Behind the Musik: Sound the Trumpet!

Download the Program Notes and Program Listing

PROGRAM NOTES
By Charlotte Nediger

With this week’s concerts we usher in the festive season with a musical journey through baroque Europe. We begin our travels in Versailles, with music written to be played at a dinner party hosted by Louis XIV on January 16, 1707 (true “musique de table,” or “Tafelmusik”!). The extant score, copied by the King’s music librarian, credits Jean-Baptiste Lully fils as composer — the second son of the famed court composer of the same name. A posthumous account states that Jean-Baptiste Jr. “knew hardly anything about music,” and that he was given the position of Surintendant de la musique du roi only “out of consideration for his father’s talent.” It is entirely possible that all he contributed to the various compositions credited to him was his name. The 1707 suite for the king’s dinner may well have been written by Michel Richard de Lalande, the composer who “shared” the job of Surintendant with Lully fils. Elisa Citterio has selected a few movements from this charming suite to open our concert.

We travel south to Rome, the birthplace of the concerto grosso  — works for string orchestra that contrast a small solo group (called the “concertino,” or “little consort”) with the full orchestra (the “ripieni,” meaning “padding or stuffing”). Corelli’s final publication was a carefully prepared selection of twelve concerti grossi, his Opus 6, and quickly became famous throughout Europe. Shortly before the publication appeared, the young violinist Pietro Antonio Locatelli arrived from Bergamo to study in Rome with Corelli and his followers. Locatelli’s first publication mirrored Corelli’s last: a set of twelve concerti grossi in a format and style that pays homage to the master. This is particularly evident in the eighth concerto: just as Corelli had done in the eighth concerto of his Opus 6, Locatelli adds an optional Christmas pastorale. The opening of the concerto is rich and sombre, with divided viola parts and in the dark key of F minor. The sun comes out in the lilting F-major pastorale.

Shortly after the release of his Opus 1, Locatelli travelled north through Germany, taking posts in various cities and performing as a virtuoso violinist. He may well have encountered Telemann and Fasch, and it is to these composers we turn now. Georg Philipp Telemann stated that he was not a fan of the purely virtuoso solo concerto, and indeed we find that most of his concertos are more “conversational” than “exhibitionist,” and that many feature more than one solo instrument. He also turned to instruments not always featured in solo roles, such as the viola, often overshadowed by the more brilliant violin. Telemann clearly understood the viola’s inherent qualities, and opens his Concerto for two violas with a movement labelled “avec douceur” (“with sweetness”).

Johann Friedrich Fasch and Telemann met as students at the Thomasschule in Leipzig, and although Fasch was younger by only seven years, he nonetheless considered his “most beloved” friend to be his mentor. Like Telemann, Fasch favoured the more “collegial” concerto. His trumpet concerto clearly features the solo trumpet, but the soloist is amply supported in musical “conversations” with two oboes and with the accompanying strings.

We return to France and encounter Michel Corrette: born in Rouen, he enjoyed a long career in Paris, writing music of a light nature, much of it arrangements of popular tunes of the day. Among these are numerous arrangements of Christmas carols. The publication “Six Symphonies en Quatuor” bears the subtitle “containing the most beautiful French and foreign Noëls,” and the instruction that they can be played by a chamber group or full orchestra, in concert or at a church service. The first Symphonie is comprised of arrangements of four traditional French carols: “When Christmas arrives,” “The king of heaven has just been born,” “Here is the solemn day,” and “Adam was a wretched man.”

We cross the channel to England, but with a musical detour to Iberia. Organist and composer Charles Avison directed a concert series in his native Newcastle, establishing a broader reputation through his writings on music, and through his publications of sonatas and concertos. Among his most popular publications was a set of twelve concerti grossi consisting of arrangements for string orchestra of harpsichord sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti. Scarlatti wrote over 500 harpsichord sonatas while employed at the royal courts in Lisbon and Madrid. A few dozen of these sonatas were published in London and enjoyed great popularity, inspiring Avison’s arrangements. Each of Scarlatti’s sonatas is a single-movement work, so Avison combined them to create four-movement concertos. There are relatively few slow movements in Scarlatti’s keyboard oeuvre, so Avison had to get creative. He claimed that several slow movements were drawn from a manuscript of Scarlatti sonatas that only he had seen, but the truth is that most of the slow movements were composed by Avison himself. In the Fifth Concerto, the opening Largo is of Avison’s invention, and the remaining three movements are arrangements of Scarlatti sonatas K.11, K. 41, and K.5.

After discovering all these new treasures, we return home, musically speaking, to familiar ground with Johann Sebastian Bach and the Second Brandenburg Concerto. Like his friends, Telemann and Fasch, Bach liked the idea of the ensemble concerto, and explored it in his collection of concertos dedicated to the Margrave of Brandenburg titled “Six concerts avec plusieurs instruments.” The variety of instrumentation in these concertos is their trademark feature, and the solo group of the second concerto is the most disparate: trumpet, recorder, oboe, and violin. Particularly noteworthy is the uncommonly brilliant trumpet part, written for a trumpet in F. All of Bach’s trumpet parts are demanding, but most are written for trumpets in C and D. Bach obviously had a trumpet player capable  of playing the solo passages in the higher key of F, but already by the middle of the eighteenth century such players were rarities. A copy of the score by C.F. Penzel made c.1760 suggests substituting a horn and transposing the part down an octave. A later copy suggests a flute, and 20th-century performances have substituted various instruments, among them clarinet, piccolo-heckelphone, and sopranino saxophone! We are delighted to have David Blackadder join us to perform Bach’s original scoring.


PROGRAM LISTING

Directed by Elisa Citterio
David Blackadder
, trumpet soloist

November 21–25, 2018
Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre

Jean-Baptiste Lully fils, 1665–1743
Concert donné au souper du Roi (Versailles, 1707)
Ouverture – Passacaille – Loure – Rigaudons

Pietro Antonio Locatelli, 1694–1764
Concerto grosso in F Minor, op. 1, no. 8 “Christmas” (Rome, 1721)
Largo – Grave – Vivace – Grave – Largo andante – Andante – Pastorale

Georg Philipp Telemann, 1681–1767
Concerto for 2 violas in G Major, TWV 52:G3 (Hamburg, c.1740)
Avec douceur – Gay – Largo – Vivement
Brandon Chui & Patrick Jordan violas

Johann Friedrich Fasch, 1688–1758
Concerto for trumpet in D Major (Anhalt-Zerbst, c.1750)
Allegro – Largo – Allegro
David Blackadder trumpet

INTERMISSION

Michel Corrette, 1707–1795
Symphonie de Noëls no. 1 in D Minor (Paris, 1781)
A la venue de Noël – Le Roy des cieux vient de naître – Voici le jour solennel – Adam fut un pauvre homme

Charles Avison, 1709–1770
Concerto no. 5 in D Minor after Domenico Scarlatti (Newcastle/London, 1744)
Largo – Allegro – Andante moderato – Allegro

Johann Sebastian Bach, 1685–1750
Brandenburg Concerto no. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047 (Cöthen, 1721)
Allegro – Andante – Allegro assai
Alison Melville recorder John Abberger oboe
David Blackadder trumpet Julia Wedman violin

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My Instrument with David Blackadder, trumpet

In our upcoming holiday concert, Sound the Trumpet!, David Blackadder makes his Tafelmusik debut, performing music by Fasch, J.S. Bach and more.

By David Blackadder

David Blackadder, trumpet. Photo by Boyd Gilmour
David Blackadder, trumpet.
Photo by Boyd Gilmour

The trumpet is often thought of as being perhaps the most majestic, powerful instrument of all, and traditionally this is often the case especially when large groups of trumpeters played together. The sound of multiple trumpets became so synonymous with the European nobility that it actually became a status symbol in courts across Europe to have an elite group of trumpeters, not unlike having a fleet of limousines or Ferraris today. This tradition still continues in some countries, and you need look no further than the moment when Megan Markle arrived at Windsor Chapel to hear the spine-tingling sound that the trumpeters of the Household Cavalry made to understand why.

However, there is a much more subtle, lesser-known side to the trumpet which uses the more florid, angelic quality of its upper register to symbolize the glory of God and the heavens. Handel’s “Eternal Source of Light Divine” followed the trumpet fanfare at the royal wedding as Megan processed down the aisle, and showed off just how lyrical the trumpet can be, particularly when imitating the human voice.

The trumpet that I used that day and for Sound the Trumpet! with Tafelmusik is a copy of an instrument originally made in Nuremberg by Johann Carl Kodisch around 1700. It was made by Mathew Martin of Norwich Natural Trumpets and has extremely light tubing, which makes it easier to play sustained passages in the high register. This technique of playing developed throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and became highly prized by composers and their patrons alike. The sound that can be achieved in the high register is not unlike that of a woodwind instrument, and the trumpet was indeed said to be capable of being “as sweet as an oboe.” By using different articulations the best trumpeters could play very delicately and their trills were said to rival that of any flautist of the day. Court trumpeters were handsomely rewarded for their prodigious skill and were required to play at the most important ceremonies and state occasions.

In my new partnership with Tafelmusik I would like to bring to light this gentler side of the baroque trumpet and show how it can shine perfectly well without the need to blast loudly at any point. The Fasch Concerto is a wonderful example of this, particularly the beautiful slow movement, and in the Brandenburg Concerto the trumpet shows off its incredible ability to balance with the other soloists in the absolute extremities of its high register. I remember playing to my late father the first recording of the Brandenburg Concerto I ever made as a student at the Royal College of Music. He said, “Sounds more like a flute than a trumpet to me, son.“ He didn’t realize just what a compliment that was, but I knew what he meant and I have always strived to achieve that same quality throughout my career.

Join David Blackadder in Sound the Trumpet! from November 21–25, 2018 at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Tickets are available here.

Behind the Musik: Messiah 101

Here are the official program notes for Handel Messiah

Download the Program Notes | Download the Program Listing

Directed by Ivars Taurins
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir
Featuring Amanda Forsythe (soprano), Krisztina Szabó (mezzo-soprano), Colin Balzer (tenor) and Tyler Duncan (baritone).

Dec 14-17, 2016, Koerner Hall, TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning

Handel composed Messiah in just a few weeks in the late summer of 1741. Intended originally for performances at Easter, it was premiered in Dublin on April 13, 1742 at the Musick Hall in Fishamble Street. Handel directed the performance, and attendance was so great that ladies were implored “not to come with hoops” and gentlemen to leave their swords at home to make “room for more company.” Praise resounded for both the work and its performance, and an extra performance was added. It took a few years for the work to take hold in London, as some were disturbed by the idea of presenting such a sacred work in the theatre, but by the time of Handel’s death in 1759 it had become the most frequently performed of all his oratorios, a position it has never relinquished.

Messiah eventually came to be associated with the Christmas season, and the wealth and variety of choruses in the work inspired amateur choirs to embrace it in communities large and small. In recent decades it has become common to trim the work, but for our concert performances, we are pleased to present the entire oratorio.

As specialists in period performance, we perform on instruments from the eighteenth century (or accurate reproductions), and retain Handel’s original orchestration. The orchestration is in fact quite modest for a work of such great impact: the arias are performed by strings alone, with the violinists often playing in unison, and oboes joining in the choruses. Bassoon and keyboard instruments round out the bass section. Arguably the most important instruments on stage are those that play at only a few key dramatic moments: the trumpets and timpani. Handel has trumpets playing briefly “from a distance” as part of the “heavenly host” in the nativity sequence in Part I. He holds off until the “Hallelujah” chorus at the end of Part II to have trumpets and timpani join the orchestra. The glorious trumpet solo in “The trumpet shall sound” carries us to the final resounding “Worthy is the Lamb” and “Amen.” Handel understood drama and the power of music to stir the human soul, and structured the score of Messiah accordingly. Each performance is a journey, and this is a journey we are honoured to share with you each year.

unknown%2cvalentinesnow%28possibly%29%2cc1753%2cfentonhouseValentine Snow was Serjeant-Trumpeter to King George II & III, and was Handel’s trumpeter for his Messiah performances. The baroque trumpet features a bell connected to a long tube of brass, about two meters in length, on the end of which is placed a mouthpiece. There are no valves: the player alters pitch through minute changes of lip pressure and air speed. To play a solo like “The trumpet shall sound,” the player plays in the uppermost register or “clarino” register, a skill that requires years of practice!

David Campion, timpani. Photo: Peter Laenger
David Campion, timpani. Photo: Peter Laenger

 
The timpani played by David Campion are reproductions of eighteenth-century instruments. The natural-skin heads are sensitive to shifts in temperature and humidity, so you will David quietly touching up the tuning before he plays, with his head close to the drums. Tuning is done by turning the series of screws that circle the drum head.

© Tafelmusik 2016

The Libretto for Handel Messiah can be found here.


Join us for Tafelmusik’s Original Messiah at Koerner Hall, TELUS Centre from Dec 14-17, 2016. Tickets are available here.