Practice big for piccolo: the 2-for-1 strategy

In 1991, I was a member of the National Repertory Orchestra. My roommate was a dear friend––the late Ryan Anthony, of Canadian Brass and Dallas Symphony Orchestra fame. He was perhaps 22 at the time, and was very youthful in his whole outlook on life and the trumpet. He had already played Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 (“BB2”) a number of times by this point in his career, so I asked him for some advice in getting ready to play this piece.

Normally, he––and most of us trumpeters––would play this on the B-flat piccolo trumpet. But, he said one thing that worked really well for him was to practice the piece in the correct octave on the normal, big B-flat trumpet, with his normal big mouthpiece. He recommended playing it with the same fingerings as the piccolo trumpet (with a lot of 1-3 combinations, for instance) and to not hold back in dynamics. After doing this, he felt a lot more secure on the piccolo! Maybe we can call this the “2-for-1” practice strategy!

I have followed his advice over the years, with at least one attempt at practicing the “BB2” on the big horn to prepare for the piccolo. I have also performed the BB2 on the baroque trumpet, but this doesn’t work so effectively for preparing such a performance. However, I imagine that if I could get a natural F instrument (such as a hand horn, or just add a lot of crooks to a normal baroque trumpet), then I could try the 2-for-1 strategy this way, too!

This Saturday, I am performing BB2 with the Fort Collins Symphony, and I thought I would share a little of this 2-for-1 practice strategy with you in this little video. I hope this might help you, too, if you need to prepare this very high piece.

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Happy birthday, Walter Holy!

I received a message this morning from my teacher, Friedemann Immer, the great German baroque trumpeter. He pointed out that today was HIS teacher’s birthday. Walter Holy would have been 100 years old today.

Walter Holy (August 15, 1921 to March 7, 2006), ground-breaking baroque trumpeter

Holy was ground-breaking in that he was the first to really play on the valveless baroque trumpet in modern times. Trained as an orchestral trumpeter, like nearly all trumpeters in Germany in the 1940s of that time, he became principal trumpet of the Hanover Opera and coprincipal of the West German Radio in Cologne.

He had studied baroque music under Hans Hoffmann and Adalbert Schütz, so he had some familiarity of this music that set him apart, and he became curious about playing on a valveless instrument that tried to replicate the sound of the original instruments played in the 17th and 18th Centuries.

Taking the famous portrait of Gottfried Reiche by Haussman as a model––with his distinctive coiled instrument, called in German a “Jägertrompete”––instrument designers Otto Steinkopf and Helmut Finke made a reproduction. They added three vent holes that corrected several “out-of-tune” partials like the 11th and 13th (the F and A). Holy began to play this instrument, the first commercially successful reproduction in the 20th Century.

Holy was quite successful with this instrument and toured all over the world in the early 1960s. He worked with Edward Tarr and the Edward Tarr Trumpet Ensemble. He recorded under his own name and he famously collaborated with Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Concentus Musicus Wien on a recording of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2.

His work on the baroque trumpet influenced many trumpeters of the subsequent generations, such as Edward Tarr, Michael Laird, Detlef Altenburg, and, perhaps most importantly, his student Friedemann Immer. For his contributions, the International Trumpet Guild awarded him with the “Johann Ernst Altenburg” Award on January 7, 1996 in Bad Säckingen, Germany. He died in 1983, survived by five children.

Thank you, Mr. Holy!!!


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