I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
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Monday, 2 January 2012

Yes, I know, I should be ashamed

I’ve always been drawn to trumpets and I believe it’s Freudian. They’re compact (by orchestral standards), understandable and phallic, which suggests the attraction may be shared with my instinctive feeling for hand-guns – a shocking admission, I know, but one in which form follows function. Not that I’ve ever owned a hand-gun or would want to.

Given all that, I’m not expecting many comments (“Let’s stay clear of that weirdo with the elaborate Italian name.”) I should add I love the brilliant sound trumpets make in the upper register which is where they’re most often employed. I tried to recall orchestral music that best exemplifies this but all I could come up with is Bach and that’s cheating. Bach tends to be scored for natural (ie valveless) or baroque trumpets which I believe make higher notes easier to reach.

I resorted to my personal Google system – Julia, the Prague Polymath – and even she could only come up with Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, Copland's Buckaroo Holiday from Rodeo, and Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Trumpets in C. Finally I stumbled on to the discography of Wynton Marsalis the trumpeter who does posh as well as jazz and some new names emerged: Mouret and Fasch (both 17th cent.), André Jolivet and Henri Tomasi (both French and both 20th cent.), Jules Levy (English, 19th cent), Herman Bellstedt (USA 20th cent).

Most are trumpet concerti and there are other more familiar names: Purcell, Telemann, Mozart’s dad Leopold and Hummel. Marsalis is, of course, flawless in whatever he plays and no doubt could play valveless. However when he needs to go stratospheric he uses the piccolo trumpet.

Click Wynton. I had intended a posh piece but couldn’t resist this, given I’ve been nasty about the tune.

Pic: Should be given a decent burial


  1. I note that you have not mentioned Hayden's Trumpet Concerto. Perhaps it is too obvious a choice for inclusion in a list such as yours. It has always appealed to me and I have fancied, though I do not know whether it is the case, that the third movement provides an opportunity for the soloist to improvise.

  2. Who was it said their idea of heaven was eating something or other - foie gras, caviar? - to the sound of trumpets? I'd have thought both might get a bit wearing for eternity but then I suppose you'd be in a different mindset if you were dead.

    I always like the name Hummel, though I don't think we have anything by him, partly because I remember reading in a Joyce Stranger story that it was a dialect word for a stag with no antlers. It also sounds a bit like an irascible state of mind - 'he's in a right old hummel today...'

  3. What totally joyous rendition of Happy Birthday.

  4. Plutarch: Things got a bit confused. I invited Julia to pick orchestral pieces where the trumpets are prominent which she did. Thereafter I accidentally segued into the trumpet repertoire in general and somehow - because I got sidetracked by various forms of rara avis - Haydn dropped between the cracks. In fact I've just had to play a bit of his concerto to remind myself of how it goes. And you are quite right, it is of course the most familiar piece of posh trumpet playing ever with the possible exception of Jeremiah Clark's Trumpet Voluntary which I also omitted.

    During Mozart's and Haydn's time concerto soloists were often expected to improvise, although I can't be sure this was the case with the trumpet concerto.

    Lucy: In the end I had to Google the saying because it is tangled up in my mind with Lady Diana Cooper's autobiography Trumpets From The Steep. And you're quite right: I'm a trumpet freak and yet I would no more wish to listen to endless trumpet playing than eat myself into nausea with pate de foie. The author, for what it's worth, is Sydney Smith who does not loom large in my legend.

    Further confusion with Hummel. It was my impression there was also a composer called Krummel but feverish Googling reveals this to be Krommer instead. Hummel enjoyed some of kind of notoriety in 1996 when Emma Johnson played his clarinet concerto to win the Young Musician of the Year contest. I remember watching this on telly, feeling 100% sure she would win and asking myself why on earth she wasn't playing the Mozart (Which I intend to blog about, it being one of my all-time Top Ten).

    I think you're entitled to play around with that surname. Just imagine being Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel (born January 21, 1944) a German Professor of English, literary critic, Shakespeare scholar and writer. The sort of critic that grinds exceeding fine.

    EB: There's all sorts of stuff to watch in that video. Notice how bored Wynton gets when he has to play the straight melody, eventually resorting to one hand. And the final tail-gate arm-wrestling session of "collective improvisation" when they appear to be trading two-bar (perhaps one-bar) exchanges. The French audience didn't seem to be up to much, did they?

  5. Thanks for that link, LdP. A joy to watch and hear. One of my favorite pieces of his is Happy Feet Blues.

    Re: your trumpet - perhaps you might consider passing it along to a young musician and introduce him to Winton Marsalis? (Has there ever been a female trumpeter of note?)

  6. I've always avoided trumpets because of their (in my mind) military associations. An unfortunate side effect of having grown up on bases around the world, I suppose. My friend likes Alison Balsom though, and I have been intrigued by a Norwegian trumpet player (can't for the life of me ever remember her name, but it starts with a T).

  7. The Crow: When you go to a concert of posh music you see things that aren't shown on telly. Notably trumpeters turning to one side, opening one of the sludge taps on his/her instrument and allowing spittle (in quite large quantities) to dribble on to the floor. My trumpet is at least fifty years old: imagine the condition of its insides were you able to encourage a camera-equipped earwig to take the tour round the bends.

    Now, double-click on the photo to enlarge it and then look carefully at the very short crook attached to the centre valve. Notice the formidable dent, it's one of a matched pair.

    I wouldn't be doing anyone any favours passing on this piece of plumbing.

    Women trumpeters. The Norwegian lass Rouchwalwe is referring to is a highly desirable lady with very long blonde hair and a solid, pure tone. Unbelievably she's called Tine Thing Helseth: see her on YouTube doing, inter alia, In The Deep Mid-Winter and Haydn's trumpet concerto.

    RW (zS): Don't like trumpets as part of brass bands; in fact, don't like brass bands.

  8. I think this is the blog you were meant to author, LdP. You bring to this one an evident passion and wonder that was not evident in Works Well - not to me, anyway - despite WW being well written and interesting.

    I visited the link you suggested, then went wandering on my own through other links provided there. Again, thank you for this post and subsequent remarks, which have led me to some wonderful music. Great way to start off the new year.

  9. The Crow: When I heaved BB overboard I was briefly (for a few hours, anyway) done with blogging. But then I found I needed the friendship and the regular fixes of minor expression. I chose music because, despite what everybody says, it is a subject I do not understand and I don't have time to understand. Blogging about music would, I told myself, be more of a discipline. In fact this turned out to be complete b/s; no extra discipline is required at all, even though to comfort myself I have a long-term project which uses a photograph of my mini-piano with key signatures Photoshopped on to the keys and which will eventually explain in a post no one will read the nature of jazz (assuming I ever understand it myself). In fact if I go one like this Tone Deaf will become just as self-indulgent as WW was, although I will continue to need it as I explain in the subsequent post.

    However, you're right about the passion. As a result of launching Tone Deaf I am listening to far more music than normal and the exploration of pop does at least confound the old bromide about old dogs and new tricks.

  10. One thing I noticed while flipping through our trumpet music - trumpets lose ground in the 19th century to french horns, and then seem to be resurrected in the 20th. Have you noticed that trend too? I’m sure they became more popular in the 20th thanks to jazz's influence, but can only guess about what caused them to go out of favor in the 19th (political shifts, valve changes, larger concert halls). Any other thoughts?

  11. Julia: Let me take an un-Googled flyer on this. My guess would be Brahms. His thick orchestrations were surely the apotheosis of the Romantics and depend heavily on French horns (eg, the opening of the second piano concerto). Wonderful as they were - and are - there had to be a reaction against this, hence the swing towards something sharper and less lush. Having said that the Rites of Spring is a fairly full orchestration; from memory do horns show up in it?

    What's interesting is that trumpets don't just come in B-flat as I imagined. One version of the Haydn cto, played by Frenchman Maurice André (better, I fear than either of the popular two women or Marsalis) is in E-flat and this makes it much edgier. Also there is the piccolo trumpet which seems to match the baroque trumpet range, and the cornet.

  12. Rite of Spring has 5 trumpets and 8 horns in its orchestration (plus trombones, bass trumpet, etc). Just imagine hand writing those scores!