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ClassicsOnline Home » BAROQUE TRUMPET (THE ART OF THE), Vol. 5
The Art of the Baroque Trumpet, Vol. 5
An Italian Concert
Before the seventeenth century the trumpet was exclusively a martial instrument. In the employ of high personages and crowned heads, its signals directed the course of battles. During rare moments of peace, it was associated with pomp and ceremony. It was not accepted into art music, in consort with other, softer instruments, until its masters learned to produce dulcet tones. This happened in different centres at different times. In Italy, at the court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, it was the virtuoso Girolamo Fantini who, around 1630, made "ladies and cavaliers languish with joy, his martial talent turned to love's use". As his followers mastered the art of playing the trumpet softly, Italian composers turned out a profusion of valuable works featuring this noble instrument in solos with orchestral accompaniment. By 1665, with the Bolognese composer Maurizio Cazzati's three sonatas for trumpet and strings, it had become a part of church repertoire, and from 1672, when the Venetian composer Antonio Sartorio started to feature the trumpet in his scores, the instrument rapidly became accepted in opera houses as well. Perhaps the most sophisticated use of the trumpet and unequivocal proof of its artistic coming of age was as a rival of a singer, usually a soprano. To imitate the human voice was the highest aim of instrumental music. To vie with the voice on equal terms was an undeniable proof of maturity.
The works included on the present recording exemplify the historical position of the trumpet in Italy during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as well as its partnership with the human voice.
Antonio Vivaldi, known as the "red priest" because of the colour of his hair, was the most influential composer of his generation. He was rediscovered in the twentieth century, largely through his many concertos, some of which J.S. Bach had transcribed for keyboard. He was also the prolific composer of some fifty operas. Last but not least, his first official employment, initially from 1703 to 1709, was as a violin teacher for the Ospedale della Pietà, one of four Venetian orphanages for indigent girls. Those girls who showed aptitude were given a thorough musical training. Their performances were so remarkable that the church of the Pietà was frequented by the nobility and foreign visitors. Vivaldi's position was renewed in 1711, a year in which he gained unprecedented international fame by the publication in Amsterdam of his L'Estro armonico, Op. 3, a set of twelve concertos for one, two, and four violins. In 1716 he obtained greater responsibility as maestro de' concerti.
Was Vivaldi's concerto for two trumpets written for the Pietà? Its virtuosity makes it hard to believe that it was composed for orphan girls and not for older trumpeters with highly developed professional skills. As Detlef Altenburg has pointed out, it is more highly developed than earlier works of its kind for two trumpets: the range of both solo parts is nearly identical, both soloists being expected to reach high c''', and its form displays great maturity, with an astute balance between orchestral ritornelli and the soloists' vivacious perorations. Vivaldi may have had help in the completion of this work, for the autograph manuscript shows that the long "windmill" modulatory orchestral ritornello in bars 58-80 of the third movement was written by a different scribe. I imagine the composer left these bars blank and turned the music paper over to a composition student, perhaps one of the girls at the Ospedale della Pietà, telling her to get him from G major to A minor in 22 bars.
The opera Tito Manlio was first staged in 1719 in Mantua, where, a year earlier, Vivaldi had been appointed maestro di cappella da camera to the governor, Prince Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt, a title he retained after his return to Venice. The plot of the opera deals with hostilities between Romans and Latins, in which matters are complicated by the love of Vitellia, daughter of the Roman consul of the title, and Lucio, a Latin knight, while Tito Manlio's son, Manlio, is betrothed to Servilia, sister of the Latin commander, Geminio. In the second act aria 'Combatta un gentil cor', Lucio feels bound to defend Manlio, imprisoned and condemned by his father, not least in his debt for Manlio's killing of Geminio, Lucio's rival for the love of Vitellia. The opera ends in general happiness, with Manlio forgiven and united with Servilia, and Lucio, possibly, with Vitellia.
Vivaldi's virtuoso aria for soprano, strings and continuo, 'Agitata da due venti', was taken from the second scene of the second act of his opera Griselda, first performed at the Teatro San Samuele in Venice during the Ascension fair of May 1735. Apostolo Zeno's libretto was revised by none other than the young Carlo Goldoni. The aria displays the classic predicament of a heroine having to choose between two loves, a situation reflected in the poetic and musical text by the image of a ship tossed on a stormy sea. It was written for the celebrated soprano Margherita Giocamazzi, whose astonishing vocal technique included an immense range descending into the alto register, wide skips, and rapid repeated notes.
Arcangelo Corelli trained in Bologna and moved to Rome in or shortly before 1675, where he enjoyed the successive patronage of Queen Christina of Sweden, Cardinal Pamphili, and Cardinal Ottoboni. He composed only instrumental music and his six published collections of sonatas and concertos quickly became models for future generations of composers throughout all Europe. They were reprinted time and again; his Opus 5 enjoyed over 42 editions in the century after its first appearance in 1700. Corelli was also a conductor of note, and on 26 April 1706 he was admitted, together with Pasquini and Alessandro Scarlatti, to the Accademia dell'Arcadia. His trumpet sonata, too, enjoyed great fame in its time, for manuscript and printed versions survive today in Italy, Austria and England ; it may have been written for Twiselton, an English trumpeter, who claimed so in 1713. Its five movements show it to be a sonata da chiesa, the usual four movements of which, with their alternating tempo scheme (slow-fast-slow-fast), are expanded by a martial one for trumpet and continuo inserted before the last movement. The sprightly fugal theme of its second and fifth movements, in common and in triple time respectively, was a favourite of other composers, including Purcell, Stradella and Torelli, from about 1680, an example of which is seen in Stradella's Il Barcheggio of 1681. Priority aside, Corelli must have composed this sonata some time before 1704, when it was printed in London by John Walsh.
Marc'Antonio Ziani was a leading composer of opera, first in Venice, then, from 1700, in Vienna. He was held in high esteem as a master of counterpoint and form, as well as a sensitive setter of texts. In his operas he often wrote virtuosic solos for various instruments. This is certainly the case with 'Trombe d'Ausonia', in which both the singer and the trumpeter are required to execute passages of no mean difficulty. The aria is from La Flora, on a libretto by Matteo Noris, first staged at the Teatro Sant'Angelo in Venice in December 1680, which Ziani's illustrious colleague Sartorio had left unfinished. It appears in Act II, Scene 19, in which the hero, Geminio, rejoices at the failure of a rebellion. His jubilation is expressed by elaborate arpeggios that make this short but effective aria arguably the most virtuosic of all Venetian trumpet arias.
Giuseppe Torelli was active in the orchestra of the huge Basilica di San Petronio in Bologna, first from 1686 to 1695 as a violist and then, from 1701 to 1709, as a violinist; in the intervening years, during which the basilica's orchestra was disbanded, he worked in Ansbach and Vienna. His main historical contribution was to the development of both the violin concerto and the concerto grosso, but he was also the most prolific Italian composer for the trumpet, with some three dozen pieces, variously entitled sonata, sinfonia, or concerto, for one, two, or four trumpets.
The so-called Concerto by Torelli is not to be found among the rich collection of manuscripts still surviving in Bologna, but instead appeared in about 1715 as the sixth in a series of concertos by Bitti, Vivaldi, and Torelli published in Amsterdam by Etienne Roger, who, incidentally, was also Corelli's publisher. The fact that Roger did not assign the concertos individually to specific composers has led Franz Giegling, the compiler of the standard thematic catalogue of Torelli's works, to doubt the authorship of this work and to omit it from his catalogue. In my opinion, however, the work displays many features otherwise characteristic of Torelli, such as the use of unison violins in the outer movements and the highly expressive and virtuosic writing for the strings in the tripartite middle movement in which the trumpet is silent. Its structure, too, resembles that of several other Torelli pieces in which the trumpet serves as a foil to the continuously operating string body, so that it is not to be considered as a trumpet concerto, but rather as a (group) concerto with trumpet. It is true, however, that in his other works with trumpet, Torelli tended to oppose this instrument, accompanied only by the basso continuo, to the full string body, while in the present work the strings often fill out the continuo part during trumpet passages. Be that as it may, the concerto with its marked themes and motoric rhythms has become a staple of today's Baroque trumpet repertoire – and justifiably so, because of its indisputed quality.
The Sonata a 5 in D, G.7, which still survives in the Bolognese basilica archive, is without doubt an authentic work of Torelli's. It appears to date from the composer's early period, and for several reasons: because the theme of the second movement (which the composer used again in his Concerto, G.32) is also to be found in Giovanni Bononcini's Sinfonia, Op. 3, No. 10, published in 1685 when its composer was only fifteen years old; because of a handwriting analysis performed by the former basilical archivist, Sergio Paganelli; and also because the piece contains more contrapuntal errors than any other of Torelli's compositions. (To be sure, the parallel fifths and octaves – most of them in the viola part, played by young Torelli himself – are discoverable only after a minute analysis of the score and cannot be discerned at a mere listening.) The overall form of the sonata is that of a six-movement sonata da chiesa, of which the fourth movement, featuring a duo between the trumpet and solo cellist, probably derives its inspiration from similar ones by Domenico Gabrielli (1651-90), a noted pioneer in cello writing who was a member of the S. Petronio orchestra between 1680 and his death. The solo trumpeter at the first performance(s) was probably Giovanni Pellegrino Brandi, noted in the church's records of payments between 1679 and 1699. Brilliant trumpet music, by the way, was regularly performed in Bologna at the opening of High Mass on the feast day of St Petronius, the patron saint of both the basilica and the city, on 4 October – an old tradition going back at least to 1508.
Tomaso Albinoni was a man of independent means who did not find it necessary to associate with mere musicians, instead preferring the company of wealthy patrons, including Corelli's patron Cardinal Ottoboni, Ferdinando III de' Medici, and the Emperor Karl VI. He was a prolific composer of more than fifty operas, over forty cantatas, and a wide range of instrumental music, including 79 sonatas for one to six instruments, 59 concertos, and eight sinfonias; during his lifetime his works enjoyed a wide European distribution. He is particularly noted for his melodic gifts, although a closer examination of some of his works, including the present one, sometimes reveals deficiencies in their part-writing. The aria 'Vien con nuova orribil guerra' is a battle aria from his late opera, La Statira, with a libretto by Zeno and Pariati, first performed in Rome in 1726. Besides the trumpets, it also features oboes, an instrument for which in 1715 Albinoni had been the first in Italy to write a collection of concertos, his Opus 7. In this work, the first trumpet and the first oboe split the rôle of competing with the soprano soloist.
Baldassare Galuppi, nicknamed "il Buranello" because of his origin on the island of Burano, near the city of Venice, became one of the most fecund and influential composers of his generation. His reputation rests mainly on his operas, of which he composed more than a hundred; his principal librettist was Goldoni; but he also composed numerous cantatas, oratorios, Masses and Vesper psalms, much chamber music, and about 125 keyboard works. He held important positions in Venice. Like Vivaldi, he was musical director at an orphanage, the Ospedale dei Mendicanti, from 1740 to 1751, and he held a similar position at the basilica of St Mark from 1748. Galuppi's fame was such that he spent extended periods away from Venice: from 1741 to 1743 in London, 1749 in Vienna, and from 1765 to 1768 in St Petersburg. His aria, 'Alla tromba della Fama', which the present writer discovered over thirty years ago in a German archive, is part of a long musico-dramatic tradition in which the goddess Fame (Fama) appears on the stage or even flying through the air above it, holding one or two trumpets as an attribute. In Italian opera, Sartorio in 1673 was the first to have a solo trumpet in competition with the singer, Fame, in an aria. It is not known whether Galuppi's aria is from an opera or, a less likely possibility, whether it represents an independent work. Its librettist is unknown. Its transparent structure is typical for its time, with unison violins often doubling the voice part; the cadenza in bars 22-25 is original, but the others were improvised in the recording session by the performers.
Alessandro Stradella lived most of his life in his native city of Rome. He may have been a nobleman. That he was forced to flee in 1677 because of a scandal is, unfortunately, typical for him. His reputation is tarnished by various love affairs with noble ladies, and, after at least one unsuccessful attempt at his life, he was finally murdered on the Piazza Bianchi in Genoa by a hired assassin because of another such dalliance. So colourful was his life that he was even the subject of a highly successful Romantic opera by Flotow, Alessandro Stradella ( Hamburg 1844). Musically, his reputation is based chiefly on his pioneering rôle in the development of the concerto grosso. During his short life Stradella composed operas and other stage works, many oratorios and other compositions for the church, hundreds of cantatas, and 27 instrumental works. Il Barcheggio was a wedding serenata given in the open air; the present sinfonia serves as the introduction to Part II. As opposed to Stradella's operas, which require only stringed instruments, Il Barcheggio features prominent parts throughout for wind instruments – cornetto, trumpet and "molti tromboni" – presumably because of their carrying power outdoors. The present sinfonia testifies to his dramatic sense and his considerable melodic gifts. He may have been the creator of the fugal theme mentioned above, ubiquitous in seventeenth-century trumpet works. It appears in the second movement of the present sinfonia.
Petronio Franceschini was born and active in Bologna. He was a cellist in the Basilica di S. Petronio from 1675 to 1680 and died in Venice before he could finish his fifth opera, Dionisio, which was subsequently completed by Partenio. Besides operas, which according to Thomas Walker "have great rhythmic energy and make much use of the trumpet in dialogue with the voice", Franceschini composed a quantity of church music, including two church sonatas, the present one with two trumpets dating from the last year of his life. Its full sound is derived in part from the string texture with two viola parts instead of one. Particularly noteworthy is the third movement, in which the trumpets are required to play in the minor mode. This is a rare happening in Baroque trumpet music, for, as the other works of this recording testify, the trumpet was usually employed in C or D major to express jubilant emotions. The use of the minor gives this work its peculiar, profound quality and shows that its composer was an original thinker.
Edward H. Tarr
A note on period string instruments
The string instruments which we know today as "original" or "period" are, according to available historical sources, stringed in a radically different way from their baroque counterparts. In fact, almost all the musicians playing early music today use instruments stringed in a way typical rather for the first half of the twentieth century, before metal strings were introduced. The difference lies in the fact that during the baroque era each one of the four strings of the instrument had the same tension. On both contemporary "baroque" and modern instruments the principle is different - a higher string requires a higher tension. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there was a great variety of tension levels depending on local preferences, pitch, and time period, but usually the string tension and the sound level were at least as high as on modern instruments today. Especially the lower strings were much more prominent than is heard nowadays.
This changes radically many common ideas about baroque music and instruments and has a profound influence on the sonority, balance, and articulation of an ensemble. By trying to recreate some elements of the physical conditions of historical performances one can reach new revitalising musical conclusions. All musicians in this recording are using instruments stringed according to original baroque principles. The well-known term "played on original instruments" takes on a new meaning.
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BAROQUE TRUMPET (THE ART OF THE), Vol. 5