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Hyperion Records

CDA67266 - Classical Trumpet Concertos
CDA67266

Recording details: January 2001
Blackheath Concert Halls, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Ben Turner
Engineered by Philip Hobbs
Release date: September 2001
DISCID: C90F880D
Total duration: 65 minutes 34 seconds

'A pioneering and generous enterprise deserving plaudits galore' (Gramophone)

'The stylish and spirited playing soon engages 21st-century ears' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Much of the repertoire on this release has been explored before, but few have distinguished themselves as well as Crispian Steele-Perkins. The performances are top-notch' (Fanfare, USA)

Classical Trumpet Concertos
Allegro  [6'15]
Andante  [3'18]
Allegro  [4'47]
Adagio  [5'14]
Allegro molto  [4'41]
Adagio  [4'45]
Allegro moderato  [5'03]
Allegro  [4'59]
Larghetto  [4'04]
Vivace  [4'26]
Rondo  [4'03]
Rondo  [4'17]

Hear Haydn's famous and much-loved trumpet concerto, together with the startingly forward-looking trumpet concerto by Hummel, as you have rarely heard them before—on the remarkable Klappentrompet for which they were originally written. Crispian Steele-Perkins confirms his reputation as the world's greatest period instrument trumpeter with playing not only of his customary musicality, but of phenomenal technical assurance, in five astonishing concerto performances. The tonal colours of the instruments he uses, an extraordinary panoply of orchestral colour from the period instruments of The King's Consort, and Robert King's dramatic direction make this a benchmark CD for all fans of the trumpet, fans of the King's Consort, and indeed for all collectors of classical concertos. Also on the disc are three true concerto rarities, by Johann Hertel, Mozart's father Leopold, and Haydn's highly talented younger brother Michael. An altogether unmissable CD!


The trumpet is one of Europe’s oldest and most popular musical instruments, with a history that stretches back into antiquity. In the Roman Empire its function was as a military instrument, and in this capacity it survived in our classical music into the late eighteenth century (such as Haydn’s famous ‘Military’ Symphony No 100, with its fanfare at the end of the slow movement), and even into the nineteenth century. Originally the trumpet could only play the natural notes of the harmonic scale.

To play actual melodies required the player to venture into the upper harmonics of the instrument, requiring considerable skill and dexterity. Composers such as Bach stretched the capabilities of the ‘natural’ instrument to its furthest regions and, as the Baroque era came to its end, players began to experiment with instruments that could provide a wider range of notes, and especially the chromatic notes that the natural instrument could not provide. This disc documents some of the music that was written for these pioneers and their remarkable trumpet inventions.

Joseph Haydn (1732–1809) first visited London in January 1791, staying in England until June 1792 and even celebrating his sixtieth birthday in the capital. On his return to Vienna there can be little doubt that he informed his friend, the trumpeter Anton Weidinger (1767–1852), of interesting technical developments that he had witnessed whilst in London. Some English trumpeters were using a mechanical device on their instruments where a retractable tuning slide both corrected imperfect intonation and doubled the number of notes available on the limited scale of the ‘natural’ trumpet. A second invention (now preserved in the Museum of London) was a silver trumpet, made for King George III’s private orchestra, which had ‘vent’ holes drilled in it: these also improved tuning and gave additional notes. Experimental instruments of this kind had previously been known in Weimar and Dresden, but these successful innovations may have prompted Weidinger to develop, between 1793 and 1796, the first fully chromatic trumpet, for which specific instrument Haydn wrote his famous concerto. Although the concerto dates from 1796, it was four years before Weidinger decided to play it in public.

Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto in E flat was played in the Burgtheater a few days before Beethoven’s first benefit concert—Weidinger’s was on 28 March 1800 and Beethoven’s on 2 April. The announcement in the Wiener Zeitung of 22 March 1800 reads:

Musical Academy: The undersigned has been permitted to give a grand musical academy in the Imperial Royal National Court Theatre on 28 March. His intention on this occasion is to present to the world for the first time, so that it may be judged, an organised trumpet which he has invented and brought—after seven years of hard and expensive labour—to what he believes may be described as perfection: it contains several keys (Klappen) and will be displayed in a concerto specially written for this instrument by Herr Joseph Haydn, Doctor of Music, and then in an Aria by Herr Franz Xav. Süssmayer, Kappellmeister in the actual service of the Imperial Royal Court Theatre. Which concert Anton Weidinger, Imperial Royal Court and Theatre trumpeter, has the honour herewith to announce.

Weidinger’s trumpet was built in the standard military pitch of E flat; three keys covered holes which were strategically placed to raise the harmonics in steps by half a tone at a time (a fourth key would have provided a low B natural—a note which is conspicuously absent from Haydn’s concerto). This concerto was Haydn’s last purely orchestral work, and is scored for a typical late Haydnesque orchestra containing two flutes, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, two orchestral trumpets, timpani, strings and, as its keyboard continuo, a fortepiano, in addition to the soloist. It must have been a novel experience to a disappointingly small audience at the new instrument’s public debut on 28 March 1800 to hear melodies played in the trumpet’s low register.

The first movement is in conventional sonata form; typically for Haydn the second subject reworks the opening theme in the relative minor key—a technique that would previously have been impossible for the trumpet. There are moments when flourishes evoke the old clarino sound in the high register—indeed Haydn even writes ‘clarino’ against the solo trumpet line, suggesting that he anticipated hearing the more vocal style of playing of Baroque times. The second movement’s flowing cantabile, so familiar to us nowadays, gives the trumpet for the first time a lyrical melodic line in its middle octave. The final Rondo demonstrates the technical potential of Weidinger’s new invention, showing that it could be as agile as any other wind instrument.

Michael Haydn (1737–1806), Joseph’s younger brother, was Konzertmeister and Organist to the Archbishop of Salzburg. His Trumpet Concerto in C (MH60) was composed in 1763 for an unidentified trumpeter of unusual virtuosity. Scored for trumpet, two flutes, strings and harpsichord continuo, its opening movement is a re-working of a violin concerto (MH52) written circa 1760–62 in Grosswardein. The trumpet is taken to stratospheric heights—to its 21st harmonic—notes which are only obtainable by a player of exceptional ability. The solo trumpet part is interwoven with that of the flutes, showing that even in post-Baroque times the trumpet could still be played with exquisite subtlety. The faster, second movement, more conventional in its form, finds the trumpet skipping around playfully in its highest register.

Leopold Mozart (1719–1787), father and mentor of Wolfgang Amadeus, is famous in his own right as a composer and, in particular, as the author of an important treatise on violin playing. Leopold too was in the service of the Archbishop of Salzburg. He was not only a good violinist but apparently also able to play the trumpet—whether in a militaristic or an artistic capacity we do not know. The story is related that he frightened his six-year-old son by playing the trumpet near him; this would have been in 1762, the year when he composed this concerto—could he have alarmed his son whilst trying out the piece for himself?

The two movements, scored for solo trumpet, two horns, strings and continuo harpsichord, are taken from a more extensive Divertimento. The first movement is as fine a demonstration of the lyrical qualities of the ‘natural’ (valveless, keyless and slideless) trumpet as any in the repertoire. In the second movement the strings, horns and soloist compete, throwing the rustic, outdoor theme between each other.

Johann Wilhelm Hertel (1727–1789) came from a musical family who worked in a number of centres in northern Germany. Hertel himself had contact with many of the leading German composers of the day, including Graun and C P E Bach, and was widely regarded. His Concerto in E flat for trumpet, strings and continuo was the first of several composed at Schwerin for the Court Trumpeter Johann Georg Hoese (1727–1801).

All three movements are of unusually fine musical quality. The first movement is a good example of the style brought on by the transition of music from the Baroque to the Classical era; the strings set out the melodies and the trumpet follows with its own distinctive flair. The ensuing ‘Larghetto’ is especially beautiful, giving unusually long and sustained phrases to the soloist; Hertel’s sensuous accompanying harmonies are sublime. The final, lively ‘Vivace’ is of extreme technical difficulty, presenting the soloist with demanding passagework in the uppermost reaches of the instrument.

In December 1803 there followed another concerto for Weidinger. It was composed by Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778–1837), who had been recommended by Haydn to become Prince Esterhazy’s Konzertmeister at Eisenstadt. A pupil and eventually close friend of Mozart who also knew Beethoven well, Hummel stands stylistically at the cusp between the Classical and Romantic eras. If Haydn’s concerto was to prove to have been the last concerto written for the trumpet’s old clarino or Baroque style, Hummel’s was to prove to be the first ‘modern’ one, demonstrating the instrument’s technical range and ability to play in keys distant from its ‘home’ key. Weidinger had developed a new version of his trumpet whose fundamental pitch was raised to E: his new trumpet had at least five keys. The key of the composition, E major, was an unusual one, and the work proved to be technically as difficult, if not more so, than Haydn’s work. Many editions have subsequently transposed it into the easier key of E flat; our performance retains Hummel’s original key.

The opening movement is thoroughly modern in outlook, and grand in scale, form and orchestration, requiring a sizeable orchestra. With the chromatic and tonal flexibility of Weidinger’s new solo instrument, Hummel was able not only to exploit the keyed trumpet’s ability to play expressively in its low register but also to modulate into extreme keys. The result is a splendid movement for both soloist and orchestra which contrasts the striking opening with a more light-hearted second subject. The following ‘Andante’—serious, often quite dramatic in character—shows the keyed trumpet to have many of the qualities of a wind instrument, providing it with flowing runs and novel trills. The Finale, the most light-hearted of the three, conceals a march by Cherubini which at the time of the first performance would have been well known; no longer familiar to us, the joke is today usually lost. The writing throughout the movement provides the trumpeter with virtuosic trills and flourishes in a variety of keys. This concerto clearly suited Weidinger, for he kept it in his repertoire for many years.

Sadly, Weidinger’s new ‘invention-trumpet’ was never accepted into the symphony orchestra, possibly because of its uneven tone or at least because it lacked the brazen authority of the familiar trumpet (to which valves were to be added within a generation, making it fully chromatic, and leading to the demise of the keyed instrument). It was, however, especially successful in Italy where town band musicians who played it also augmented the local opera orchestras. Perhaps because of this localised popularity, many of these keyed trumpets have survived.

H C Robbins Landon & Crispian Steele-Perkins © 2001

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