Learn the Baroque Trumpet, Part 2: Learning the History

Being an early music specialist means that you are not only a performing musician, but you  are also a historian. One of your jobs is to provide a soundtrack to history. For this reason you need to brush up on your baroque trumpet reading, so that you can address issues of social and historical context, authenticity, and develop your knowledge of repertory, types of early trumpets, and construction of early trumpets. Here are some books that provide some of this information.

1. Don Smithers, The Music and History of the Baroque Trumpet before 1721. 2nd ed., 1988. Don Smithers applied excellent research skills and his prodigious mental capacity to give us this wonderful tome. This book addresses the guild system, the natural trumpet makers, the Italian, German, Austro-Bohemian, French and English traditions and literature. Invaluable is an inventory of musical sources for the baroque trumpet. At the time of this blog, I believe it is out of print, but you should be able to check it out of a library close to you.

2. Edward Tarr, The Trumpet, 3rd ed., 1988. An over-arching look at the history of the trumpet will help contextualize your playing.

Selection from Altenburg's "Trumpeters' and Kettledrummers' Art" about Court Trumpeters
Selection from Altenburg’s “Trumpeters’ and Kettledrummers’ Art” about Court Trumpeters

3. Johann Ernst Altenburg, Essay on an Introduction to the Heroic and Musical Trumpeters’ and Kettledrummers’ Art [1795]. Translated by Edward H. Tarr, 1974.

This book will help you really understand what a trumpeter did and was allowed to do during the 17th and 18th centuries. In addition, the second half of the book is a kind of method for performance with a fantastic ensemble piece by Altenburg inserted into the appendix.

4. Robert Barclay, The Art of the Trumpet-Maker, 1992. This book explains very clearly how these instruments were made–the materials, techniques, tools. In addition, he provides some direction in terms of philosophy and application of period trumpet playing.

Here is a nice video with some of the activities that you would do if you went to the Natural Trumpet Making Workshop, taught by Dr. Barclay. You can hear Barclay instructing the students in this short film with some representative music in the background.




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