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"Classical Trumpet Concertos"

Crispian Steele-Perkins, natural (*) and keyed (#) trumpets
The King's Consort
Dir: Robert King

rec: Jan. 2001, London, Blackheath Concert Halls
Hyperion - CDA67266 (66'18")

FJ Haydn: Concerto in E flat (H VIIe,1) (#); JM Haydn: Concerto in C (*); JW Hertel: Concerto nr 1 in E flat (*); JN Hummel: Concerto in E (#); L Mozart: Concerto in D (*)

Of all the "early instruments" the trumpet is the most difficult instrument to play. That isn't only because few of today's players are able to handle the "natural" trumpet, but even in the 18th century there were not many players good enough to master the instrument. It is no coincidence that in the second half of the 18th century attempts were made to change the instrument in such a way that its intonation became more secure. Another factor which led to the development of the late 18th century trumpet with keys was the whish to enhance the possibilities of the instrument, which originally only allowed to play the natural notes of the harmonic scale.

This recording documents the changes which took place during the 18th century. And it is a very interesting document indeed. It shows how much the natural trumpet was considered a "chamber instrument", which should be able to play together with other instruments without overpowering them. In the first movement of Michael Haydn's Concerto in C the trumpet plays together with 2 flutes, and the balance is perfect. No modern instrument could be played so softly and gently as Steele-Perkins plays the natural trumpet here.

But this recording also proves how virtuoso the trumpet players of the baroque era were. In particular the concerto by Hertel is extremely demanding, with long sustained notes in the second movement and passages in the highest register of the instrument.

The most important player of the "new" trumpet was Anton Weidinger, a close friend of Joseph Haydn. He developed the first fully chromatic trumpet in the 1790's, and it was for that specific instrument that Haydn wrote his concerto. Hummel also composed his concerto for Weidinger, who had developed a newer version of his instrument, which had at least five keys. It allowed him to play in the key of E major, in which Hummel originally wrote his concerto.

The performance by Crispian Steele-Perkins is brilliant. Very impressive are the "messa di voce" in Hertel's concerto and the gentle tones he produces in Michael Haydn's concerto. But he also shines in the two concertos for the keyed trumpet. In particular Hummel's concerto is of a quite dramatic nature and the trills in the last movement are very well realised. It is clear from this recording, though, that playing the keyed trumpet is anything but easy.

I am less impressed by the orchestra. I would have liked to hear stronger accents, and the tempi are often too slow. There is little difference between the "allegro molto" in Michael Haydn and the "allegro moderato" in Leopold Mozart. The andantes in both Haydn and Hummel are sounding more like adagios. For me that's the main reason Haydn isn't as exciting as it could be.

Steele-Perkins uses an instrument he built himself, a reconstruction of Weidinger's instrument. Unfortunately there is no original instrument preserved. He has used photographs of an instrument which was held in Berlin, but destroyed during WW II.
Like I said, this CD documents the changes of the instrument. In that respect it has one serious shortcoming, though. One of the reasons for the development of the keyed trumpet was the insecure intonation of the natural trumpet. One wouldn't guess on the basis of this recording, since the instrument used here has been "adapted", indeed: to improve the intonation. I am not revealing a secret here: the booklet says so. But I find it difficult to accept that "authentic" instruments are messed around with just to make them more playable and more acceptable to modern ears. If the natural trumpet had been played in its original state the listener would much better understand why players in the 18th century were so keen to see the instrument changed.

The criticism notwithstanding, this is a very recommendable recording.

Johan van Veen ( 2002)

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