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Trumpets in Bach’s Vocal Works
Part 1

4 x Trumpet Bonanza + Bach's on computers

Steven Langley Guy wrote (May 16, 2000):
I have recently been trying out the demo version of the Sibelius music software. It is quite good but at around $1200 (Australian) it is a little out of my reach at the moment. It does come will quite a lot of sounds (even recorders and viols) and I have had some fun programming in some scores. Alas, one cannot save one's work on the demo version. With Sibelius it is possible to program in quite large scaled works. I tried the overture to Mozart's opera Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail which sounds rather nice with all the percussion and the Cosi fan tutte overture too. Both worked quite well. I then tried the Sonatina from Actus Tragicus BWV 106. It worked reasonably well with the recorder and viol sounds and still managed to sound "deep" even though it was programmed. I next tried two works I have in the Kalmus study scores - BWV 119 (the opening chorus) and BWV 63 (again, the first movement). Both of these works have parts for four trumpets in C and timpani in C and G as well as woodwind and strings. The BWV 119 is particularly beautiful and I don't have a recording of this one (any suggestions?) and BWV 63 is a lovely work too. What amazed me was how good Bach sounded but the Mozart just didn't quite work! Even on my Pentium the four trumpets sound fantastic in both of these cantatas (even though the sound is only an "impression" of the real sounds). I used the "trumpet in C" sound, the "treble recorder" sounds (in BWV 119) and the normal oboe, bassoon and string sounds. I didn't bother to program an organ continuo sound. I also tried Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, using the "trumpet in D" sound for the trumpet (in F) part. Again, it worked very well. Maybe I am brainwashed by Wendy Carlos but Bach does seem to work very well in a synthetic 'virtual' setting. Admittedly the Sonatina from BWV 106 wasn't very successful to my ears (it is one of my favorite Bach pieces) but the four trumpets and timpani sounded magnificent even on a humble PC ! Did Bach write many other works for four trumpets? I am very well aware of the music of his predecessors in Leipzig and I have quite a lot of scores by Knupfer, Schelle, Kuhnau and Schein which have very bold brass parts and works like BWV 119 and BWV 63 certainly continue this tradition. The lowest trumpet usually follows the timpani fairly closely, the third trumpet either joins in with the timpani or provides the lowest part to the two upper "clarino" trumpets, whose parts are the highest and most florid. Formula writing? Yes, but Bach does some wonderful things within this tradition.

Even though I like all of Bach's music I have always felt seduced by the trumpet writing in Bach's cantatas and orchestral music. Brandenburg Concerto No.2 quite astonished me as a child - surely this was some of the most extroverted music ever written? I borrowed a natural trumpet from a friend in Melbourne a few years ago and I managed to get somewhere with it - perhaps all my years on the cornetto had given me strong enough lips and lungs? It is a very seductive instrument and in spite of its limitations (and mine!) I could tell that an expert player could bring out all the possibilities of this magical instrument.

I think that BWV 51 is also a wonderful example of writing for a single clarino trumpet.

Frank Fogliati wrote (May 16, 2000):
(To Steven Langley Guy) What sort of speakers are you using? Do you need an amazingly expensive sound card to get a decent result?

I think we had a similar discussion earlier? Wasn't the conclusion that Bach works well on anything, including a trio for kazoo, banjo, and tromba marina? ;-)

What are the minimum specs required?

(Sonatina from BWV 106) Yes, an absolutely sublime piece of music! Truly one of Bach's finest moments.

I remember watching the documentary "In rehearsal with John Elliot Gardiner" and noticing the sheer frustration and exasperation at times on the face of the first natural trumpeter. He kept looking across at JEG as if to say, "it can't be done!" It must be a difficult instrument to play.

 

Trumpets & Drums

Bradley Lehamn wrote (June 30, 2001):
(Continue a discussion about the Orchestral Suites) Thanks Jim for these surveys, especially the Gramophone review I hadn't seen. I'd listened to some excerpts of both Manze and Pickett on the web yesterday evening nd am now planning to pick those up sometime. (The Manze samples are at Barnes & Noble's site.)

The Pickett will be interesting for the slower tempos. (Klemperer rides again!) Some years ago I played the suite #2 with a group of modern strings, a flute professor, and a friend of mine was the conductor. We had a dinner meeting before any rehearsals to go over interpretive ideas for this and the other pieces on the program. (Imagine...a conductor actually asking a harpsichordist to contribute ideas!) I played him the Malloch disc and we both liked the idea of playing the last several movements in a steady proportionally related pulse...as he put it, "Hey, this is an extended dance mix!!" and I said, "Well, yeah!" We agreed that the Malloch felt too fast, so we figured out a set of proportions that felt good to us...and the Polonaise and Badinerie came out much slower than modern players usually do it. We then got together with the flautist and she was initially surprised, but when she tried these a few times at our tempos she soon grooved to it; there was a chance! to get all the notes for once, and place to breathe! The three of us then brought this conviction into the rehearsal with the strings, and the whole thing went very well. The whole suite had a gentle swing to it and never turned into mere breakneck speed. It really was an extended dance mix, a graceful one. We kept the breaks between movements very short: the word "suite" after all can mean that the dances follow one another as a unified group. It's not a bunch of disconnected movements.

The Gramophone review here reminds me that I already have the Freiburg Barockorchester performance of #4, lacking the trumpets and drums! It's good. A year ago I also had a disc of the Leipzig Gewandhaus chamber orchestra playing #4 on modern instruments without the trumpets/drums. That one really shocked me as it was the first time I'd heard the piece that way. But I got rid of it when I got the Freiburg: as a performance, the Leipzig one sounded like a lifeless and dull read-through of the notes. The Freiburg performance is on dhm 77289 from 1993. That CD also includes the three-harpsichord concerto in C (BWV 1064) arranged back for three violins in D, the Vivaldi concerto in B minor for four violins, and some other short pieces by Bach and Vivaldi.

I really miss the trumpets and drums. And the minuets.

Incidentally, the suite #4 shows up again in the cantata BWV 110.

Speaking of Polonaises working well slowly, check out the finale of Schumann's violin concerto with Kremer conducted by Harnoncourt. Music with noble poise!

Jim Morrison wrote (June 30, 2001):
[To Bradley Lehman] Thanks to Brad for supplying as with some stories of what it's like to be a practicing musician. I would have loved to hear the performance he wrote about. I for one wish people would slow down that Badinerie from the Second Suite.

And just in case some people are there are wondering what in the world could possess people to take the drums and trumpets from the Fourth Suite, ala Manze and Freiburg, my limited understanding is that the cantata Brad mentioned, BWV 110 Unser Mund Sei voll Lachens, makes use of the Overture to the Fourth Suite as the music for the opening chorus of the cantata. The problem is, people seem pretty sure that the Orchestral Suiwas written first, and that the drums and trumpets were added specifically for the later cantata, leading said people to speculate, without an original score, that the first version of the Fourth Orchestral Suite lacked drums and trumpets
as well.

Those that know more feel free to write in. I've never heard the cantata. Read more about it at http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV110.htm

By the way, the title translates into something like "May our mouths be full of laughter."

Well, okay, if you put it that way, I guess the drums and trumpets make some sense. :)

Michael Grover wrote (July 1, 2001):
[To Jim Morrison] Speaking of the inclusion or exclusion of trumpets and drums...

I cannot stand listening to BWV 80 with them, especially after obtaining Jeffrey Thomas's masterful recording with the American Bach Soloists. The opening chorus is wonderful without them -- so much more clarity and power in the singing! I always felt the trumpets and drums just muddled things up in other recordings and added artificial, unneeded "oomph" that didn't need to be there. Also, I was always a little suspicious about them when I found out about W.F. adding them in there. Obnoxious son, messing with his dad's work... thinking to "improve" upon it...

Bob Sherman wrote (July 1, 2001):
[To Michael Grover] Matter of taste. To me the trpts and drums (and organ, which is in canon with the first trpt in the #1) add a great deal in #1, and even more to #5 where the trumpet plays the part of the devil against which the choir contends. I do feel, though, that use of trumpet doubling the soprano in the final chorale (#8) is very wrong, obscures the trumpet and adds nothing. To a lesser degree, that can also be said of the strings. This chorale, like most of Bach's, is best sung by the choir a capella.

Factoid: The WF trumpet part in #1, very different from anything JS ever wrote, is in some respects the most difficult piece in the trumpet literature in that it requires, at various points, five high Ds to be picked off from rest. I recall hearing a 1960 performance of Ein' Feste Burg (BWV 80) with the Oberlin College Choir and the Cleveland Orchestra in which the first trumpet, rather than risk missing those notes, played the phrases with the high pickoffs an octave lower! Of course, this was using a D trumpet, before the invention of the modern piccolo trumpet which improves high-register accuracy a lot.

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 1, 2001):
[To Bob Sherman] I have recordings of BWV 80 both ways: Herreweghe (HM 901326 with the Magnificat) with the WFB additions, and Rifkin (CD with "Play By Play" book by Alan Rich, HarperCollins, originally on L'Oiseau-Lyre 417250) without. The Herreweghe performance is much more exciting. The Rifkin is miked closely and has better clarity. It would be interesting to hear the Thomas recording someday; I like other discs in his series.

Does anybody do the piece in Latin as WFB did? Rich comments that this "would surely have sent Luther to an early grave."

On the difficulty of the WFB trumpet parts: it sounds as if Stephen Keavy (with Herreweghe) is having no trouble at all with the highest part on natural trumpet. And the three trumpets blend well with everybody.

Now, if this were a band of modern instruments with modern trumpets (piccolo or otherwise), I can imagine how the trumpets would be overwhelming and crass, intrusive. Just last week I heard a performance of BWV 77 with a large choir and a small orchestra of modern instruments; the trumpet took over the whole stage and didn't blend at all. (I couldn't see the player, but it sounded like a piccolo trumpet.) This was even worse in the aria: the singer was drowned out. I don't know for sure on this one, but I suspect the part was written for a cornetto since the part in the aria sounded too complex for a natural trumpet. The player shaped the line nicely, but it was just too bleedin' loud.

For these pieces, if they can't get a natural trumpet or a cornetto (Zink), whichever a composer expected, why don't conductors turn next to a perfectly good CLARINET? The balance would be much more in line with 18th century expectations, and the tone of a clarinet in high register is like a natural trumpet's. (Even the name suggests this: clarinet as a little clarino! At the low end the clarinet sounds like a chalumeau, and at the top end like a clarino. That's what it is designed to do.) Piccolo trumpets are fine if a work requires a trumpet part that is especially loud, but they too easily overwhelm the ensemble.

After all, a natural trumpet (clarini) and the modern valved trumpet are entirely different instruments, like the difference between a traverso and a metal flute, or a harpsichord and a piano. Shouldn't the primary consideration be to get the kind of balances the composer wanted, along with a close approximation of the timbre?

Take, for example, Harnoncourt's insistence on using natural trumpets in the Beethoven symphonies with an orchestra of modern instruments, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Modern trumpets change the balance and the timbre too much. Or take Casals in 1950 and Klemperer a few years earlier: both employed a soprano saxophone in Brandenburg #2 (probably because there were no sufficiently skilled natural trumpet players in those days, and modern trumpet is just too overpowering for the piece).

I'm not asking to put piccolo trumpeters out of work or anything. I'm just saying that clarinet should always be considered...it might be more appropriate to the music!

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 1, 2001):
< Brad Lehman stated: "I'm just saying that clarinet should always be considered...it might be more appropriate to the music!" >
Prof. Dr, Woldemar Voigt in his book entitled, "Die Kirchenkantaten Joh. Seb. Bach's" (Leipzig, 1918) [This is a later edition of a book printed earlier that Schweitzer was familiar with.] states, for instance, on p. 199 in his discussion of BWV 11 "Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen" "...der Ersatz der Trompeten durch Klarinetten [kann] verhältnismäßig leicht eingerichtet werden." ("the trumpets can be replaced with clarinets rather easily.")

So this idea is not entirely new. I believe Schweitzer also makes references to the use of clarinets to replace or support flutes, or to replace, at that time, non-existent oboi d'amore. Clarinets were need for support of other instruments with the size of choirs approaching 100 singers.

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 1, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] Indeed. Good reference!

I wasn't claiming that it's any new idea to use clarinets when natural trumpets and cornetti are unavailable...just that it's a good idea.

But how often is it seriously considered anymore, or done? The thinking seems to be, "Gee, it asks for some kind of trumpet, I guess we have to get a modern trumpet player and one of those specially-invented 'Bach' trumpets that can play high enough for Bach's music" ...and that's the end of the thought process on it. That's the problem: a new conventional solution pops up (even though it creates problems of balance and tone), and it becomes the only possible solution that is entertained. Louder and more penetrating evidently equals "better," end of issue.

Convention can be wrong!

Convention says that clarinets have to sit out whenever a modern orchestra plays Bach, and the reason is supposedly "Well, the clarinet wasn't invented yet and Bach didn't write for it. Sorry!" But the same logic is not applied to the modern valved trumpet, which also wasn't invented yet. Why the double standard?

As an aside: the Telemann concerto in D minor for two chalumeaux is lovely (Musica Antiqua Köln, Archiv 419633). So is the chamber music for three chalumeaux by Johann Christoph Graupner (1683-1760), composed 1740-5, recorded on Rene Gailly 92 009. The chalumeau was around during Bach's lifetime. When the Denners figured out how to make a composite instthat blended this luscious low range with the ability to play as high as a natural trumpet..., voila, the clarinet.

 

Diversity in music, etc.

Michael Grover wrote (September 3, 2001):
Sure, I'll talk more! ;-)

His name was Bradley Tucker, and at the time I was studying history at Missouri, he was in the middle of completing his doctorate in music at Indiana and simultaneously teaching some music history courses at Missouri. (Not quite sure how that worked out, but anyway...) So he was still rather young. I believe he was a student of George Buelow at Indiana, a musicologist of some repute.

I was working on my masters in German history at MU. As a lifelong classical music lover, I saw this Bach seminar in the catalog and contacted Mr. Tucker to see if he would have any disagreements with me signing up. (It was a graduate seminar and normally restricted to music majors.) I could read music, having had years of piano lessons, but could offer little else musicologically (is that a word?) to the discussions, but he apparently considered my knowledge of German history and my fluency in German valuable, along with the fact that I had lived in Germany for two years as a Mormon missionary (including Leipzig and Kothen for a total of four months!), and
so let me sign up. It was strictly a music course, but the history dept. let me count it as an elective.

What an absolutely wonderfully marvelous experience! For three months, I met twice a week for an hour and a half with five other music lovers in the musty basement of the Fine Arts Annex building in Columbia to listen and learn. I never did finish my masters, and I've been out of college now for five years, and I can honestly say that I almost never think about any of the history courses I took -- however, I still consult my thick folder of notes from that Bach seminar on an almost weekly basis.

We wanted to cover, however briefly, every major genre of music that Bach composed in, so there wasn't enough time to study different recordings of each piece. One version per piece studied was all we had time for. But that was where I first came into contact with Koopman's cantatas since those were the ones Mr. Tucker used in class. And he mixed up the keyboard works with both piano and harpsichord recordings, so I learned to love both.

By the way, I'm proud to say I got an 'A' in that course despite my lack of musical training at the college level. :-)

To give you an idea of the range of topics we discussed, here are the titles of the final papers presented (I still have copies of all of them):

"J.S. Bach's Sinfonias: Contrapuntal Alternatives to the Fugal Process" (this one was way over my head)
"The Trumpet in the Works of J.S. Bach"
"J.S. Bach and the St. John Passion: an examination of the revisions--theological or political"
"The Compositional Process of J.S. Bach's 'Christ lag in Todesbanden', BWV 4"
"J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concertos: the individuality of the six, their significance as a 'meaningful set', their instrumentation, and special problems considered"

That last one is mine. You can tell, because I was a history major, and history majors have to give the wordiest, longest titles possible to their papers. If one subtitle is good, two or more are even better!

Before I took that course, I had a few classical CDs, mostly Beethoven and piano music. I played the piano a little, and that's about it. Since then, my wife thinks I have become a certifiable nut when it comes to classical CDs (especially Bach, of course!), I started teaching myself how to play the organ at church, I play the piano a lot more, and now I have this desire to go back to college and get a second bachelor's, this time in music history. (That last one's probably going to have to wait until the kids are teenagers, at least.) My entire life has changed, all because of a little one-semester seminar that most of the world took no notice of. It was literally a religious experience for me.

Well, I suppose I've gone on long enough. Thanks for the interest in my story -- I hope I didn't bore you all too much. :-)

Harry J. Steinman wrote (September 4, 2001):
[To Michael Grover] "The Trumpet Works of JSB"??? I know he used trumpets here and there, the 2nd B-burg in particular. Is there a significant body of his work for the trumpet???

Michael Grover wrote (September 4, 2001):
[To Harry J. Steiman] If you'll note, the title of the paper was "The trumpet IN the works of J.S. Bach," so no, it wasn't referring to any special group of works specifically for the trumpet. I'd have to go read the paper again, but as I recall, it discussed how Bach used the trumpet, what kinds of trumpets were available to him, which works the trumpet was prominent in, that sort of thing. I remember he (the guy who wrote the paper, who also happened to be a trumpeter (go figure)) specifically focused on not only the 2nd Brandenburg but also BWV 199 and the Orchestral Suites. Maybe also talked about BWV 80 and the fact that the trumpets were W.F.'s addition.

 

BWV 51 / Trumpets and horns

Robert Shermn wrote (September 25, 2001):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< two trumpeters, (I don't remember the names, because I was concentrating on the voices) who could not play a trill properly, decided to repeat the same note in quick succession for the duration of the trill; >
Agree, this trick, most widely used by Helmut Wobitsch, was a sorry excuse for a trill. I expect the recordings on which you heard it are older ones in which a C trumpet was used. In that case a clean valve trill on G above the staff is essentially impossible because the same fingering (3rd valve) that produces the A will also produce a G and that's where the sound tends to go. More modern recordings use trumpets in F, or Bb or A piccolo, which make the trill manageable. But the technology to make these trumpets in tune and with good tone didn't exist until the late 1960’s.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 25, 2001):
Some questions for Bob Shermaro, or anyone else who can help supply information on this subject:

Thanks Bob for your input on the repeated note trill curiosity. I see almost no end to the variety of instruments used to play Bach's composition, but very troublesome for me is that fact that certain distinctions between the various trumpets and horns, distinctions that I always presumed existed, are now being confused or even erased entirely, so that Güttler can feel justified in playing the 2nd Brandenburg on a horn (I believe, if I read correctly, Güttler's first, primary instrument was a horn), so that Harnoncourt in his recording of BWV 78 feels justified in using a tromba da tirarsi (slide trumpet) where Bach clearly indicates the part to be played by a 'corno,'and so that the liner notes to Suzuki's Vol. 9 of the Bach cantata series state the following:

"Although it is common knowledge that, in Bach's time, the horn and the trumpet were played by the same musician, [my question: Did Gottfried Reiche play the horn as well?] even now [1998] there are still many opinions as to what sort of instrument was used. For example, in mvts. 3 and 6 of BWV 24, there is a part given the name of 'clarino.' Since the mid-17th century, this term has been used not to refer to an instrument, but rather to indicate the highest register of the trumpet family; mvt. 3, however requires many notes which can not be played by a standard natural trumpet, so if a trumpet indeed played that part, it only could have been a slide trumpet. But it is difficult to imagine that Bach planned this fast-paced piece for a slide trumpet, intending the length of the mouth pipe to be adjusted during the performance. In addition, the motifs which appear in mvt. 6 point to the registration of a horn.

In response to this, Bach-Collegium-Japan trumpet player, Toshio Shimada, through a process of trial and error, came up with the idea that something like a corno da caccia in B flat, which is required for BWV 143 – an instrument like a small horn with a slide - might be suitable; he thus built one. It appears very likely that the original of the instrument in question had characteristics of both trumpet and horn. Incidentally, the final mvt. of BWV 167 clearly used a slide trumpet, whereas the 1st mvt. of BWV 76 calls for a standard C trumpet."

Do Bach's designations of trumpet and horn (tromba and corno) no longer 'hold water?" Is everything just a question of trial and error, even now after so many years of research. Were there no physical examples of these instruments that have come down to us for us to examine? After Gottfried Reiche's death were all his instruments thrown away or melted down? I just checked the entry under his name in the Oxford Composer Companion for J.S.Bach and by implication one could also infer that Reiche played the violin, but the only portrait of him that exists shows him holding a coiled trumpet. Have the instrument makers looked at that trumpet carefully and compared it with other existing trumpets (I hope that something from his time survived) to see if they can construct something similar?

When Bach asks for a 'tromba' in BWV 51, it is difficult for me to imagine a horn playing this part, but now I am beginning to wonder....

Robert Sherman wrote (September 25, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] Just to complicate the issue further, in baroque usage "tromba" frequently referred to the 3rd trumpet or other low trumpet that would mostly play tympani-like parts confined to the major chord in the lower octave. "Clario"meant a trumpet playing the upper diatonic parts. I've always presumed, although without historical evidence, that tromba playing wasn't a separate career track but rather was done by students hoping to work up to clarino, or by older players who couldn't get the clarino stuff anymore.

Some instrument makers have gone to great effort to copy original instruments. One problem is that the intonation is really bad unless finger holes are added. So that is usually done, even though they're totally non-authentic, because the audience can't see them. IMO BWV 51 sounds best on a modern 3-valve F trumpet (rounder and more brilliant sound, better in tune, larger dynamic range, non-splatty attacks, etc.), but that's an argument we've hashed over here ad infinitum.

Steven Langley Guy (September 25, 2001):
< Thomas Braatz wrote: Some questions for Bob Shermaro, or anyone else who can help supply information on this subject: >
Dear Thomas, I'll have a go.

< Thanks Bob for your input on the repeated note trill curiosity. I see almost no end to the variety of instruments used to play Bach's composition, but very troublesome for me is that fact that certain distinctions between the various trumpets and horns, distinctions that I always presumed existed, are now being confused or even erased entirely, so that Güttler can feel justified in playing the 2nd Brandenburg on a horn (I believe, if I read correctly, Güttler's first, primary instrument was a horn), >
There have been other recordings of this Brandenburg concerto using a horn instead of an F trumpet. I feel that there is no real evidence to support the use of a horn. People play Bach on instruments that would have been alien to conceptions and this may be another example.

< so that Harnoncourt in his recording of BWV 78 feels justified in using a tromba da tirarsi (slide trumpet) where Bach clearly indicates the part to be played by a 'corno,' >
"corno" and "corñio" were often abbreviations for "cornetto" and "cornettino" in the scores of Bach and other early 18th century German composers. "Corno" part which feature many enharmonic notes (such as unison parts with a soprano 'cantus firmus style' part) require either a cornetto or a tromba da tirasi.

< and so that the liner notes to Suzuki's Vol. 9 of the Bach cantata series state the following: "Although it is common knowledge that, in Bach's time, the horn and the trumpet were played by the same musician, [my question: Did Gottfried Reiche play the horn as well?] >
No. He was a virtuoso cornettist. He even published to books of virtuoso Quatricinia for a cornetto and three trombones. (Alas one of these collections is lost)

< even now [1998] there are still many opinions as to what sort of instrument was used. For example, in mvts. 3 and 6 of BWV 24, there is a part given the name of 'clarino.' Since the mid-17th century, this term has been used not to refer to an instrument, but rather to indicate the highest register of the trumpet family; mvt. 3, however requires many notes which can not be played by a standard natural trumpet, so if a trumpet indeed played that part, it only could have been a slide trumpet. But it is difficult to imagine that Bach planned this fast-paced piece for a slide trumpet, intending the length of the mouth pipe to be adjusted during the performance. In addition, the motifs which appear in mvt. 6 point to the registration of a horn. In response to this, Bach-Collegium-Japan trumpet player, Toshio Shimada, through a process of trial and error, came up with the idea that something like a corno da caccia in B flat, which is required for BWV 143 – an instrument like a small horn with a slide - might be suitable; he thus built one. It appears very likely that the original of the instrument in question had characteristics of both trumpet and horn. Incidentally, the final mvt. of BWV 167 clearly used a slide trumpet, whereas the 1st mvt. of BWV 76 calls for a standard C trumpet."
Do Bach's designations of trumpet and horn (tromba and corno) no longer 'hold water?" >
Well, generally 'Tromba', 'Principale' & 'Clarino' refer to the different ranges of trumpet. (written in C - but players used instruments of different pitches)
'Tromba da tirasi' is a slide trumpet - an instrument not capable of playing very fast passages.
'Corno da caccia' is a natural horn (usually in F, C or D)
'Corno' can mean a horn or, in some cases, a cornetto (especially when played in unison with the soprano voice).
'Corñio' (as in BWV 95) refers to the cornettino (descant cornett in C or D) also known as the Klein Diskant Zink.
'Cornetto' or 'Zink' refers to the standard curved cornett in G.

< Is everything just a question of trial and error, even now after so many years of research. Were there no physical examples of these instruments that have come down to us for us to examine? After Gottfried Reiche's death were all his instruments thrown away or melted down? I just checked the entry under his name in the Oxford Composer Companion for J.S.Bach and by implication one could also infer that Reiche played the violin, >
Many of the Stadtpfeiffen played both the violin and cornetto - considered to be interchangeable instruments in the previous century. Some also played the trumpet and trombone.

< but the only portrait of him that exists shows him holding a coiled trumpet. Have the instrument makers looked at that trumpet carefully and compared it with other existing trumpets (I hope that something from his time survived) to see if they can construct something similar? >
These 'Jäger' trumpets were not used very widely and it seems that Reiche may have held one just to get his instrument in the picture! Notice how large is the mouthpiece of this instrument!

< When Bach asks for a 'tromba' in BWV 51, it is difficult for me to imagine a horn playing this part, but now I am beginning to wonder.... >
I am not certain, Tom, but I generally think that the use of a trumpet on this part is uncontroversial. It has been suggested that Bach was aware of the arias for solo soprano, trumpet and continuo by Alessandro Scarlatti and that these works influenced BWV 51.

Anyway, I hope that this helps.

Bob Shermaro wrote:
< Just to complicate the issue further, in baroque usage "tromba" frequently referred to the 3rd trumpet or other low trumpet that would mostly play tympani-like parts confined to the major chord in the lower octave. "Clario"meant a trumpet playing the upper diatonic parts. I've always presumed, although without historical evidence, that tromba playing wasn't a separate career track but rather was done by students hoping to work up to clarino, or by older players who couldn't get the clarino stuff anymore. >
Johann Ernst Altenburg mentions in his book 'Trumpeter's and Kettledrummer's Art' that the players of 'tromba' and 'principale' parts player on natural trumpets which were subtly different from the instruments used on the clarino parts. It comes down to the thickness of the brass tube.

< Some instrument makers have gone to great effort to copy original instruments. One problem is that the intonation is really bad unless finger holes are added. >
This is not quite so. According to Bob Barclay in his book on trumpet making a well made trumpet made from beaten brass will play well in tune with practice. The stress patterns in the tube flatten the response curve and make pitch bends possible. Sadly, most natural trumpet players fall back on finger holes.

< So that is usually done, even though they're totally non-authentic, because the audience can't see them. IMO BWV 51 sounds best on a modern 3-valve F trumpet (rounder and more brilliant sound, better in tune, larger dynamic range, non-splatty attacks, etc.) >
Well, that is a matter of opinion, Bob, and I am not interested in going down that path again. Suffice to say that many young natural trumpet players using instruments without node holes can negotiate the passages of BWV 51 with no problems.

Needless to say, some modern players insist on playing on modern (four-valved) piccolo trumpets which resemble a piccolo valved trombone in timbre and bore ratio. I have sung in performances of Messiah where the first trumpeter uses a modern piccolo instrument and the instrument is always miles too loud and sounds hopelessly inadequate on the low notes. This is not a criticism of the player or any person but this instrument seems to be a very makeshift solution to Baroque trumpet parts. Perhaps a good modern trumpet in C would be preferable?

Anyway, who cares about a few slightly out of tune notes? ;-)) Bach may have expected them to colour his music! We may be too pedantic about such things!

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 25, 2001):
< Steve Guy writes: 'Corñio' (as in BWV 95) refers to the cornettino (descant cornett in C or D) also known as the Klein Diskant Zink. >
The NBA states only 'Corno' in the score. They have examined all authentic sources. What information do you have, that they were unable to obtain? Or do you look at a 'corno' part (marked that way by Bach) and decide upon which instrument to use based on actual notes in the score?

Thanks for all the other interesting information!

 

Tromba de tirarsi

Davyd wrote (March 28, 2002):
What's a tromba da tirarsi?

James E. Goodzeit wrote (April 2, 2002):
[To Davyd] It's a type of trumpet apparently in use during Bach's day. His cantata BWV 12 uses one, but that's about all I know about it.

Ken Moore wrote (April 2, 2002):
[Ato Davyd & James E. Goodzeit] Grove Concise translates this as "Slide Trumpet". There are various conjectures and arguments about the form of slide trumpets in both Renaissance and Baroque times. One opinion is that in the 18th C. a short slide would have been used to improve the tuning of the 7th, 11th and 13th notes of the series and the instrument would have resembled the natural trumpet otherwise. I don't know whether modern scholarship and current evidence still supports that, or whether Bach's part could have been played in that way.

Ned S. VanderVen wrote (April 2, 2002):
[To James E Goodzeit] "Tromba da tirarsi" is Italian for "slide trumpet". In her book, "A Survey of Musical Instruments", Sibyl Marcuse discusses the slide trumpet on pp. 805-808, and describes a 1651 trumpet in Berlin with a long mouthpiece that can be pulled out 56 cm, lowering the pitch by a third. She does not believe that this instrument is necessarily representative of all slide trumpets.

BWV 5, BWV 20, and BWV 77 are scored for 'tromba da tirarsi'; for BWV 46 the specification is for 'tromba o corno da tirarsi'; BWV 67 and BWV 162 are scored for the 'corno da tirarsi'. Because there are, apparently, no surviving examples of the corno da tirarsi, it is impossible to describe it precisely. Some think that it was basically a slide trumpet whose mouthpiece was modified to make its sound more "hornlike."

All the references I have indicate that BWV 12 is scored just for 'tromba" and not for 'tromba da tirarsi'.

James E Goodzeit wrote (April 2, 2002):
[To Ned VanderVen] Thanks for the info! As for BWV 12, that's what the liner notes for the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt cycle have for the instrument.

BTW, I noticed your address is from CMU: do you know Zachary Uram? He's been a regular here for a very long time, but now it seems he's dissappeared off the face of Usenet. I wish him well (as I'm sure we all do) wherever he may be!

Ioanis wrote (April 2, 2002):
[To James E. Goodzeit] Maybe he graduated from college. He's been here long enough to warrant a full 4 year study curiculum.

 

Clarinets substituting for trumpets in Bach…

Thomas Braatz wrote:
In the 19th century an edition of BWV 1068 appeared that specifies that it was dedicated to the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. The edition states that includes parts for "Die Clarinetten und die drei Trompeten aus den für die jetzigen Instrumente nicht
ausführbaren Bachschen Trompeten für die Aufführungen im Gewandhaus zu Leipzig arrangiert von
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy." ["The clarinet parts and the trumpet parts arranged in order to make the unplayable Bach trumpet parts playable for modern-day instruments. These parts were arranged by Mendelssohn for performances at the Leipzig Gewandhaus."] For the Gigue section Mendelssohn transcribed the 1st trumpet part for 2 C-clarinets, otherwise the clarinets (or modern trumpets) play parts that Mendelssohn transposed downwards.

Now try to imagine the sound of clarinets or transposed trumpet parts! Perhaps some of the older recordings being discussed here actually used this edition to play from?

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 29, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] Clarinets substituting for trumpets in Bach? Apart from Mendelssohn's arrangement we had a brief discussion of this here last summer, July 1 2001....

My complaint about a too-loud trumpet in a local performance of cantata BWV 77:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/1676

Tom citing Voigt and Schweitzer:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/1677

More musing by me:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/1679

Bob saying more about the piccolo trumpet:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/1689

------

I've had the following paragraphs on the front page of my web site for half a year:

"Unconventional Idea #37: Why don't they use clarinets in Baroque music, in situations where the rest of the orchestra is modern instruments anyway? Clarinets were designed (in part) to play the difficult "clarino" (natural trumpet) parts, and produce a similar tone and amount of sound in that r. So, why is there the separate invention of the too-loud and too-dominating "Bach trumpet" to play those clarino parts, when (as Albert Schweitzer knew) clarinets would do just fine? Is this just a matter of "thinking outside the box"?

"I do like trumpets; I just don't think they should be the only instrument considered for clarino parts in situations where neither a natural trumpet nor a cornetto is available. After all, a natural trumpet and the modern valved trumpet are entirely different instruments, like the difference between a traverso and a metal flute, or a harpsichord and a piano. Shouldn't the primary consideration be to get the kind of balances the composer wanted, along with a close approximation of the timbre? - BPL, 2/02/02"

(Maybe I'll amend that to include this Mendelssohn reference as well? I didn't know about it previously....)

Teri Noel Towe wrote (August 31, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] Both Pablo Casals and Otto Klemperer, in their first recordings of the 2nd Brandenburg employed the services of the remarkable Marcel Mule to play the clarino part on a soprano saxophone. It sounds remarkably like a clarino, and, if you know Meyerbeer's letter to Adolphe Saxe about what "modern" instrument could be devised to play that clarino part, the use of the soprano saxophone takes on a certain irony. {:-{)}

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 31, 2002):
[To Teri Noel Towe] Yes, I have that ancient Casals/Prades LP wherein M Mule plays the sax. And it's delightful! Is this the fastest Brandenburg 2 on record? It's the fastest I've ever heard....

And, if my memory serves (from reading the book, long ago), Leonard Bernstein used this recording as an example in one of his Harvard lectures. I don't remember the context, though.

I've read about those early Klemperer performances (in his biography); another of my heroes.

Robert Sherman wrote (August 31, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] I hadn't planned to get involved in this debate again, but since it has been raised, there are some points that should be made from a musical, as opposed to antiquarian, perspective:

1) To say "I went to a concert where the piccolo trumpet was too loud, therefore piccolo trumpets shouldn't be used" is like saying "I went to a concert where the soprano was sharp, therefore sopranos shouldn't be used." There are bad players and bad performances on any instrument you can name, but that's not a basis for condemning the instrument in general.

2) With one single exception (Ed Tarr's Brandenburg with Harnoncourt) every natural-trumpet performance or recording I've heard has been characterized by crude splatty attacks, bad intonation, dull tone, uneven scale, small dynamic range, and/or lack of intensity in loud parts. The very best natural-trumpet performances approach a level that would be considered adequate for a piccolo trumpet. They never approach the level of the best piccolo trumpet performances. If it were not for their antiquarian value, nobody would be using natural trumpets and we wouldn't be having this discussion. My antipathy to natural trumpets is based on the way they sound, period.

3) To say Schweitzer "knew" clarinets could do just fine in place of piccolo trumpets is pure fabrication. Schweitzer knew nothing about the modern piccolo trumpet, because it wasn't invented (by Selmer/Paris) until the late 1960s. Before that, while there were occasional fine baroque trumpet performances using D trumpets (e.g. George Eskdale on Scherchen's 1954 Messiah), in most cases baroque trumpeting was a problem without a solution -- as it undoubtedly was for JSB himself.

4) In modern trumpet playing there is, to be sure, a frequent obsession with playing loud as proof of one's virility. But there is also no shortage of piccolo trumpet players happy and able to match the level of a delicate soprano or a small choir -- and to do it in tune, with clean attacks, radiant baroque-appropriate sound, and large dynamic range when needed.

Teri Noel Towe wrote (August 31, 2002):
< Bradley Lehman wrote: Yes, I have that ancient Casals/Prades LP wherein M Mule plays the sax. And it's delightful! Is this the fastest Brandenburg 2 on record? It's the fastest I've ever heard.... >
Don Pablo's two recordings of BWV 1047, the first from Prades in 1950 and the second from Marlboro ca. 1965, are both "lickety split" and undoubtedly the fastest ever recording.

When I first sat down and talked with him, in 1967, 3 days after my 19th birthday, I had the temerity to ask him about those tempi. He told me that he chose those tempi because the movements reminded him of a kermesse, a carnival.

The tempi in the Klemperer recording, which appeared on Vox, are more "mainstream".

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 31, 2002):
[To Robert Sherman] My reactions to your points below:

1. Point taken. But I think you were misreading my intent; see below.

2. My own enjoyment of natural trumpets is based on the way they sound, period. Musically. I like the musical sound they make. Ditto for cornetti. Those sounds move me. It has nothing to do with antiquarianism. They make a wonderful sound and an effective blend in music I care about. Frankly I find it insulting to be told that my enjoyment of this is "antiquarian" in any way.

3. Where did I say that Albert Schweitzer knew piccolo trumpets? I merely said that he knew clarinets would work.

4. Agreed. I'm in a professional duo with a terrific player of modern trumpet, and he plays them all: the regular trumpets in various keys, and piccolo trumpet, and Fluegelhorn. (We have some concert samples at http://www.mp3.com/hlduo ) Some players can produce appropriate sound, yes, obviously. It's their job to do so, and they do.

The point of my posting, though, was something else. Namely: I think it's strange that anyone had to go and invent a new instrument in the 1960s to play music that has been around for centuries. One could (and should?) make the same argument against the clarinet, of course: this earlier modernized solution to the difficult trumpet parts is now out of fashion or otherwise "not good enough", and its younger cousin the saxophone is also out of fashion for that role, so the next step was to invent yet another new instrument, the piccolo trumpet. The thing I'm questioning here, my broadest point, is the underlying assumption that newest is always best. How many new instruments have to be invented every few generations in the quest of playing those old parts "better" than the original instruments can play them?

I suspect (and could be wrong) that plenty of conductors of modern-instrument groups now think of the piccolo trumpet as the only viable solution for Bach's difficult trumpet parts. It's a good solution, yes, but not the only solution. Why can't we think
outside of that boxed assumption that newest is best? Why don't they at least give the clarinets a fair musical try? Mendelssohn and Schweitzer and their colleagues did, and they were respectable musicians. When a part says "clarino" there are other options than automatically bringing in a piccolo trumpet; let's give them all a fair audition. That's all I'm asking.

To paraphrase you and make a point that is just as valid as your point is: "There is no shortage of clarinet players happy and able to match the level of a delicate soprano or a small choir -- and to do it in tune, with clean attacks, radiant baroque-appropriate sound, and large dynamic range when needed." Musically, I'd like to hear these opportunities. It has nothing to do with antiquarianism or any other "ism." I think clarinets could sound fantastic in the music I care about, and would like to hear them given the opportunity to do so in serious venues, not only the novelty Richard Stoltzman albums. (He does play Perotin beautifully....)

Robert Sherman wrote (September 1, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] Your main point (after the four numbers) is interesting, although I admit I never thought of it as "inventing a new instrument in the 1960s to play music that has been around for centuries."

But why not? If a new instrument can be invented that sounds better than the exisinstruments in a particular style, isn't that just better music-making? And what can be wrong with that? I would never suggest that "newest is best." I don't care about that. Best is best. And of course what is best is in many respects a matter of individual taste and opinion.

As a matter of history, the piccolo trumpet wasn't invented because clarinets or saxophones were out of fashion for baroque music. It was invented in the early 20c not to play higher (Maynard Ferguson et al play miles above Bach's highest, and do it on regular Bb trumpets) but to play high and clean at the same time, which baroque requires but Big Band doesn't. Trumpet players were being hired to play the baroque stuff, and using the D trumpets of the time led to an embarrassing number of missed notes. The early piccs, mostly European junkpieces, cleaned that up but they sounded rather hideous: Thin nasal tone, small dynamic range, and badly out of tune.

So technically, the Selmer picc (now surpassed by Schilke and others) wasn't a new instrument, it was a better version of an existing instrument. It was in tune and, at least in Maurice Andre's hands, it had a marvelous tone -- more compact than a D trumpet but still with ringing upper partials.

You are right, in the sense that it was a new sound. Bach never heard it. For my part, I find it perfect for baroque, far superior to any of the original or modern alternatives. Serendipity happens.

Finally, in response to your turning back on me my description of the picc sound and applying it to clarinet: You're mostly correct, except that --

1) A clarinet can't approach the volume of a piccolo trumpet. Consider the Dona Nobis from the bm, where the trumpet is expected to function as an additional voice in the choir, soaring above everything to build Bach's ultimate castle in the sky. With a medium-sized high-quality choir, you'd never hear the clarinet. (You usually don't hear the natural trumpets there either, for the same reason).

2. True, a clarinet can play all the notes, and do it softly enough. But it doesn't have the pointed attack-decay characteristic these parts need. As I suggested earlier, in a pinch I could see using an oboe, or maybe a flute, or maybe even a bassoon. But a clarinet would bring a very non-baroque texture to the music.

3. This is a matter of taste and I have nothing against clarinets in general, but IMO the heroic, ringing sound of a picc trumpet is appropriate to baroque trumpet parts while the clarinet sound is not. It's as if you were forced to play Brandenburg 5 on a Hammond organ.

All that being said, if somebody wants to experiment with using clarinets in the bm, sure, why not. I just ask that the evaluation of the experiment be on the basis of music and sound, rather than history and scholarship.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 1, 2002):
[To Robert Sherman] Some more grist for this clarinet mill:

- A good clarinetist can produce more variety of attack, decay, volume, and tone than a player of any other wind instrument. Try Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time" where the clarinet is required to simulate birdsong, and then elsewhere in the piece it's emulating the trumpets of the Apocalypse. A clarinet can produce a "pointed attack-decay characteristic" similar to any trumpet (ancient or modern) because it's such a flexible instrument; this only requires the player to have the desired sound in his/her ear plus the "chops" to play it, like any other professional musician. Klezmer clarinetist Giora Feidman puts some very pointed attacks into his music....

- A clarinet has no trouble dominating an ensemble when required to. Examples: the terrifying first movement of Nielsen's Fifth Symphony; the clarinet concertos by Weber and Nielsen; the big bands of Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Woody Herman. Listening to that music I don't think the clarinet lacks anything in the "heroic" and "ringing" departments.

- If clarinets don't seem "Baroque" to us, it could be merely a lack of our familiarity. The Viennese of 1705-20 heard chalumeaux regularly in the opera house, playing in Italian operas by Fux, Bononcini, Caldara, and Conti. Graupner, Vivaldi, and Telemann wrote concertos and chamber music for chalumeaux. Music explicitly for clarinet exists from about 1715-18 (including some by Vivaldi). And Denner was working on the clarinet (basically a chalumeau with extended range) as early as the 1690s.

http://www3.niu.edu/music/barrett/Cl_history_surrounding_cl.htm

http://oak.cc.conncoll.edu/~kawil/scholarlywork/clarinet/clarinet2.html

-----

As an aside, that quip about "Brandenburg 5 on a Hammond organ" calls to mind a review I read in Opus magazine twenty years ago. The writer was comparing the proportional length of Brandenburg 5's harpsichord cadenza with the organ solo in "Light My Fire" by The Doors.

Juozas Rimas wrote (September 1, 2002):
< - A good clarinetist can produce more variety of attack, decay, >volume, and tone than a player of any other wind instrument. >
LOL, every woodwind player would say that about his instrument. Sure, such wind brass instruments as the trombone aren't variable for physical reasons but comparing the variety of attack/decay/volume in woodwinds is a futile matter because it depends almost entirely on the performer.

Nevertheless, two woodwind instruments are used more extensively for solos in classical music than others - the flute and the oboe. Indirectly, it shows that the variety they're capable of is bigger than that of other woodwinds (and other wind instruments).

 

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