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8.555879 - Imperial Fanfares
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Imperial Fanfares

Fanfares have always exercised a fascination for mankind. The loud, penetrating sounds of the fanfare serve to alarm, to warn, to rouse and to summon attention. For hundreds of years this function of fanfares and signals has not changed. At the present time too they call for public attention. They sound out as signals from the distance or at the opening of cultural and sporting displays, the inaugurations of statesmen, events, parties and presentation of products.

When we speak of imperial fanfares, we think inevitably of imperial and princely courts. Trumpeters and drummers in the later Middle Ages constituted an indispensable element of the princely court establishment. Court trumpeters exercised their function whenever the monarch appeared in public and on his withdrawal. They accompanied him similarly for imperial council meetings, at coronations and acts of homage. To guarantee an impressive effect, it was usual at coronation and marriage festivities to offer the imperial sound of the court trumpeter as a tribute. As the climax of such events of high ceremony it was the practice to have the trumpeters of the various imperial and princely courts playing at once. From the meeting of King Ladislaus II of Bohemia and Sigismund I of Poland with the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I at Schwechat, when, on 17th July 1515, two of his grandchildren married the children of the two kings, there survives the account of the court commentator Cuspinian: ‘that it was during the later celebration in Vienna Neustadt that it first happened that the Emperor appeared with 45 trumpeters and six drummers’ (Musik in Österreich, ed. Gottfried Kraus).

La Marche Italienne or Bruit de Guerre (Noise of War) are exceptional examples of how ceremony and festivity were celebrated in France in its heyday in the seventeenth century under André Danican Philidor, Marc-Antoine Charpentier and Jean-Baptiste Lully.

Fanfares at official occasions at the Imperial Habsburg court served not only to add splendour to a ceremony, but were also functional music at imperial receptions, baptisms, dynastic name days and birthdays and other royal festivities. Church celebrations were introduced by Intrade. The musical morning prayer Prière du Matin by Altenburg belongs to court church ceremonial.

Entertainment and amusement at the Vienna court in no way took second place. Examples of this are the divertimento fanfares, the Toccata by Monteverdi and Schmelzer’s Equestrian Ballet performed at the Hofburg in Vienna in 1667 on the occasion of the betrothal of Leopold I and the Infanta Margareta of Spain, resounding evidence. In the state rooms there was also dance music from the court trumpeters. A fine example of dance fanfares is the Festtafelmusik (Festive Table Music). The brass at the imperial table were known as Trombet-undt musikalischen Tafeldienst (Trumpet and Musical Table Service). At court banquets and ceremonial meals it was the task of the trumpeters to signal the entry of each new course with a musical table fanfare.

In the open air in city squares and market-places trumpets blared out in loud and vulgar tones. In ballrooms, churches or places of ceremony the fanfares were more cultivated and refined in sound. The different sizes of ensemble and the pace of performance were arranged with reference to each occasion. All trumpets used for official occasions were of silver and richly decorated; for everyday purposes trumpets of brass were used.

A special feature of the court in Vienna was the different employment of fanfare players as musikalischer Trompeter (music trumpeter) or Feldtrompeter (Field trumpeter). Already about 1566-76 we find in Vienna, of the fifteen there employed, four music trumpeters. This indicated a trumpeter with a higher level of training, who could also read music and boast some virtuosity on the instrument. These were later called also Cammer-Trompeter (Chamber Trumpeter) or Concert-Trompeter. The non-musical trumpeter or Field Trumpeter was employed as a messenger with the sole task of giving signals. They rode to enemy lines to carry despatches.

As in the past so today the sound of the solo trumpet sounds a note of contemplation and mourning at ceremonies for the dead and at funerals. Wrapped in Mystery is dedicated to the memory of the victims of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York on Tuesday, 11th September, 2001. This was composed by Leon Bolten at Grado, in Italy, on this day, under the influence of this terrible event.

Leonhard Leeb

English version by Keith Anderson

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