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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Sublime horn now silenced

I only learned of his existence a few months ago. And now he’s dead. Maurice AndrĂ©, Frenchman, 78, the best trumpeter in the world. Don’t take my word for it; note the length of his obit in The Guardian.

“Solid technique, superb breath control and seemingly inexhaustible stamina” is the obit-writer’s judgment. Herbert von Karajan puts my claim slightly differently: “He’s undoubtedly the best trumpet-player but he is not from our world.”

That’s AndrĂ© the performer but there’s also his influence. He was in great demand for the fearfully difficult playing in baroque works such as Bach’s Mass in B Minor. To expand the limited trumpet repertoire he arranged violin, oboe and other instrumental pieces, then played them on the piccolo trumpet which made high notes more accessible. He even collaborated with the manufacturer, Selmer, in adding a fourth valve to the trumpet which again helped with high baroque notes.

While learning his trade he worked down the mines and this gave him the power to manage this very physical instrument.

Some 209,479 fans have clicked on this 2 min. 27 sec. video of 56-year-old Maurice blasting his four-valve piccolo through the finale of Telemann’s D-major sonata (which looks more like a concerto, but never mind). LEND HIM YOUR EARS

TRIBUTE TO BERNIE Way, way back when BBC radio programmes came in b&w I enjoyed late-night Bedtime With Braden, a comedy show by Vancouver-born Bernard Braden. Insults were a speciality: “And now a song from Bennie Lee whose only musical training consisted of learning to read record labels while they were rotating.”

OK, so nothing moves on a MP3 player. But you too will look foolish thirty years hence when music emerges from an orchestra of ants embedded in the brain of your grandchild.



    Returning to YouTube to listen again, and to find others. This was great, LdP, simply great.

    (An aside: now I understand why Satchmo carried a handkerchief when he played. Oh, the things I learn here.)

  2. Great video! I too have learned more, gaining an appreciation for the trumpet, and this player. I suppose I've neglected learning more about brass instruments though the last time we were at a concert, I did find myself watching the brass area more than usual.

  3. I hadn't thought of a piccolo trumpet as sublime, but did enjoy the YouTube recording.

  4. Vita: An intriguing blogonym, evoking long dormant memories of Vita Sackville-West (gardening correspondent for The Observer yonks ago), and - here I'm bragging - Apologia Pro Vita Sua - the title of a book by Cardinal Newman explaining (I think) why he dropped the Church of England and became a Roman Candle.

    Sublime. I meant the playing rather than the instrument; headline writers, the trade I retired from, have only a few words to play with and are usually forgiven a certain level of inexactitude. However it occurred to me I'd be hard-pressed to come up with a precise definition and you've sent me back to the dictionary, never a bad thing.

    "Of the highest moral or spiritual worth; exalted; outstandingly beautiful or grand." Yes, I think you're right. No one would make those claims for the piccolo trumpet (which looks like a real trumpet shrunk in the wash). Working-class, even.

  5. I am struck by how relaxed he is in the video. It strikes me that watching a musician can often add to the pleasure of listening though some may argue against the need for it. A subject for future exploration perhaps?

  6. Plutarch: Relaxed - absolutely. And if you zoomed in on his mouth alone (or what you could see of it) you wouldn't be able to tell whether he was blowing high or low notes. In fact that's a feature I've discovered of all present-day posh trumpet players. The two prominent women - Alison Balsom and Tine Thing Helseth - both have impassive faces whatever the difficulty of the music.

    Visual side to music. I agree. I've added it to my list of "to dos".