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Trumpet Concerto in E flat
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.

from notes by H C Robbins Landon & Crispian Steele-Perkins © 2001

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Details for CDA67266 track 2
Recording date
21 January 2001
Recording venue
Blackheath Concert Halls, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Ben Turner
Recording engineer
Philip Hobbs
Hyperion usage
  1. Classical Trumpet Concertos (CDA67266)
    Disc 1 Track 2
    Release date: September 2001
    Deletion date: February 2011
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