Many of you will remember the days of
vinyl when on one side of the LP would
be the Haydn concerto and on the other
the Hummel; old bedfellows indeed and
nicely contrasting. But nowadays when
an hour is the ‘norm’ for a recording
music-lovers demand more and so this
fascinating and unique collection comes
together. These four composers each
tackle the trumpet concerto quite differently.
They come from slightly different periods
of music history and from differing
It may be helpful to look at these pieces
chronologically and to consider how
the instrument developed from about
1780 until the 1830s. As was the case
with most wind instruments at this time
manufacturers and makers were experimenting
with differing bore sizes, valves and
even holed instruments and length of
In the 18th Century the importance
of the trumpet sank to the status of
the ordinary and was not even highly
esteemed in the orchestra, having a
restricted range. For this reason few
innovations were made for most of the
century. Originally the trumpet was
in D making (and I’m sorry to be a bit
technical here) the Hummel concerto
in E major, not in F# for the trumpet
as it would be for a Bb instrument,
but in the much more manageable key
of D. There were also trumpets in F
and in A.
The keyed trumpet with five keys proved
a short term innovation, this helped
increase the range especially in the
lower register. In his booklet notes
Keith Anderson mentions that because
of the so-called harmonic series more
notes were available in the upper register.
These keys made an increase of pitches
possible throughout its range.
So you have to imagine that the concerto
by the Bohemian composer Neruda was
written for such a trumpet and in an
early classical almost Baroque style.
The first movement reminded me of C.P.E.
Bach in one of his less anarchic moods.
It is still is accompanied by harpsichord
continuo which for some listeners can
be an annoying feature. Roy Goodman
has modern instruments at his disposal
in the Swedish Chamber but they are
strongly aware of the stylistic considerations
in regard to bowing techniques. Even
so it is a strong sound and the harpsichord
as a consequence seems to me to be rather
Haydn’s concerto dates from c.1800 and
was written for the keyed trumpet and
for its inventor, Anton Weidinger, who
gave its first performance. Again Roy
Goodman allows the harpsichord a strong
prominence. Haydn explores the possibilities
of the new instrument particularly in
the fast finger-work needed for the
justly famous Rondo finale.
Next, comes the Hummel concerto; apt
really because Hummel took over at the
Esterhazy’s after Haydn’s retirement.
This concerto dates from 1803 and was
also composed for Weidinger. Its rather
pompous opening is certainly Mozartian
but now there is no harpsichord. The
work has a sonata-form first movement
of nearly ten minutes with its length
being dictated by an opening orchestral
ritornello stating the two subjects.
It lasts exactly two minutes before
the soloist enters
The concerto by Bedrich Weber which
dates from 1828, is, in my view, a third
rate work by an astonishingly conservative
composer. His long and influential life
and many years at the Prague Conservatoire
as its principal must have held back
the course of Czech music considerably.
He apparently hated Beethoven, Berlioz
and Carl Maria von Weber. His variations
are predictable but I think the most
virtuoso pieces on the CD. The last
one is a distinctly lack-lustre ‘Tempo
di Polacca’. Perhaps its performance
is at fault the Swedish orchestra being
unable to raise the enthusiasm.
Of course all this talk of trumpet development
is superfluous in that Niklas Eklund
uses modern instruments. For the Neruda
and Haydn he selects the Eb. For the
Hummel the choice falls to the trumpet
in the bright key of E and for the Weber
a conventionally pitched trumpet in
Roy Goodman is the right man for this
music. In my book this is the most enjoyable
performance of the Hummel I have ever
heard, being well shaped and with ideal
tempi and balance.
So, all in all, this is a commended
recording of both standard and unusual
repertoire. It is well worth investigating.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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