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Music for Trumpet and Corno da Caccia
Theodore SCHWARTZKOPFF (1659-1732) Ouverture in C for trumpet, strings and continuo.
Johann MOLTER (1695-1765) Concerto in D for trumpet, strings and continuo
Johann HEINICHEN ( 1683-1729) Concerto in F major for two Corni da caccia, flutes, oboes, bassoons and strings.
Johann SPERGEN (1750-1802) Concerto in D for trumpet, oboes, horns, strings and continuo
Johann NERUDA ( c.1707-1776) Concerto in E flat for corno da caccia, strings and continuo;
Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837) Concerto in E major for trumpet and orchestra
Ludwig Guttler (trumpet and corno da caccia)
Neues Bachisches Collegium Musicum Leipzig/Max Pommer
Recorded Leipzig 1982 (Schwartzopff); June 1986 (Heinichen; Sperger); May 1986 (Molter; Neruda; Hummel)
CAPRICCIO SACD 71019 [66.34]

 

The first question that I hear you shout is ‘What is a Corno da Caccia?’ and then ‘What kind of Trumpet is being used?’ Well it seems rather curious to me that in these days when CD booklets often say more about the performers and instruments than about the music, this one says nothing about the instruments being used. A bit of detective work proves necessary.

Precise dates of these compositions are unknown but the two concertos for horn on this CD are from the 1720s (Heinichen) and the 1760s (Neruda). Although some developments were taking place at the time, the horn remained unvalved with chromatic notes obtainable by crooks of different lengths. Later hand-stopped chromatic notes were discovered. The effect was an ability to play much further down in the bass clef and to play non-diatonic melodic notes. These developments can be heard in the Neruda concerto and it’s interesting to compare the two works. Neruda’s concerto is far more ‘style-galante’ than the others and its slow movement’s elegance begins with the horn in its lyrical highest register. Its mini-cadenza explores further with chromatic added notes. The third movement, marked Vivace, explores the fullest register and has some delightful, typical sequential writing. This is still the age of the harpsichord continuo and it is used in all of the concertos apart from the famous Hummel Concerto which ends the CD.

Speaking of the trumpet, it was no longer quite the ceremonial instrument by the mid-18th Century that it had been even 50 years before. Nevertheless it maintained its pride of place. There was even invented a particularly versatile creature called a ‘slide trumpet’. No matter what variant was used, the trumpet was mostly valveless. Composers enjoyed writing for it. Its ability to carry a melody clearly over any texture in any acoustic was an obvious advantage. The five movement grand Ouverture (c.1700) by Schwartzkopff which opens the CD proves the ceremonial point, with its rather pompous Chaconne and opening Ouverture. The music was written in Paris and is much in keeping with its time and place, compared with the Hummel concerto (1803) which ends the CD. In the Hummel we can hear how the trumpet had achieved success as a serious concert instrument with its famous and flashy finale. In between comes the rather serious Molter, (1740) and the imaginative Heinichen (c.1725), whose concerto is for two ‘corni da caccia’ includes some fantastic high register trills in contrast with the two flutes each often in thirds. There is also the polished if somewhat uninspired Spergen (1778) whose work is in just two movements. Each work demonstrates the instrument’s development and in this recording, as befits such a fine player, a fair degree of virtuosity. This last work was actually written for the ‘Clarino Principale’ an instrument popular for a while in Vienna where the composer worked.

As I said the booklet notes by Manfred Fechner tells us nothing of the instruments being used. However they are good on the composers and on their music as was typical of many 1980s discs. The cover gives us a clue with Guttler holding a shiny four-valved instrument.

The performances throughout are clean and clear although not on authentic instruments and with quite a large body of strings. The harpsichord is strongly prominent and the woodwind play quite beautifully. Tempi are never sluggish and there is no sentimentality in the slow movements. The music eases itself gracefully from phrase to phrase.

Although these recordings are twenty years old they do not show their age. This SACD is one of the best and most natural sounding I have yet encountered.

Gary Higginson

 



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