The Art of the Trumpet-Maker: The Materials, Tools, and Techniques of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries in Nuremberg

By Oades, Robert | Canadian University Music Review, January 1, 1993 | Go to article overview

The Art of the Trumpet-Maker: The Materials, Tools, and Techniques of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries in Nuremberg


Oades, Robert, Canadian University Music Review


Robert Barclay. The Art of the Trumpet-Maker: The Materials, Tools, and Techniques of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries in Nuremberg. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. 186 p., 167 figures. ISBN 0-19-816223-5.

This book is the fourteenth in the Early Music Series published by Oxford University Press and is a study of the manufacture of brass instruments in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, particularly in Nuremberg where many of the finest instruments were made.

Much has been written on the music of this period in history, considered by many to be the Golden Age of music for trumpet, but until now little has been written on the art of the manufacturers of these instruments. As a result of the author's research we now have a wealth of information about the methods and workshop practices of baroque trumpet making. Robert Barclay has made a careful study of instruments in museums, mostly in Europe, and has spent a great deal of time reading available texts on brass instrument making of that period. His book is a fascinating compendium of information on the many aspects of brass instrument manufacture of the baroque period.

The book is beautifully produced with a very readable text containing some 107 illustrations and photographs of outstanding clarity; many of the photographs arehis own and give specific detail on certain techniques. There are seven chapters in all covering the History, Metal, Solders and Fluxes, Workshop, Techniques, and finally, a chapter in which the author considers the ethics of modern practices in the performance of the natural trumpet. Although there are many recordings of groups and orchestras performing on original instruments, or modern replicas, it is rare that an original trumpet has been used, or indeed an exact replica. Most of the available recordings of early trumpet music have been made using a trumpet of the required length, but with the inclusion of finger holes drilled at anti-nodal points. These holes, sometimes as many as three or four, assist the performer to overcome the awkward, out-of-tune harmonics and help ease the problems of pitch and attack. Trumpet players of today begin their studies on a fully chromatic instrument; it is difficult to come to terms with the natural trumpet with its intonation idiosyncrasies and pitch problems without a great deal of patience and devoted practice. Robert Barclay states a simple concept - one should use the correct equipment because that was the way it was done originally. He has an apt comment regarding the use of modern replica baroque trumpets with anti-nodal finger holes: "I make trumpets with two holes, a small one at one end, into which one blows, and a large one at the other end, out of which the sound comes."

Robert Barclay has established himself as one of the few craftsmen who make natural trumpets using the methods of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. His instruments are being used by the few trumpet players who have mastered the difficulties and by their recorded performances have provided examples of the unique sounds of the baroque trumpet. …

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