes and then a short one in F and E in 1976. My first performance with the Brandenburg was in 1977, the first recording with Aston Magna for the Smithsonian in the USA in 1977 or 1978.

 

SC: These were great opportunities! Can you tell me about some of your most memorable performances ever?.

FI: That is an extremely difficult question! I remember one: I had to play the Brandenburg on piccolo trumpet in a festival in Austria. On the same day I had already played Handel’s Fireworks Music. Directly before going on stage I played a few notes, the conductor came and said: “You have to go on stage, it is life in the radio!” – I did not know this!

Another story: I was asked to play the Brandenburg in Italy with a German group in the 1980s, but they could not find all the string players!!! So the manager of the group told the Italians that I had had an accident! Which was, of course, not true. In the end, a different baroque orchestra did the tour in Italy with me –which must have been a big surprise for the Italians!

I was asked to play the Brandenburg in Ann Arbor in February of 1978 or ’79. I took the plane via Boston to visit my cousin, Christoph Wolff, and his family. But one of the worst snow storms on the East Coast had started. My plane was the last one to land. I was stuck in Boston from Monday to Wednesday with the concert on Thursday! Finally I took a train from Boston to New York, then the flight to Detroit, arrived in the early morning, up to the rehearsal, with only a few hours of sleep, and then I played the concert – I don’t even think it was too bad! Some people still tell this version of the story: “There was a guy coming from Germany, arriving on the day of the concert. He came to the rehearsal, opened his case, took a beer out of the case, drank it, and then played the Brandenburg. This version of the story cannot not true, because I do not drink beer!

Every concert or recording with Harnoncourt was a sort of a highlight in my career! I played, in more than 55 years, thousands of concerts, and, even though many weren’t too difficult, a lot of them were “memorable.” I played in the funeral service of a close friend, our former president, Johannes Rau. It was only a Bach chorale, but it was live on TV for millions of people!

When I write about playing the Brandenburg, this piece is not the one that I have played most often or that I like the most. The piece I love the most is Bach’s B-minor Mass, I may have played it more than 500 times! I could go on with other stories, but I think I should stop here.  Except–I remember a lot of concerts in St. Thomas Church in Leipzig!

 

SC: I remember looking at your practice music for Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 once in Amsterdam. The page had been blackened with pencil marks from so many rehearsals. So, I have to ask you…how many times have you played this difficult piece?

FI: I think I have played the 2nd Brandenburg around 140 times with baroque trumpet plus more than one hundred times on the piccolo. I made about ten audio recordings, four TV recordings and some radio recordings.

SC: I have always wondered how is it that high notes are so easy for you, Friedemann? And how do you play so accurately?

FI: I think it is, of course, a special aptitude (“Begabung”). Like some singers have a high voice – soprano or tenor – I had always a good high register. But it is also, and mainly, a lot of work! When I am in good shape, I can play pieces like the B-minor Mass. But when I have to play the Brandenburg, it takes me at least two weeks of extra training and practice to play this piece. And it is really hard work!!!

 

SC: You also have done some keyed trumpet performances and recordings. Tell me a little about that.

FI: I have not made many concerts with keyed trumpet. I played the Haydn three times in 1987, one with a student orchestra as a rehearsal, one with Harnoncourt in Vienna and then a recording with AAM and Chris Hogwood. During the past years, I started to play this instrument more. I developed two types with a friend and did a lot of research on the music and instrument.  Some of my students are now playing this instrument. On related editions that I have had published, I work together with my former student and friend, Jaroslav Roucek, and for a few months with Robert Apple.

 

SC: In addition to all of your solo performances, you also ran the Friedemann Immer Trumpet Consort. Do you think this kind of trumpet ensemble helps one to learn how to play trumpet better? To play the baroque trumpet better?

FI: When you start to play baroque trumpet, you want to be a soloist, to play solo concerts and maybe start a solo career. But soon you see that most of the gigs you play are in an orchestra, in a trumpet section. So it is very important to play trumpet ensemble music. It helps one to hear better–to find the intonation.

 

SC: Over the years, you have taught a lot of trumpet players, including me at the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam in 1994-95. Who are some of your most memorable students?

FI: That is also a difficult question! I taught dozens of students while teaching for more than 37 years – and, in a way, they have all been my kids! If I tell you some, I might forget a lot of them. But there was Jaroslav Roucek, Hannes Rux, Thibaud Robinne, Paolo Bacchin, Francois Petit-Laurent, Ute Hartwich, Ute Hübner, Thomas Kiess ….and, of course, you!

 

SC: You were one of my most influential teachers, Friedemann! In addition to playing and teaching, you have also been a tireless researcher and editor of trumpet music. What are some of the most important publications that you have been involved with?

FI: We published with Martin Schmid more than 250 pieces in his publishing house in Nagold, Germany. And a lot of these pieces were published for the first time in the modern era. For example, the Krieger Cantatas, the Rittler Ciaccone, a Fasch Concerto for three choirs, and a Sonata Grossa by Molter. In the moment I am working on some unknown compositions for keyed trumpet – there are still plenty to publish.

At the 2014 ITG Conference, Don Johnson, Crispian Steel-Perkins, Friedemann, Gabriele Cassone and Brian Shaw

SC: In my opinion, you have had a dream career on the trumpet. What do you do nowadays? Do you have hobbies?

FI: I teach a lot – now via video. And I still edit music (these days some new pieces for keyed trumpet!). But I hope that the Corona Virus allows me to play concerts again soon. Also, I am involved in local politics. I am a member of the Town Council of my town for the SPD (Social Democratics). If I find time, I like to work on my “Oldtimer” – I have an Audi 100 (in US Audi 5000) from 1974. I hope we will have better weather soon!

 

SC: Since I am involved with the Historic Brass Society, I’d love to know what changes you would like to see going forward with the HBS to attract more members and fulfill its mission in better ways.

Crispian Steele-Perkins, Friedemann and Gabriele Cassone

FI: We should have more members all over the world! For the musicians outside the US and England, the HBS sometimes seems to be a sort of “local” society in America, but we should be more international. In these times of Internet and Zoom, this should be pretty easy.

I also think we should have a “representative” or “ambassador” in each main country. They could look for members with flyers in their language and manage all the local things. I am sure this would help!

 

SC: These are great suggestions, Friedemann! In a couple of days, my trumpet studio is very much looking forward to hosting you. You are giving a Zoom clinic which we will try to stream on Facebook. What are some things you would like to talk to these young American trumpet students, who don’t know very much about the baroque trumpet, yet?

FI: The most important question is: why baroque trumpet? Why do you want to play this instrument? What is the equipment? What is the way to play Baroque Trumpet? I want to show my main exercises and my technique. Holes or not holes? What was original?

 

SC: It sounds like it will be fantastic. Thanks so much for this wonderful interview, Friedemann. Looking forward your clinic!

Friedemann with Tom Crown and Crispian Steele-Perkins

FI: Thank you so much, Stan, for the possibility to tell you a bit about my work, my life and my ideas of baroque trumpet playing. I look forward to next week and to hear and answer a lot of interesting questions.

 

 

No tags for this post.

Onward into doctoral work

I had left Cleveland to come study at Indiana University (IU) as Bernie Adelstein’s Teaching Assistant. As I mentioned yesterday, one of the big reasons for starting my doctoral studies in Trumpet Performance was the fact that I didn’t have any other prospects at the time. To me, IU was a time to wait and get better at auditioning, so that I could win an orchestra job.

IU orchestra conductor, Thomas Baldner

Indiana was, and is still, one of the finest and largest schools of music in the world. There must have been around 50 to 60 trumpet students there, around ten of which were really good. Coming from CIM, I had done quite a lot of orchestral study, so I was sitting first chair in the orchestras at IU. I enjoyed playing really big repertoire at IU, like Mahler’s Symphony No. 6, Berlioz’s Requiem and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. One distinct memory I have was of an orchestra conductor named Thomas Baldner. He was, as far as we students could figure out, born and educated in the United States. But he spoke with a German accent! (Note: this was incorrect. He actually WAS born in Berlin and came to IU as a college student. We students were, as is often the case, incorrect. Here is a small obituary on Prof. Baldner)

Renowned IU band conductor, Ray Cramer

One big regret for me was that I didn’t play in the band program with director Ray Cramer. At the time, I only wanted to be an orchestral trumpet player, and band wasn’t in my imagined future. That was a missed opportunity. And ironic because I wound up playing for two decades in a professional band!

There were so many friends that I made at IU. We would come into the music building complex and hang out with friends in “Clouse’s Lounge.” We would have embarrassingly long lunches at the Read Hall cafeteria, where the company was great, but the food was terrible. I once remember seeing a food supply truck with boxes that were labeled, “Grade D Meat, but still fit for human consumption.”

CIM and NRO conductor, Carl Topilow

In my first year there, I was able win a spot in the National Repertory Orchestra, a very good summer festival located at the time in Keystone, Colorado (nowadays it takes place in Breckenridge, just down the road from Keystone). Carl Topilow was (and remained until very recently) the conductor. You may remember me mentioning Carl in yesterday’s post–he was the CIM orchestra director.

Mr. Topilow would go around the country and audition hundreds, if not thousands, of students wanting to get in the National Repertory Orchestra (NRO). Over the decades, I guess that Carl has listened to more auditions than anyone else in the classical world. But students at CIM generally felt like Topilow overlooked them. We supposed, whether right or wrong, that he was prejudiced against students from his own conservatory.

That spring, when he came to audition locally in Bloomington, Indiana (where IU is located among the cornfields), I felt prepared for the audition. I also felt like I knew what Carl wanted from my time at CIM. I didn’t have the “curse” of being a CIM student anymore. And perhaps the most advantage was the fact that, while I was playing my excerpts, I could actually see his foot underneath the table. He would tap his foot to determine whether a candidate played, so I decided to let him “conduct” my excerpts with his foot! And this must have made a difference, because I got into NRO that summer (1989). I was also in NRO in 1991. I tend to confuse these two years, but between the two, I worked with trumpeters Tony DiLorenzo, Patrick Tillery, David Dzubay, Ryan Anthony, and Mark Niehaus at NRO. All of these trumpeters went on to do really great things.

The H.N. White King Mini-Trumpet

I also really enjoyed having keys to Mr. Adelstein’s office, where I would practice at night. I loved looking at all of the photos of conductors that he had worked with in the 50+ years that he had been an orchestral juggernaut. They all were signed with personalized notes to Bernie. Mr. Adelstein also had a lot of trumpets hanging on the walls that I tried from time to time. I especially liked the King “Mini” trumpet, which was similar to a piccolo trumpet, but all the proportions were the same as a large B-flat. And it played really well!

I also started to explore some jazz at IU. I took improve classes and jazz history classes with the great David Baker. They were hard, but first rate. I listened to amazing recitals–not least of which were ones by the incredible string players–like Joshua Bell–who were connected with IU. I remember going to Josef Gingold’s office once to deliver some music. Mr. Gingold was about 92 years old at that time and everyday would take a taxi to campus from his apartment. When I was in his office, I saw a signed photo of Georges Enesco. I mentioned to him that I was working on Enesco’s Legende for trumpet (written in 1906). Gingold then started recounting several instances of actually meeting Enesco when he was younger! This completely blew my mind with the connection I was experiencing right then with the great tradition of trumpet literature.

IU violin legend, Josef Gingold

No tags for this post.