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The Art of the Baroque Trumpet, Vol. 4
Virtuoso Trumpet Concertos

Little is known about the early life of Joseph Arnold Gross. He was born in 1701 and died in either 1783 or 1784. In 1739 he was appointed Kurfürstlicher Hof-trompeter (Electoral Court Trumpeter) in Munich. Like another famous trumpeter – Schachtner, the friend of the Mozart family – Gross was also an excellent violinist. In 1746 he was granted an increase in pay under the condition that he serve as Konzertmeister in ballet performances. A year later he was appointed Spielgraf, with the job of co-ordinating the activities of itinerant musicians in Bavaria, his area of jurisdiction. Such musicians were required to be licensed in order to play for weddings, fairs, and other festivities – and the fees for these licenses were a welcome source of extra income for those court trumpeters, including Gross, who occupied the position of Spielgraf until it was abolished in 1775.

Among the works which Gross is said to have composed are two hundred Aufzüge (processional fanfares) and the present Trumpet Concerto in D major, which survives today in two original sets of manuscript parts located in libraries in Regensburg and Washington, D.C. From the pre-Classical style of this concerto, as well as others by Riepel and F.X. Richter presumably written for Gross, all utilising the highest register of the trumpet, it can be deduced that Gross must have been an exceptionally gifted trumpeter. The present concerto possesses a light, entertaining but not superficial style, which quite sets it apart from contemporary works for trumpet. It serves beautifully as a kind of aperitif to the weightier compositions of this recording which follow.

Johann Michael Haydn, the younger brother of Joseph Haydn, served two Salzburg archbishops for more than forty years as organist and composer starting in 1762. He was of a more retiring nature than either his brother or Mozart, but was nevertheless highly respected by his contemporaries. Towards the end of his life he was even made a member of the Swedish Academy of Music. When years later Franz Schubert visited Haydn's grave, he proclaimed, 'May your calm spirit be with me, good Haydn, and though I cannot be as calm and clear as you were, no one on earth venerates you more sincerely than I do.'

Michael Haydn's Trumpet Concerto No. 2 in C major, which seems to date from the composer's early years in Salzburg, has only two movements. Two other trumpet concertos which share this feature – Haydn's own No. 1 and Leopold Mozart's, both in D – were originally parts of serenades. Thus this particular work, too, may have been part of a serenade. It is also possible, however, that it was sounded during Mass, for it was customary in Austria to celebrate Mass in a most lavish manner, with instrumental sonatas or concertos between the Epistle and the Gospel, until such excesses were abolished by the reforms of Joseph II, following the death of Maria Theresia in 1780.

Whatever its origin, this particular concerto is one of the most difficult in the entire repertory. Not only does it ascend frequently to e’” above high c’” and once even to f’”, it also has long melodic passages, beautiful but taxing to the performer, as well as daring leaps, especially in the second movement. The original performer may have been the Salzburg court trumpeter J.B. Resenberger, about whom Leopold Mozart once wrote, '[he] is an excellent trumpeter especially renowned for his high register, the extraordinary purity of his sound, the quickness of his runs, and his fine trills.' All these qualities are necessary for the execution of this concerto. With two demanding cadenzas of his own, Eklund has even added to the work's virtuosity.

Like the younger Haydn, Johann Melchior Molter was attached to one court all his life, with the exception of a period of political unrest (1733-42), during which time he served at the court of Eisenach. He became a violinist at the court of Margrave Carl Wilhelm of Baden-Durlach in 1717; two years later the residence moved to Karlsruhe. On full pay, Molter was twice sent by his employer on long study trips to Italy; the first period between 1719 and 1721, after which he was appointed Hofkapellmeister, the second from 1737 to 1738. During his first Karlsruhe period he composed many cantatas and oratorios, most of which have been lost. His instrumental output, however, has survived. It includes much chamber music and nearly fifty concertos for various instruments, including nineteen for flute, six each for violin and clarinet, five for oboe and three for the trumpet. If Molter was influenced in his early period by central German cantors and their polyphony, as well as Vivaldi, his later works do not deny the influence of the Mannheim school.

Molter's three trumpet concertos seem to have been composed in rapid succession around 1750 for the court trumpeter Carl Pfeiffer, who is known to have served between 1738 and 1763. Of the three, it is the Concerto No. 2 in D major, a work in the style gallant, that stands out by virtue of the singing quality of the melodic material found in its first two movements. Here frequent semiquaver triplets betray the work's florid style, between high baroque and pre-classical; sustained passages in the high register probably made it diverting for the Margrave, but fiendishly difficult for his soloist. As with other of Molter's concertos, the vivacious, entertaining third movement in AABB form is rather brief, the solo instrument now functioning as primus inter pares.

Johann Wilhelm Hertel was a modest, industrious musician faithfully serving as Kapellmeister at the north German courts of Strelitz (1744-53) and Schwerin (from 1754). His compositions link him with the Berlin school of the Bendas, the Grauns, C.P.E. Bach and Quantz. In 1790 the lexicographer Gerber rated him zu unseren geschmackvollsten Komponisten (among our most tasteful composers).

Although the second and third of Hertel's three trumpet concertos were composed for the Saxon trumpeter Johann Georg Hoese or Hese (1727-1801), who received his court position in Schwerin in 1747, the Double Concerto in E flat for Trumpet and Oboe seems to date from around 1748, during Hertel's Strelitz period. Both solo instruments are treated as equals, with the natural trumpet's lower register furnishing the outer movements with their thematic material; otherwise the high register, as usual, provides the instrument's main field of activity. The trumpet is silent in the middle movement, a charming, aptly named Arioso for oboe. The work's transparent structure results from the fact that the string accompaniment rarely exceeds three parts: either the two violins run in unison and the viola is independent of the bass, or the violins are divided and the bass is doubled by the viola part. Such a structure is often to be found in works of the Berlin school.

Georg Philipp Telemann was the most prolific composer of his generation. He wrote more than a thousand cantatas in at least 31 yearly cycles (as opposed to J.S. Bach's approximately three hundred cantatas in four or five cycles), 46 passions, twelve masses, more than twenty operas, and countless instrumental works. His principal positions were Municipal Music Director in Frankfurt (1712-21) and Music Director of the five main churches in Hamburg (from 1721). Stylistically, he strove for accessibility and clarity and in some respects can be seen as a precursor of musical Classicism.

The elegant Trumpet Concerto No. 2, in which the customary strings are replaced by woodwind instruments, seems to have been written around 1730. At least the surviving manuscript parts, sent by the composer to Dresden, were copied around that time; it was Telemann's custom to send works to cities and courts throughout the country. A gem of chamber music, the concerto was written in the Italian style. Here the trumpeter must be flexible in all registers and not dominate the ensemble. A modern style of playing with equality of sound in all registers would be out of place here; in all baroque music, in common with the voicing of historic organs, the trumpeter must think of his entire range as being shaped like a pyramid, with a solid foundation in the lower register and delicate, non-­obtrusive high notes. As with the preceding Hertel work, he is silent in the next to last movement, a bucolic Siciliano.

When George Frideric Handel arrived in London for good in 1712, he found a thriving trumpet tradition, which had been founded in Purcell's day. Twenty-two of his operas and eighteen of his oratorios contain significant trumpet parts, not to mention famous works such as the Water Music of 1717 or the Royal Fireworks Music (1749).

The prominent solo trumpet part in the overture to Handel's opera Atalanta, first performed in a lavish production on 12th May 1736 as part of the extended festivities for the wedding of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and Princess Augusta of Saxe-Coburg, is said to have been composed expressly for Valentine Snow (d. 1770), Sergeant-trumpeter from 1752 but a leading figure in London musical life before that. The story goes that Handel used this work to welcome Snow back to his own opera company after the trumpeter had performed for several seasons with a rival group, the Opera of the Nobility. This work, although 'only' an opera overture, could be termed a trumpet concerto. Its form – a French overture comprising a slow section in majestic dotted rhythms and a fast fugal section plus a graceful dance movement (here a gavotte) – was to become the model for English trumpet concertos written by the next generation of composers including those by Humphries (1740), Mudge (1749), and Bond (1760).

Edward H. Tarr

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