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Italian Baroque Trumpet Music
Alessandro STRADELLA (1639-1686)
Sonata a 8 viole con una Tromba [07:04]
Vincenzo ALBRICI (1631-1696)
Sonata a 5, 2 Trombette, 2 Violini con Fagotto [02:35]
Girolamo FANTINI (b c1600)
Sonata a due Trombe detta del Gucciardini [01:34]
Balletto detto la Squilletti [00:56]
Brando detto l'Albizi [00:51]
Saltarello detto del Naldi [00:36]
Carlo PALLAVICINO (d 1688)
Sinfonia to Il Diocletiano [03:13]
Nicola MATTEIS (d c1695)
Concerto di Trombe a tre Trombette [04:02]
Francesco MANCINI (1672-1737)
Sinfonia to Gl'Amanti Generosi [03:39]
Petronio FRANCESCHINI (c1650-1680)
Suonate a 7 Con due Trombe [06:16]
Maurizio CAZZATI (c1620-1677)
Sonata a 5 'La Bianchina' [04:30]
Giovanni Buonaventura VIVIANI (1638-1692)
Sonata I per Trombetta sola [04:33]
Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713)
Sonata in D [04:48]
Giovanni BONONCINI (1670-1747)
Sinfonia X a 7 [08:17]
Crispian Steele-Perkins, Stephen Keavy (natural trumpet)
The Parley of Instruments/Peter Holman
Recorded in March 1987. DDD
HELIOS CDH55192 [53:35]

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The trumpet is one of the oldest instruments in history. It was already in use in ancient Egypt as well as in Assyria and Israel. Mostly used as a military instrument it held that position well into our Western music history. Until the 17th century it was mainly there to play fanfare-like music. Monteverdi was one of the first composers to use it in one of his compositions: the Toccata which precedes his first opera, Orfeo. As with most trumpeters in those days the four players of the trumpets in the Toccata were army officers.

The Toccata didn't have any relationship with the opera itself: it was played to pay tribute to the Gonzaga family of Mantua, at whose court Orfeo was first performed. This points into the direction of an important role the trumpet was to play for the next two centuries. It was frequently used in compositions written in honour of kings, queens and princes. Hence we find one or more trumpets in ceremonial music as written by, for instance, Purcell, Handel and Charpentier. But it was also used in honour of the heavenly King, as many settings of the Te Deum show. And it doesn't surprise that Bach used trumpets in the opening chorus of his Christmas Oratorio, which relates the birth of King Jesus.

The music we find on this disc is of another kind. People who know the trumpet only in its modern form will be surprised to find music for trumpet and basso continuo, or with only two violins. But the natural trumpets as they are played here are much softer than their modern counterparts. Even so the balance between the trumpet and the other instruments was something of concern to composers, as the trumpet manual of 1638 by Fantini shows: for his sonatas for trumpet with basso continuo only he suggests the use of a mute in case the basso continuo is played on the harpsichord rather than the organ.

During the 17th century composers started to write highly sophisticated music for the trumpet. The players of the instruments weren't army officers anymore, but professional musicians. One of the main centres of trumpet playing and composing was Bologna. Cazzati, Franceschini and Bononcini were all associated in one way or another with Bologna. Even Corelli must have become acquainted with the Bolognese school of trumpet playing, as he was born in Fusignano, in the immediate environment of Bologna. His sonata is the only piece for another instrument than strings he ever composed. It was written for an English trumpeter, who visited Rome, where Corelli worked for the largest part of his life.

Italian composers also used the trumpet in overtures to oratorios and operas, and the programme brings two specimens of such overtures, the Sinfonias by Pallavicino and Mancini. Matteis was a Neapolitan composer who went to England, and worked there as a player, composer and teacher of both violin and guitar. The piece here is a reconstruction of three movements from a suite for strings. The booklet doesn't tell what reasons there are to assume this piece was originally intended for trumpets. It is particularly strange that the third solo part couldn't be performed on a trumpet and is therefore played on the trombone.

The first item on the disc is a delightful piece which reflects Stradella's qualities as composer of vocal music, in particular in the second movement, entitled 'aria'. Another remarkable piece is the Suonate a 7 by Franceschini, who specified its scoring with cello, trombone, double bass, theorbo and organ.

One of the reasons for the invention of the keyed trumpet in the 18th century was that it was very difficult to play the natural trumpet in tune. One wonders how big that problem was. Is it reasonable to assume that composers continued to write demanding music for the trumpet if it was impossible to play the instrument in tune, at least to a reasonable extent? Anyway, one has to admire the players of those days, since their modern counterparts are not able to play the natural trumpet without adaptations. That is what happens here: both players make use of copies of historical instruments, but adaptations have been made to improve the intonation; hence the secure intonation heard on this disc.

This doesn't diminish my admiration for Crispian Steele-Perkins and Stephen Keavy in any way, as even with adaptations the natural trumpet remains one of the most difficult instruments to play, and both do so admirably. I am also happy with the stylish and committed playing of the Parley of Instruments. The programme has been put together quite nicely, bringing together some of the best music by Italian composers of the 17th century, which is still hardly available on other recordings.

I wholeheartedly recommend this disc. I shall certainly return to it from time to time, and I am sure anyone buying this disc is going to do the same.

Johan van Veen


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