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Hyperion Records

CDH55258 - Sound the Trumpet
Fresco on the staircase of Kimbolton Castle, Huntingdon by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini (1675-1741)
Reproduced by kind permission of the Governors of Kimbolton School
CDH55258
(Originally issued on CDA66817)

Recording details: May 1995
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: July 2008
DISCID: E1108531
Total duration: 69 minutes 3 seconds

'Universally full of spirit and charm … both trumpeters are on fine form, sounding effortlessly relaxed and beautifully matched, with an enticing sweetness of tone. Recommended' (Gramophone)

'A thoughtfully planned disc with plenty of variety … expertly directed and stylishly played, this well-filled disc is highly recommended' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Had the English Orpheus been a trumpeter, this is how he might have played' (Early Music Review)

'Holman, of course, is now a past master with this kind of repertoire and the performances of all this music are outstanding, unaffected rhythmically, intensely alive and with alert and responsive playing that is as bright and refreshing as the music itself. Excellent recording. Strongly recommended' (Fanfare, USA)

'C'est un disque joyeux' (Répertoire, France)

'Laird et Bennett sont familiers de ce répertoire et nous enchantent par leur facilité, leur sens des effets, leur opulence sonore' (Diapason, France)

The English Orpheus
Sound the Trumpet
Music by Henry Purcell and his followers
Movement 2: Air  [1'26]
Movement 7: Air  [0'48]
Movement 4: Air  [1'06]
Movement 5: Jig  [1'22]
Movement 8: Air  [0'59]

Until the middle of the seventeenth century the trumpet was essentially a fanfare instrument, used in armies and at courts to invest ceremonial with grandeur. The earliest English truly 'composed' works for trumpet all come from odes and stage works, though they were often detached from their parent works to be performed separately—the practice followed here, in works by composers ranging from familiar names Purcell and Croft to the Moravian immigrant Gottfried Finger and William Corbett (last heard of in Italy, apparently as a spy for the British government).

The disc reveals the mastery of eleven works (with one, two or three soloists and varying accompaniment) by seven highly individual composers.


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Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Until the middle of the seventeenth century the trumpet was essentially a fanfare instrument, used in armies and at courts to invest ceremonial with grandeur. Trumpeters usually played in bands, supported by timpani, using a semi-improvised repertory based on one or two chords. The first experiments with using trumpets in composed music were made by Michael Praetorius, Heinrich Schütz and others in German church music around 1620, though it seems that they were not used in instrumental music until after 1650. The earliest datable sonata for trumpets and strings is by Vincenzo Albrici and was written between 1652 and 1654 when he was director of the Italian musicians at the Swedish court (recorded on Helios CDH55192). Albrici is important for the history of English trumpet music because he worked in London in the 1660s; he is probably the individual Samuel Pepys referred to in his diary for 2 November 1666 when he wrote that ‘the King’s Italian here [at Whitehall] is about setting three parts for Trumpets and shall teach some of them [the royal trumpeters] to sound them, and believes they will [be] admirable Musique’.

Pepys’s diary entry is the first evidence that English trumpeters were at last beginning to play composed music, though we do not have any surviving trumpet parts in English music until the late 1680s. The earliest are probably in the 1687 Saint Cecilia ode, ‘From harmony, from heav’nly harmony’, set by Albrici’s fellow-Italian in London, Giovanni Battista Draghi. Draghi’s ode (recorded on Helios CDH55257), the original setting of the poem by Dryden later set by Handel, had a great influence on English composers and seems to have led Purcell and Blow to begin to use trumpets in their own choral works. Indeed, the earliest English trumpet sonatas all come from odes and stage works, though they were often detached from their parent works to be performed separately—the practice we have followed here.

Henry Purcell’s Symphony in D major , written for ‘An Ode on the Assembly of the Nobility and Gentry of the City and County of York’ and performed at Merchant Taylors’ Hall in London on 27 March 1690, is probably the earliest trumpet sonata by an Englishman. It is typical of Purcell’s early trumpet sonatas in that it is short and relatively unsophisticated, and little distinction is made between the material given to the trumpets and that given to the other instruments (beyond the fact that natural trumpets are necessarily limited more or less to the notes of the harmonic series). The trumpet Symphony in Act II of The Indian Queen is much more extended and sophisticated. It is a transposed and reworked version of the one in the ode ‘Come, ye sons of art, away’, first performed on 30 April 1694, though it has an additional final movement. The beautiful Symphony from Act V of King Arthur is used to accompany the appearance of Britannia, who rises seated on a island. It is said in one source to be for three violins and continuo, though the range and character of the parts suggest trumpet, violin and oboe.

There are connections between the King Arthur symphony and Gottfried Finger’s Sonata in C major for trumpet, violin, oboe and continuo; not only are they scored apparently for the same combination, but the symphony and the first section of the sonata are based on similar themes. Finger came to England from his native Moravia around 1685 and served in James II’s Catholic chapel before working in London’s theatres and concert halls in the 1690s; he supposedly left England in 1701 in disgust after coming last in the competition to set Congreve’s The Judgement of Paris. Finger’s three C major sonatas recorded here survive in an early eighteenth-century manuscript collection of trumpet sonatas and other instrumental works in the British Library and may have been written to be performed during services in the Catholic chapel. They all use the ‘patchwork’ design beloved by Austrian composers (in which a number of contrasted sections are woven into a single large movement), and they have a number of witty moments. The moto perpetuo last section of the Sonata for trumpet, violin and oboe, with its surprise last chord, is particularly delightful.

The British Library manuscript is also the source for the trumpet sonatas by James Paisible and John Barrett. Paisible’s sonata is one of the most modern in the collection, being in three clearly defined movements and having a concerto-like alternation of passages for the trumpets and the strings. These would have been thought of at the time as Italianate features, though Paisible was of French extraction; he arrived in England in the early 1670s, where he was one of the first exponents of the new Baroque oboe and recorder, though he mainly played the bass violin at court. The sonata by the London organist John Barrett is scored for trumpet, oboe and strings, and was presumably inspired by Purcell’s use of the same scoring in the Act II Indian Queen symphony. It appears by itself in the British Library manuscript, but a printed version in Walsh’s series Harmonia Anglicana reveals that it was originally the overture to his suite for Thomas Baker’s play Tunbridge Walks; or, The Yeoman of Kent, first produced at Drury Lane in 1703.

Walsh published Barrett’s sonata without its wind parts, and seems to have meted out the same treatment to John Eccles’s charming suite written for Queen Anne’s coronation in 1702. It clearly needs a trumpet in some of the movements; this part has been supplied jointly by Richard Platt and myself for this recording. The work was presumably played by court musicians during the banquet in Westminster Hall that traditionally followed the coronation service. An engraving of the 1685 coronation banquet shows the musicians crammed into a small gallery with no keyboard instrument. There are no figures in the printed bass part of Eccles’s suite, and no sign that he intended a continuo, so we have recorded the work just with strings. It has several delightful movements in a variety of rustic styles. No 2 is certainly in the Scots style and No 5 seems to be an English jig; if No 7 is intended to be an Irish jig, it may be that Eccles intended the suite to represent the different musical idioms of Queen Anne’s kingdoms.

William Croft’s overture is a late example of a Purcellian trumpet sonata and was also written for a ceremonial occasion: to preface one of the odes he wrote on the occasion of the awarding of his DMus degree in the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford on 13 July 1713. Perhaps Handel knew it (it was published in the fine engraved score of the odes), for the opening is oddly similar to the beginning of the fugue of the Music for the Royal Fireworks.

William Corbett’s fine extended suite for two trumpets and strings may also have been written for a play or for some ceremonial occasion, though it was published in a collection of trumpet sonatas without any indication of what the occasion might have been. Corbett, a London violinist, wrote a good deal of trumpet music in the English post-Purcell idiom, though in later life he settled in Italy, supposedly sent there by the British government to spy on the activities of the Old Pretender.

Peter Holman © 1995


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