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Gottfried Reiche (Trumpet, Composer)

Born: February 5, 1667 - Weißenfels, Thuringia, Germany
Died: October 6, 1734 - Leipzig, Saxony, Germany

The German trumpeter and composer, Gottfried Reiche, was steeped in trumpet playing from an early age - he was born in the town of Weißenfels, which had a long tradition of trumpet music at its court. He went to Leipzig in 1688, became an assistant Stadtpfeifer and worked his way up to the ranks of Senior Stadtpfeifer in 1706 and Kunstgeiger to become Senior Stadtmusicus in 1719, succeeding trumpeter Johann C. Genzmer.

Gottfried Reiche the first performer of many trumpet parts in J.S. Bach's cantatas and other works. He was a musician of great skill, if one can judge from the trumpet parts written for him by J.S. Bach. They are among the most florid, creative, and difficult trumpet parts of the Baroque, quite clearly intended for a player of great virtuosity. In an article in Historic Brass Society Journal, called "Bach, Reiche and the Leipzig collegia musica", Don Smithers says the following (page 30):

"We may reasonably suppose that Reiche did, in fact, play the second Brandenburg concerto under Bach's direction with the collegium musicum at one or another of the venues where he is known to have performed with that ensemble. Moreover, it is not beyond the bounds of reason to suppose that Christoph Ruhe, Reiche's successor, may have played the same work with the same ensemble sometime after Reiche's death in October, 1734"

Gottfried Reiche is the subject of a famous painting of the era, which was done by Leipzig artist E.G. Haussmann for the occasion of Reiche's 60th birthday in 1727. In the portrait, Reiche holds a coiled natural trumpet in his right hand. In his left hand, he holds a sheet of music manuscript on which is written a short "abblasen" or fanfare. The musical notes are depicted accurately on the painting, and the fanfare has been transcribed and performed by several artists. It has also served for many years as the theme music to the USA television show CBS Sunday Morning.

As with other Stadtpfeifers, and in particular his earlier Leipzig predecessor, Pezel, Gottfried Reich was also a composer of socalled "tower music" (Turmmusik). In 1696 he published Vier und zwantzig neue Quatricinia for cornett and three trombones. His numerous other compositions have not survived. Reiche had also composed 122 Abblasen-Stücken, but only a single Abblasen has survived. It is depicted in the 1727 portrait of Reiche by Haussmann. Some scholars believe that the style of the music in the portrait hints at possibly being composed by J.S. Bach himself, perhaps as a birthday gift for his chief trumpeter.

Gottfried Reiche died of a stroke, collapsing in the street while walking home one night. In Johann S. Riemer's Ms. Chronik preserved in the Stadtarchiv, Leipzig, for Wednesday, October 6, 1734, there is the following report:

"On precisely this day the highly skilled and most artistic musician and Stadtpfeifer, Herr Gottfried Reiche, the Leucopetra-Misnicus and senior member of the municipal company of musicians in this place, suffered a stroke as he was going home and dropped dead in the Stadtpfeifer-Allee not far from his house where he was taken. The reason for this was on account of the enormous strain he suffered the night before while blowing [the trumpet] for the royal music, his condition having been greatly aggravated from the smoke given off by the torch-lights."

Over time, this account became distorted and exaggerated into an "urban legend" of sorts amongst trumpeters, to the effect that he actually collapsed and died while performing. Some of these legends even specified the actual work and passage that spelled his demise (from the opening chorus of the secular cantata BWV 215, later reworked by J.S. Bach as the "Hosanna" movement of his Mass in B minor BWV 232). After his death, Gottfried Reiche was succeeded by Christoph Ruhe.

Portrait, oil on canvas of Gottfried Reiche by Elias Gottlob Haussmann

Source: Oxford Composer Companions J.S. Bach (Editor: Malcolm Boyd, OUP, 1999); O.J.'s Trumpet Page; Wikipedia Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (November 2009)

Gottfried Reiche: Short Biography | Gottfried Reiche & Bach

Links to other Sites

Gottfried Reiche (Wikipedia)
The trumpeter Gottfried Reiche (1667-1734) (O.J.'s Trumpet Page)

Trumpet major? - JS Bach and the Reiche portrait (Find Articles)


Don Smithers: Gottfried Reiches Ansehen und sein Einfluß auf die Musik Johann Sebastian Bachs, Bach-Jahrbuch 73, p.113-150 (1987)
Don Smithers: "Bach, Reiche and the Leipzig Collegia Musica", Historic Brass Society Journal Vol. 2, p.1-51 (Fall 1990)
Timothy A. Collins: "Gottfried Reiche: A More Complete Biography", ITG Journal February 1991, (p. 5-17)
The Ewald Brass Quintet's recording of the complete Vierundzwanzig neue Quatricinien (1696) (Hungaroton)

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