musica Dei donum

CD reviews

"L'arte della trombetta"

Schwanthaler Trompetenconsort; Hannes Eichmann, narratora

rec: Feb 17 - 19, 2014, Linz, Anton Bruckner Privatuniversität (Großer Saal)
Gramola - 99079 (© 2015) (53'31")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

anon: Aufzug No. 10; Aufzug No. 11; Aufzug No. 12; Aufzug No. 13; Sonata à 5 Clarini e Organo in C (1670); Heinrich Ignaz Franz VON BIBER (1644-1704) Sonata Sancti Polycarpi à 9 (C 113); Ferdinand DONNINGER (1716-1781): Vorstellung einer musikalischen Seeschlacht (exc)a; Placidus FIXLMILLNER (1721-1791): Incidental music from 'Caesar Augustus'; Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791): Divertimento No. 6 in C (KV 188); Joseph STARZER (1728-1787): Musica da camera molto particulare; Antonio SALIERI (1750-1825): Fanfare No. 8; Fanfare No. 7; Joseph Baptist SCHIEDERMAYR (1779-1840): Deutschordens-Marsch (attr); Hochmeister-Fanfare (attr); 6 Moderne Aufzüge; Carl Maria VON WEBER (1785-1826): Freischütz-Marsch (arr anon); Marsch

Ernst Schlader, Markus Springer, chalumeau, clarinet; Wolfgang Gaisböck, posthorn, trumpet; Bernhard Kastler, trombone [bc], trumpet; Franz Landlinger, Bernhard Bär, Bernard Mühringer, Martin Mühringer, Martin Weichselbaumer, Clemens Geißelbrecht, Manuel Bachinger, Walter Bosch, Martin Bögl, Sebastian Höglauer, Raphael Achleitner, trumpet; Sabine Schwarz, organ; Alex Georgiev, Rizumu Sugishita, percussion

"One of the most widespread and important functions of trumpets is the marking of power and status. In many parts of the world, trumpets and drums have been part of the regalia associated with kingship." Thus opens the paragraph 'Use and function' in the entry on the trumpet in New Grove. It adds that this association continues to the present day with a reference to the British monarchy. Anyone who has ever witnessed live or on television the entry of members of the royal family in Westminster Abbey will have heard the sound of trumpets. No wonder that trumpeters were always held in high esteem.

Today trumpets are probably admired mostly for musical reasons. That goes in particular for the players of instruments such as were used before the invention of valves in the 19th century. Until then trumpets were mostly used as natural sounding instruments. "The basic tune could be changed by attaching additional arcs of different size but the musical range still confined itself to the harmonic series. To master the playing in the high 'Clarin range' that starts on the note c", one had to practice for years and also be of excellent physical condition", Ernst Schlader states in his liner-notes.

In a treatise of 1795 the German trumpeter Johann Ernst Altenburg made a distinction between Feldstück- or Prinzipalblasen which was appropriate for military signals and outdoor music of a trumpet corps, and the softer Clarinblasen, associated with the solo playing in the clarino registers. Some trumpeters could play their instrument as softly as a flute. Both aspects are represented on the programme of the present disc.

All the music is from Austria and was written between the late 17th and the early 19th centuries. One important source is the library of the castle of Kremsier. This town - today the Czech town Kromeriz - was then part of the Habsburg empire. Under Karl Liechtenstein-Castelcorno Kremsier experienced one of its most brilliant periods. The violinist Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber and the trumpeter Josef Vejvanovsky were two of the members of his chapel. Biber's Sonata Sancti Polycarpi a 9 is part of the archive of the chapel, and it is likely that Vejvanovsky participated in the performances of this piece for eight trumpets, timpani and basso continuo which Biber indicated should be performed in two choirs. The anonymous Sonata à 5 Clarini e Organo in C has been found in the same archive.

The next part of the programme is devoted to the classical period when trumpets often played in ensemble with other instruments. Joseph Starzer was an Austrian violinist and composer who was especially famous for his ballets of which he composed a huge number. His Musica da camera comprises five pieces for two chalumeaux (or flutes), five trumpets and four timpani. This work was dedicated to the Russian tsarina Catherine II; Starzer worked at her court in St Petersburg from 1759 to 1767. Mozart's Divertimento in C (KV 188) has exactly the same scoring, except that the clarinets played here are not mentioned as alternatives for the flutes. The decision to use clarinets is a bit of a shame; I would have liked to hear whether the trumpeters can play as softly as the flutes. Although it is from Mozart's pen it is a rather obscure work. It is telling that on the internet I could find only one recording on a single disc.

The most curious piece is the incidental music from the opera Caesar Augustus by Placidus Fixlmillner, written for the theatre in the Kremsmünster Monastery in Upper Austria. He was a Benedictine monk and a famous astronomer in his time. As a composer he seems to be a completely unknown quantity; he has no entry in New Grove and in the Wikipedia article his activities in this field are not mentioned. This piece is especially interesting in that he has added many detailed playing instructions for the timpani part.

The remainder of the programme is filled with Aufzüge or fanfares. These root in the tradition of the use of trumpets as military instruments. The 6 Moderne Aufzüge by Johann Baptist Schiedermayr, for instance, have the indication "for the use at large festivities and Corpus Christi". The anonymous pieces and those by Salieri are of the same character. The pieces by Weber are from the archive of the Kremsmünster Monastery; one of them is an anonymous arrangement. Both include a part for a posthorn, the instrument Mozart used in a solo role in his Posthorn Serenade.

One piece still needs to be mentioned: the Vorstellung einer musikalischen Seeschlacht (Representation of a musical sea battle) by Ferdinand Donninger. It "depicts the formation for the battle with use of marches and parades. Conclusion and climax are formed by the actual 'naval battle' where separately placed timpani and drums imitate the cannon and musket fire". It comprises of five sections; each of them is introduced with a text read by Hannes Eichmann in German. There is no translation in the booklet. I am curious to know where this text comes from. It is about the Battle of Actium between Octavian and Mark Antony, the lover of Cleopatra. If this story was originally connected to the piece it would be a stunning example of anachronism as gunpowder was only invented long after the demise of the Roman empire.

This is a most interesting and intriguing programme with music which is hardly ever performed. There must be much more, but I can imagine that a little more than 50 minutes of music for trumpets and timpani is just enough for many music-lovers. Fortunately there is some variety in the programme as we hear these instruments in various roles. What makes this disc even more interesting is that L'arte della trombetta plays copies of historical instruments. The originals are from the 17th century. I just wonder whether these are still the most appropriate instruments for the pieces from the late 18th and the early 19th century. Moreover, it is clear that here the trumpets have vent holes which are not part of the original instruments but added to modern copies in order to improve intonation. The French player Jean-François Madeuf specialises in playing natural trumpets without such additions, and it is to be hoped that more players will follow in his footsteps. That doesn't diminish my admiration for the efforts of the trumpeters of this ensemble. Even with vent holes these instruments are hard to play and they do an admirable job.

Johan van Veen (© 2016)

Relevant links:

Schwanthaler Trompetenconsort

CD Reviews