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8.557610 - VIRTUOSO TIMPANI CONCERTOS
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VIRTUOSO TIMPANI CONCERTOS

André Philidor (c.1647-1730) and Jacques Philidor (1657-1708): Marche de Timbales

Johann Carl Christian Fischer (1752-1807): Symphony with Eight Obbligato Timpani

Johann Melchior Molter (1696-1765): Sinfonia No. 99 in F major

Johann Christoph Graupner (1683-1760): Sinfonia

Georg Druschetzky (1745-1819): Concerto for Six Timpani and Orchestra • Partita in C major

The earliest references in European literature to kettledrums appear in accounts of the crusaders confronting Moslem armies. For example, in his Life of Saint Louis, Jean de Joinville describes meeting the armies of the Sultan of Cairo at the Egyptian coastal city of Damietta in the spring of 1248: “It was a sight to enchant the eye, for the sultan’s arms were all of gold, and where the sun caught them they shone resplendent. The din this army made with its kettledrums and Saracen horns was terrifying to hear” (Joinville & Villehardouin, Chronicles of the Crusades, trans. M. R. B. Shaw [Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1963], 201).

The persistent conflicts between the Ottoman empire and western Europeans led to the adoption of large Turkish-style kettledrums (kus) into western military music. Large kettledrums were the prerogatives of the Ottoman sultan’s elite military or Janissary guard. In battle, capturing the Turkish kettledrums was a source of pride. By the early fifteenth century western nobles were entitled to employ military kettledrums and trumpets. Even cities could obtain this right. For example, in 1426 the Emperor Sigismund established the privilege of having town city trumpeters and kettle drummers in Augsburg.

The musicians had to be guild members and served apprenticeships of up to six years. These guilds persisted well into the late eighteenth century. Johann Ernst Altenberg’s Versuch einer Anleitung zur heroischmusikalischen Trompeter- und Pauker- Kunst (Halle, 1795) details some practices. Instructive for the timpanist is the last chapter in which he discusses some Schlagmanieren or types of beatings required of the military timpanist.

The pairing of the drums stems from their military use as instruments played while mounted on horseback and normally a noble might have but one pair. Altenberg tells us that on festival or special occasions more than the normal pair of timpani could be used. He says that several timpani of varying sizes and pitches (he infers as many as eight) could be placed in a semicircular arrangement for more comfortable performance. He cites Johann Reichardt’s 1786 Cantus lugubris in orbitum Friderici Magni borussorum regis (Cantata on the death of Frederick the Great) in which four timpani are needed to play in quick succession the pitches G A flat c and d flat. Earlier in the text when mentioning famous contemporary trumpeters and timpanists, he cites Georg Druschetzky, composer of two works presented on this recording. The other works recorded no doubt also have their origins in court ceremonies or entertainments.

Virtuoso timpanists from the eighteenth century or early nineteenth centuries are not easy to identify. Georg Roth, a Nuremberg timpani virtuoso, gave a concert at the Kärntnertor Theater in Vienna on 29th April 1798. The concert advertisement shows him performing on sixteen timpani with three sticks in each hand. In the earliest timpani tutor, Georges Kastner’s 1845 Méthode complète et raisonée de timbales he cites an early 19thcentury timpanist from Berlin who played a concerto on ten timpani and juggled his sticks in the air as he ran from drum to drum. Kastner also says that “the German timpanists were, overall, very famous” and draws particular attention to a celebrated timpanist from Strasbourg called Willig, who “had a superb costume and a big salary.”

The works on this recording present some interesting differences from the normal eighteenthcentury usage of two timpani with two trumpets in which the timpani play the tonic and dominant notes of the key. These avant-garde attempts to use more than two pitches to reinforce the harmonic or melodic structure of the music are paralleled in more recent works using pedal mechanisms developed in the midnineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The timpani of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were much smaller in diameter than those in normal use today. The typical pair often measured about eighteen and twenty-one inches in diameter, with a shallow depth of about twelve to fifteen inches. The slackness of the thick calf or goat-skin heads played by very hard sticks gave a different sound, less resonant and generally softer in dynamic impact that what is heard today. The larger size of our modern timpani (the largest drums in common use measure 32 inches in diameter) thus create some different problems for the modern timpanist who attempts to play the multiple timpani works. Alexander Peter performs on eighteenthcentury style drums mounted with goat-skin heads and played upon with wooden sticks. Note the varying tone colours he produces within these simple parameters.

This recording presents several styles of music for more than two timpani. The phrase “multiple timpani” music aptly describes it. The duet by the Philidor brothers typifies the older semi-improvised style used by military drummers. The works by Molter and Graupner are elegant symphonic examples of court music in which the timpanist enhances the bass, Fischer continues in this tradition but includes more soloistic passages, and Druschetzky displays the virtuosic capabilities inferred by Altenberg and articulated by Kastner.

Scattered throughout the seventeenth century are references to the use of the timpani in military music, but the most consistent use of the instruments in other contexts dates from the latter part of that century in manuscripts preserved in Germany and France. The best-known of these documents are several manuscripts copied by André and Jacques Philidor, musicians and music librarians at the court of Louis XIV at Versailles.

The Philidor brothers wrote the Marche de timballes 4 for Louis XIV’s 1685 carousel. The work is a duet with two pairs of drums tuned G and c and e and g respectively. An initial motive unifies the seventeen couplets. Homorhythmic sections contrast with syncopated and imitative passages. The final couplet is a virtuosic tour de force. Alexander Peter adds again a level of virtuosity to this work by performing both parts simultaneously.

For nearly two hundred years the Symphonie mit acht obligaten Pauken 5-7 was thought to be by Johann Wilhelm Hertel (1727-1789) since it is bound with his other symphonies. In his 1977 Ph.D. dissertation at the Wilhelm-Pieck University in Rostock, Studien über das Musikschaffen Johann Christian und Johann Wilhelm Hertels, Reinhard Diekow conclusively determined on stylistic grounds that the work is not by Hertel but Johann Carl Christian Fischer (1752-1807), a music copyist, musician, and theatre director at the Ludwigslust Palace near Schwerin in the employ of Herzog Friedrich Franz I. Most likely Fischer wrote the Sinfonia that requires four pairs of timpani, two trumpets, two oboes, and strings for an entertainment held in the beautifully decorated main ballroom, der goldene Saal, probably in the 1780s or before his retirement in 1792. The music is in Fischer’s hand notated on paper from the late eighteenth century; no composer is indicated. The work in C major is the first known concerto for the timpani and features a writtenout cadenza at the end of the first movement. The eight timpani are tuned G A B c d e f and g. Leipzig born, Johann Georg Hoese (d. 1801), court timpanist and musician at Ludwigslust (1747-1800), may be the soloist for whom Fischer wrote this concerto.

The first movement, a loosely constructed concerto form, contrasts florid solo timpani passages, often using Alberti-bass patterns with tutti sections in which the trumpets and drums sound the tonic and dominant notes. Fischer also uses the timpani melodically, alone or doubling the oboes. A short Adagio provides a link to the Allegretto third movement, a rondo with contrasting sections in Gypsy and military styles.

Johann Melchior Molter (1696-1765) had a long career associated primarily with the court in Karlsruhe, where he died in 1765. In 1742 he was given charge of the court orchestra for which he wrote many works. In 1747 Margrave Carl Friedrich gave Molter responsibility to reorganize the court’s music where he had an orchestra of about 25 musicians. Influenced by the Mannheim school, the orchestra performed a variety of music. Molter wrote many works that featured the virtuoso players of the ensemble. His symphonic music exhibits an interest in sonority and acoustical and technical possibilities. His Sinfonia No. 99 in F Major 8-12, written around 1750, uses five timpani (F G A B flat and c), two flutes (originally in D, the so-called terz or third flute), oboe, two clarini, strings, and cembalo.

Molter’s music abounds in colourful timbres. For example, he contrasts the opening tutti with a soft passage for flutes and timpani. The clarini add a noble and majestic brilliance. The timpani generally reinforce the bass line, but often add soloistic flourishes. The Sinfonia begins with an Allegro movement in binary form followed by four other similarly structured movements: an Andante with solo flutes, timpani, and strings, a Presto in the style of a bourée, a gigue-like Allegro, and a concluding Minuet. Each of these movements is full of unique and colourful passages. Indeed, timbre becomes a structural element in his music. Very few of Molter’s works are edited and available for modern performance. He wrote some 170 sinfonias, many concertos for various instruments, much chamber music, and several solos for wind instruments.

Another mid-eighteenth century work, also in F major, using multiple timpani is Darmstadt court composer Johann Christoph Graupner’s (1683-1760) Sinfonia a 2 corni, timpani, 2 violini, viola, e cembalo 13-18 that was probably written in 1746 or 1747. In his youth Graupner was a music copyist and his scores evidence a clean appearance. Contemporaries mentioned his manuscript as comparable to music engraving in quality. His symphonic output is vast, some 113 symphonies, over half being hybrid forms between the symphony and suite. In fact, Graupner uses four timpani in 35 of his symphonies and five in one other. The work here recorded uses six and is more of a suite. It begins, as does the one by Molter, with an opening vivace movement in binary form in the French style. Then follow five short movements also in binary form: aria, minuet, bourée, aria, and gigue. Graupner unifies the entire work by having each movement in the same key: F major, appropriate to the pastoral effect that the work evokes.

The timpani part generally ornaments the bass line. The six drums are tuned to F G A B-flat c and d. The smaller eighteenth-century styled drums and hard wooden sticks achieve a clarity not so easily realised on the larger modern timpani. Note particularly, however, how the timpani effectively blend with the strings and high horns, a different type of sonority than that of the more usual trumpet and timpani timbre.

Of the virtuoso timpanists identified in the late eighteenth century, the most important as a composer of several works, perhaps written for himself as soloist, is Georg Druschetzky (1745-1819). Druschetzky was a military musician and timpanist in Linz (1775-1783). After the military reforms of 1783, he moved to Vienna and soon became a member of the Tonkünstler-Sozietät. In 1786 or 1787 he left Vienna to enter the service of Count Anton Grassalkovics in Pressburg (Bratislava) until 1790. Between 1791 and 1800 he was in the service of Cardinal József Batthyány, at first in Pressburg, then in Pest. After the Cardinal’s death in 1800, Archduke Joseph Anton Johann employed Druschetzky as an oboist and composer in Buda until his death in 1819.

While working for Cardinal Batthyány at his country palace in Rechnitz, Druschetzky wrote several compositions that require six to eight timpani. A surviving inventory of the Cardinal’s music and musical instruments lists among many instruments, seven timpani. Much of Druschetzky’s music is now in the Hungarian National Library in Budapest and remains unpublished. Extant from the 1790s are two concerti, one for orchestra in C major: the other for winds or Harmoniemusik in B flat major, and an orchestral Partita in C in major, each work requires six diatonically tuned timpani. Ungaria, a work for solo violin and orchestra, dated in the score 1799, a Polonaise with Variations, and a Grand Symphony in C major, dated 1799, each call for seven timpani tuned G A B c d e and f. Also an oboist, Druschetzky’s Concerto per il oboa e timpano exhibits many difficult timpani techniques (the work requires eight timpani tuned similarly to the Fischer), including rolls, beating on two drums simultaneously, and many cross stickings.

Characteristic of Druschetzky’s approach to writing for multiple timpani is his consistent use of the timpani primarily as a melodic instrument, often doubling the woodwinds or high strings. His Concerto for Six Timpani and Orchestra 1-3 nicely illustrates his style. He wrote this C major work in the late1790s. It has the usual three movements, but in making a modern scholarly/performing edition several problems confronted me: first, a score version exists in which the first movement is contracted by eliminating echoing passages for woodwinds and strings; second, a set of parts for the first movement survives that was made in 1932 for a performance of this movement (a trumpet part is dated November 1932); and third, a complete set of original orchestral parts is preserved. I made the edition used for this recording from the orchestral parts because they were more consistent with Druschetzky’s other works and because the expanded first movement is more musically satisfying. Although the title page of the timpani part indicates a concerto for timpani and cimbalom, no cimbalom part is extant or indicated in any of the scores. This movement also contains a written-out cadenza, in fact two versions are extant besides a modern one written in 1932. In this performance Alexander Peter uses these materials as the basis for his cadenza.

The second movement is a contrasting Andante with the melody played in unison with the strings or woodwinds. The third movement is a series of variations in which the timpani play a highly ornamented melodic part. When taken allegro the virtuosic nature of the part is apparent. The rondo-like quality unifies the main subject and the variations; note that the timpanist must play almost continually throughout the movement.

Druschetzky’s delightful Partita in C major 19-22, scored for flute, two oboes, two horns, two trumpets, and strings, begins with a short orchestral introduction based on the movement’s main melodic material, a triplet figure. Within the limitations of the six notes (G A B c d and e) Druschetzky holds the listener’s attention in this Allegro con moto movement through timbral and dynamic contrasts and solo flourishes. Note how the timpani sounding two octaves below the flute and violins articulate the primary tune. To enhance the variety within the movement Druschetzky uses Albertibass patterns, a brief shift to the A minor, the relative minor key to C major, and in the concluding few measures strong and simple harmonic emphasis, ending with a virtuoso flourish. Next follows an elegant Minuet and Trio. The regular phrasing, so typical of Druschetzky’s style, allows for delicate contrasts between the full ensemble and timpani and the solo flute. In the Trio the flute and timpani double the melody three octaves apart. The Adagio, a roundedbinary structure influenced by the French overture style, features staccato and embellished doubled-dotted figures. The concluding rollicking Rondo: Allegro con molto contains the stylistic traits already cited, note especially the extended gypsy-influenced A minor passage in which the timpani and flute and first violin echo each other. Druschetzky also allows the timpanist opportunity for two short cadenzas. Alexander Peter’s virtuosic performance brings new life this and the other works presented on this recording.

Harrison Powley


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