Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Haydn - Trumpet Concerto In E-flat Major

The trumpet was probably first used as a method to convey signals and directions to armies in battle, with its loudness helping it to be heard over the din of war. The metal trumpet was known at least as early as 1500 BC and examples have been found in many different locations in the world.  The trumpet was also used for religious and civic ceremonies, such as heralding the arrival of important people such as kings.

These ancient metal trumpets were usually in one long straight section. it wasn't until around the 13th century that the tubing was folded back on itself one or more times to make the instrument compact. These natural instruments (as they had no valves) were limited in the notes they could play, as the length of tubing determined the key of the instrument. Different notes within the harmonic series were sounded by the
Natural trumpet
player using lip tension and breath pressure. The range of notes in the lower range of the instrument were further limited to a major chord, thus when the trumpet became part of the symphony orchestra they were restricted to the notes of the home key. Different lengths of tubing were devised that could be exchanged on the instrument to lengthen or shorten the tube so that other keys could be played.

In the upper register of the instrument more notes are available and a scale of the home key can be played. Some players became so skilled in these difficult high notes that they could play melodies of great complexity on the natural trumpet, which led composers of the Baroque era such as Vivaldi and Bach to write highly decorated and florid solo parts for these trumpet virtuosos.

Keyed trumpet
Haydn used the trumpet in the orchestra as most composers did in his time, mainly as a support for the home key and for fanfares. When he was approached by Anton Weidinger, a trumpeter in the Vienna Court Orchestra, for a trumpet concerto, the offer tweaked Haydn's curiosity and he accepted. But Haydn was not commissioned to write a concerto for a natural trumpet, but for a keyed trumpet of Weidinger's design.  This trumpet was capable of playing the notes of the scale throughout its range and made the trumpet a melody instrument which led Weidinger to tour Europe and play his keyed trumpet to much acclaim.

Haydn was a very prolific composer, as his known compositions number about 1,000 with probably many more unknown and lost works, but he wrote only 17 concertos. Haydn was a very competent pianist and violinist, but he didn't begin his career in music as a virtuoso performer. Mozart and Beethoven wrote concertos mostly for their own use before the public, especially Mozart who wrote 26 piano concertos alone.  Haydn's reputation as a musician was based on his composition abilities as well as his handling of his musical duties while he was Kappelmeister to the Esterházy family, which is one reason for the low number of concertos he wrote.  Haydn wrote the work in 1795 or 1796, and the concerto was performed by Weidinger in 1800. It is in 3 movements:

I. Allegro - The concerto begins with the presentation of motives by the orchestra. Haydn doesn't always have markedly different themes in his sonata movements, and this section is dominated by a martial theme that is punctuated by timpani and trumpets. When the solo trumpet enters it repeats the opening motive, and Haydn exploits the expanded compass of Weidinger's keyed trumpet with notes that would not be possible on a natural trumpet. The soloist expands upon the opening motives and enters into a dialogue with the orchestra in the development section, but the soloist remains in the spotlight. The recapitulation repeats the opening motive by the soloist until Haydn gives a fermata rest for the orchestra while the soloist plays a cadenza.  The orchestra returns and brings the movement to a close.

II. Andante -  Again Haydn exploits the keyed trumpet by giving it a gentle melody to play with the orchestra in this short movement.

III. Allegro -  Haydn writes an energetic rondo as the final movement. The soloist plays rapid repeated notes, trills, and other dazzling figurations throughout the rondo. The entire compass of the trumpet from the bottom to the top is used to good effect throughout.

While Weidinger's  trumpet allowed the player to hit notes not possible on the natural trumpet, his  keyed system proved to be very difficult to learn and play. The keyed trumpet was eventually replaced by the valved trumpet in the 19th century, an instrument more versatile than the keyed version.

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