Fanfares and Finesse: A Performer's Guide to Trumpet History and Literature

Fanfares and Finesse: A Performer's Guide to Trumpet History and Literature

Fanfares and Finesse: A Performer's Guide to Trumpet History and Literature

Fanfares and Finesse: A Performer's Guide to Trumpet History and Literature


Unlike the violin, which has flourished largely unchanged for close to four centuries, the trumpet has endured numerous changes in design and social status from the battlefield to the bandstand and ultimately to the concert hall. This colorful past is reflected in the arsenal of instruments a classical trumpeter employs during a performance, sometimes using no fewer than five in different keys and configurations to accurately reproduce music from the past. With the rise in historically inspired performances comes the necessity for trumpeters to know more about their instrument's heritage, its repertoire, and different performance practices for old music on new and period-specific instruments. More than just a history of the trumpet, this essential reference book is a comprehensive guide for musicians who bring that musical history to life.


Few instruments have endured the lengthy evolution of the trumpet. the violin has remained essentially the same since the seventeenth century, as has the piano since the middle of the nineteenth. Even the flute and the clarinet have enjoyed a relatively stable existence for the past two hundred years. However, the trumpet, in its current form, was not standardized until the middle of the twentieth century. Before that time, composers scored their music for a colorful menagerie of different trumpets of all sizes—with or without valves—as well as trumpetlike instruments (the keyed bugle, the cornet, the flugelhorn) and downright imposters (the cornett, or cornetto) (figure 1.1).

In other words, when trumpeters perform any music written before 1930, they need to realize that the composer possibly had an instrument in mind that was radically different from our familiar valved trumpet in B-flat or C. Thus, trumpeters today are forced to transpose, translate, and otherwise decode the music they perform, and this book is designed to help. This is not a history of the trumpet but rather a guidebook for those who have to put that history into practice. It is also intended to introduce techniques and issues related to playing period instruments for those who may be interested in trying them out. Playing the natural trumpet is a revelatory experience that changes the way modern trumpeters approach their instrument as well as the music composed for it.

The trumpet has always enjoyed a prominent position by virtue of its regal associations and demanding presence, but in terms of repertoire, there are notable gaps. For example, no major composer wrote a concerto for the trumpet after Joseph Haydn in 1796. of course, Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s delightful concerto was written seven years after Haydn’s, but nobody would accuse him of being a major composer today. Also, the keyed trumpet, for which both concerti were written, was considered something of a novelty. It is useful to reflect on the solo brass writing of Hummel’s teacher, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, to shed some light on this situation.

Mozart’s favorite brass instrument was undoubtedly the horn. He favored the horn with four major concerti and several fine chamber compositions. One of Mozart’s best friends was a horn player, Joseph Leutgeb, for whom he wrote most . . .

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