‘Trumpet Masque' (or ‘Mask') refers to the genre of entertainment which became established in the pageantry of the Renaissance and settled as a court genre in England in the Jacobean heyday of Ben Johnson and Inigo Jones. For our purposes, it is a convenient metaphor for our own ‘masquing' of these works using modern trumpets and a large concert grand piano - without the lyric poetry and elaborate sets of the court but at least some of its intrigue! Here, these two instruments unashamedly dance galliards, sing motets, navigate tientos, canzonas and variations, embolden chorales and gallivant with sonatas. Claiming this territory through our own allusions and emblems is where our ‘masque' begins.
The sixteen composers here - active from 1600 to 1700 - represent a gradual cultural revolution in music, abandoning the cosmic order for new adventures in expressing human emotion. Whether for court, the church or the newly-devised opera, these ‘art-works' establish deliberate identities, however fleeting and artificial, which allow them to assume a personal character, almost as important as the creator of them. By doing so, a musical ‘conceit' is explored not just by illuminating or representing nature but by deviating from it with disguise, rhetorical gestures, quixotic asides and inference. Over the century, these references and vocabularies for musical expression proliferated, while at the same time the performer's own powers of re-invention added more possibilities for subterfuge to this musical masquerade. Now you could express yourself fully, because you did not have to be yourself.
The 17th century was a golden age for trumpet players, their high stock long-established in renaissance guilds whose special sovereign patronage proudly set them apart from the ‘hoi polloi' of minstrelsy. Whilst their music was largely confined to the theatres of battle (or imitation thereof) and ceremonial routine, as the century progressed ‘la tromba' appeared increasingly as a versatile protagonist in instrumental art music. Notably in the interchangeable genres of sonata, sinfonia and concerto, historians draw on Italian trumpet and string pieces from the 1670s as the prototype for the concerto grosso, which dominated the grand instrumental scene until the rise of the symphony, with Haydn and others, just under a century later. Virtuoso obbligato trumpet parts also began to illuminate vocal works both in church and on stage by the end of the 1600s.
The trumpet's closest melodic forbear is the cornetto, a brass instrument in all but material (wood - often plum, pear or maple) which sits as primus inter pares among sackbuts (an ancestor of the trombone) in sacred and secular ‘brass' ensembles from all over Europe. Its dexterity, using both single, soft-tongued articulation and rapier ‘double tonguing', is surprisingly similar to many modern styles of trumpet playing; to play embellishments or long vocalised lines on the modern trumpet, with an ear for the conventions of the cornetto, places old and new in gentle relief.
As far as the ‘pure' old trumpet is concerned (a long metal tube in all but name), every genre in the 17th century draws regularly and creatively on the metaphor of the trumpet's ‘fanfare', either to initiate a strong intervallic idea (and, later, to define tonality) or simply to declaim a bold one. The modern trumpet - or ‘trumpets' as six different types are employed here - thus bridges the divide between its sibling relations of the ‘natural' valveless trumpet and the cornetto, in drawing technical and musical inspiration from both. The piano, on the other hand, can play at anything: orchestra, vocal duettist, consortier, organist, virginalist, percussive or legato brass - and moreover add a new dimension of interpretative referencing beyond the original scoring. Touch, colour, pedalling, chordal spacing and dynamic range, not to mention meticulous arrangements, all have their place.
To compile a programme which plausibly presents a coherent view of a notoriously diverse and unstable period in musical history is less challenging than one might think. The 17th century arguably contains the last decades, pre-Enlightenment, of an almost universal belief in the existence of God. The divisions of secular and sacred still largely hold firm. Indeed, this recital broadly processes from works with specific liturgical function to a sophisticated court music in which God is mere bystander. In immediate contrast, musical reality reveals a liberal cross-referencing between genres: church music influenced by opera, keyboard pieces imitating choral declamation, church sonatas incorporating dance and so on.
And then we have those regional habits, sub-regional dialects, religious polarities - a period where Catholic and Protestant traditions and sympathies reside in every sinew - and those mysterious musical figures whose reputation relies on a few extant treasures. If in general terms, this is a century without a Bach, Mozart or Beethoven, it abounds in composers of considerable stature from all four corners of Britain and the Continent. Perhaps no century can rival these decades for consistency and, geographically, in distribution of talent.
By way of an overture, Louis Marchand's Grand Dialogue is a piece of sacred theatre in the great French classical tradition of large-scale ‘offertoires'. In three main sections, this ebullient and ostentatious work (dated 1696 in its Versailles manuscript) reflects something of the composer's colourful life. Marchand was a prodigiously gifted player whose only professional ‘loss of face' was the celebrated story of when - according to a biased German source - his nerve deserted him at the prospect of a keyboard contest with J.S. Bach in Dresden in 1717 and clandestinely removed himself in the likely event of being out-manoeuvred by the resourceful Thuringian. He was also renowned for his underhand dealings, not to mention a case of wife-beating (where he was subsequently chased through the courts and perjured himself in the process). This work reflects the impetuous brilliance of Marchand's grandiloquent gestures as the opening fanfares gradually yield to a kaleidoscopic ‘symphony' of brisk exchanges and red-blooded sonority.
In contrast, the smoothly turned élan of François Couperin's Chromhorne sur la Taille provides a reflective, gently ornamented and sustained melody of extraordinary nobility. Taken from the ‘Messe pour les Convents', the more intimate and devotional of the two organ masses published in 1690 in the composer's ‘Pièces d'orgue', the cromhorne stop (in the tenor or ‘taille' range) is performed here on a large, mellow trumpet as a kind of ‘living' registration.
Instrumental music in both Italy and Spain played an important functional role in the liturgy of the Catholic Church. The little four-part Canzon seconda by Giovanni Gabrieli is a bright, compact and beautifully balanced mosaic of attractive contrapuntal exchanges. Far from the scope of the big antiphonal works for St Mark's, Venice, this is chamber music whose extant organ source is surely shorthand for an ensemble piece with cornets and sackbuts. ‘La Serenessima' is concisely bottled in this precious and unfaded vignette. Joan Cabanilles's Tiento XVII de ‘Pange lingua' punt alt and Francisco Correa de Arauxo's Tiento de medio registro, no.36 project the prominence of the cornetto style in organ music of the Iberian peninsula. The organ deliberately imitates the instrument in both works. There is ample evidence, too, that brass and keyboards were regular partners in the pragmatic world of 17th century Spain, where music was exchanged from one medium to another, particularly as there was no fixed consort tradition as there was in England.
The Tiento (a free-composed polyphonic fantasia appearing in many characterful guises) reaches its apogee in the hands of the distinguished Cabanilles. Here the Pange Lingua chant of this 5th mode Tiento is heard in the alto voice, around which the composer threads an unassuming but quietly impressive contrapuntal elaboration. The trumpet and piano exchange the cantus firmus, and encircling melodic filigree, in a kind of inevitable ‘daily bread' ritual, its pleasure in the sweet abstraction of confident traditional coloration. Less refined but emotionally darker, and considerably more intense, is Arauxo's Tiento no.36. From an earlier tradition, this quasi-lament is influenced by the florid passagi of the cornetto as well as injecting its Andalucian flavour of Moorish ornament and unexpected accidentals or ‘ficta'. This work forms part of Arauxo's ‘Libro de tientos y discursus de música pratica, y theorica de organo intitulado Facultad organica', a collection of 70-odd works from 1626 of increasing difficulty. Highly-wrought, this potent piece juxtaposes imitative episodes and three trumpet solos of both supplication and defiance; the improvisatory style tantalisingly asks more questions than it can answer.
Two fathers of the early 17th century are represented in sacred vocal adaptations. Heinrich Schütz famously studied in Venice with Claudio Monteverdi with whom he mastered the new expressive ‘secunda prattica' - where declamation of words, allied to extrovert theatrical devices, challenged the decorum of classical counterpoint as the sine qua non of musical composition. For Schütz, representing the Word was essentially mimetic and less fragrantly lush than Monteverdi's luminous canvases. Der Herr ist gross (from his 1636 ‘Kleine geistliche Concerte') shows us Schütz, the greatest German composer before Bach, instilling a style of intractable purity in the vocal concerto: the musical messages here are succinct and unequivocal but also graciously honed. Alighting on two urgent exclamatory verses from Psalm 145, the lines are exchanged with tenderness and intimacy over a continuo. In the context of the ravages of the Thirty Years War, and therefore with few available musicians, there is a pragmatic simplicity here through which Schütz directly conveys God's greatness (in David's Psalm of praise, the sentiment, ‘his greatness is unsearchable', prevails).
Claudio Monteverdi's Laudate Dominum is a celebratory solo virtuoso motet on Psalm 150 employing a ground bass (in the ‘Zefiro torno' mould), with a ‘stile concitato' or ‘agitated style', complete with battle-like motifs and an incorrigible flair for extravagant interpolations and cornetto-inspired embellishment - especially as the work breaks up at the end into a series of hemiolas, triplas and florid melismatic embellishment. Taken from Monteverdi's ‘Selve morale e spirituale', a collection of three decades of the composer's sacred music published in 1641, this motet extols the image ‘praise him with trumpets' and is eminently transferable to its new medium.
In North German music, the chorale with its inexhaustibly inventive musical transformations lies as a cornerstone of the century, especially in view of its direct influence on the craft and language of J.S. Bach. Dietrich Buxtehude may well have been visited by Bach on the latter's memorably extended trip to Lübeck. He was certainly the most eminent figure in German music in the last quarter of the century, excelling in all genres including a significant corpus of organ music. The Reformation chorale, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, is a prelude setting of a single stanza of the chorale. It is a fine and richly ornamented paraphrase celebrating the exuberance and strength of Luther's famous tune in a form Bach was to explore in his own setting in the Orgelbüchlein.
The Buxtehude scholar, Kerala Snyder, writes that ‘beneath the surface, each chorale prelude is unique, eloquently laying out the unspoken text of the chorale by means of the extensive vocabulary of rhetorical figures available to the Baroque composer'. Georg Böhm, another important figure in Bach's development, takes a lyrical view of this in Vater unser in Himmelreich where the composer models the chorale as a formal coloratura aria, similar to the later Fantasia in F minor by Krebs for oboe and organ. The subdued intensity of the solo lines and the assiduously crafted accompaniment look ahead to the further delineation of styles which became gradually more formalised and generic in the 18th century. Indeed, Johann Gottfried Walther embellished the work in a study in high-baroque melodic sophistry. Böhm's simpler, unadorned version is performed here.
John Dowland's When the poore Criple, Jan Pieterzoon Sweelinck's Variations on ‘Onder een linde groen' and Anthony Holborne's ‘Dovehouse' Pavan and Galliard belong to a group of early 17th century pieces introducing the secular part of the programme. Dowland's consummate song sits as a kind of link, a devotional hybrid without a conventional liturgical home and yet one which employs a measured madrigalian sensuality distilled from Italian prototypes. Decidedly unscriptural, this last song in a trilogy from Dowland's ‘A Pilgrimes Solace' completes a meditation on patience, drawn from Job and David's respective biographical afflictions, and leading towards a cripple waiting to be cured by Christ. As with the contemporaneous poems of John Donne, this song exudes dark moralising countered by a irradiating core of salvation.
Sweelinck, that Orpheus of Amsterdam, was one of the early century's great consolidators: sound teacher, distinguished organist and a composer who polished and re-characterised existing idioms rather than inventing them. The influence of the English virginalists, especially Peter Philips and John Bull, is keenly felt in this candidly ‘off the cuff' set of six variations (probably from the perennial improvisatory tradition of embellishing well-known tunes on the spot) on the English melody ‘All in a garden green'. Well ordered, satisfying and concise, Sweelinck relishes the marrying of refined dance strains and a raw, rural ribaldry. Anthony Holborne, far from raw as ‘gentleman and servant to her most excellent Majestie' (for whom he was both courtier and secret agent) is really an Elizabethan but the twinned genre of pavan and galliard resonated well into the 17th century. This delicious pairing is taken from the 1599 ‘Pavans, Galliards and Almains', the 1st printed collection of dance music in England and, as the title page conveniently states, suitable for ‘all Musicall Wind Instruments'.
Henry Purcell's Fantasias are famously dislocated from their time and yet so magnificently deliberate is their immersion in traditional instrumental devices that the viol consort tradition is given the most celebrated of retrospective approval. And yet, as Fantasia 4 (whose manuscript dates its completion on ‘June 10. 1680') reveals, the 21-year old was not just playing with history in a series of exercises but taking models, above all Orlando Gibbons and Matthew Locke, and instilling his own command of chromatic harmony (in one place, Purcell registers eight key changes in seven bars) and contrapuntal artifice. This, the first of the 4-part fantasias, is a microcosm of invention: the trumpet imploringly enters, vocalising on a great augmentation of the theme, arched but voraciously moving into new territory which leads finally to a hocket-like finale, whose wrong-footedness is well served by the incisive articulation of the trumpet and piano in hand-to-hand combat.
Long thought to be a song by Giovanni Battista Draghi (an established Italian figure at Charles II's court), Scocca pur is really by Jean-Baptiste Lully, as ingeniously discovered by Robert Klakowich (Journal of the Royal Musical Association, Vol 116, Part 1, 1991). Moreover its haunting melody on a ground was (on strong stylistic grounds of a skilful Anglo-Gallic hybrid) set as a keyboard transcription by Purcell in the early 1680s. It appears in ‘The Second Part of Musick's Hand-maid', which Purcell ‘edited' for John Playford's publication, but it also seems probable that this setting acted as a prototype for the many grounds Purcell was to set in his career, including ‘Dido's Lament'. This song conveys a distilled and unrequited longing, its bass quietly churning under a glassy and decorous melody.
The two Central-European sonatas on this disc emanate from the Salzburg Court. Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber was the most famous violinist of the century - or certainly by the end of it. Apart from his virtuoso violin sonatas, many containing advanced scordatura (altered tuning of strings) techniques, Biber developed the single movement canzona-sonata for ensemble which had arrived in Vienna, and its satellite towns, from Italy over the course of the mid-century. Concentrated rhetorical ideas are often juxtaposed in short bursts completing, as in this succinct Sonata VIII from ‘Fidicinium sacro-profanum' (1683), a journey from lyrical gracefulness to feverishly excitable figuration. Both this set of sonatas and Georg Muffat's ‘Armonico Tributo' (1682) from only months earlier were published to celebrate the founding of the archdiocese of Salzburg by St Rupert 1100 years before.
Muffat's Sonata no 5 in G major is arguably the most ambitious ensemble sonata of the century, encapsulating in its profoundly rich musical landscape a command of the common currencies of composition which led to a more standardised ‘federal' Europe as the 1700s approached. Having worked at close quarters - and perhaps uniquely - with both Lully and Corelli, Muffat blended these experiences with his own rich (five parts), colourful and ‘old-world' Central European palate: a generous hybrid of elegant courtly dance, Corellian harmonic suavity and French manners. The concluding Passacaglia takes a French operatic chaconne and turns it into a rondeau of profoundly impressive proportions. Indeed, Muffat refers to the works in ‘Armonico Tributo' as ‘symphonies'; such are their structural potential, it is not surprising that Muffat developed the embryonic concerto principles (marked here as ‘T' and ‘S' for tutti and solo textures) into full-blown concerti grossi by 1701.
This sonata is crying out to be heard by advocates, far and wide, who can relish its rhythmic thrill and immediate melodic charms. Whilst it only once yields to North German didact in the Fuga, Muffat is not really concerned with contrapuntal exhibition. Instead, one is tempted to seek comparison with the high-art Austrian flair that Mozart brought to Salzburg a century later. To endorse this large-scale addition to the ‘trumpet and piano' sonata repertoire, one is drawn to the preface of the composer's ‘Florilegium Secundum', where he emphasises not only the need for ‘disciplined performance and precision in ensemble' but also ‘a flexible approach to instrumentation'.
© Jonathan Freeman-Attwood
About the arrangements:
The improvisatory music making of both the 17th and 19th century composer-performer is rooted in a pragmatic, but also impassioned culture of expressing the music through the medium at hand - ad hoc in the best sense, when we talk about intentions. In such a culture one has to accept the rough with the smooth, delight in surprises, but also ‘fill out' in one's mind where the realisation simply hints at the intention - as such an exercise both for listener and player.
The central position of the piano in the 19th century as medium for transcriptions encourages us to draw on some of the arrangement practices of that era - a natural starting point for a disc such as this. When it comes to the music of the 17th century though, we also have the lessons learnt from a diversity of modern-day performance practices for baroque music - performance practices that, at their best, provide powerful means for clarifying textures, lightening articulation, imbuing dance rhythms with buoyancy, and ‘stylising' the expression where that is called for, inevitably calling for an approach that is alert to these possibilities too. Perhaps most important is the awareness that the darkening, constant enriching of colour and timbre that characterises so much of the ‘romantic' approach, is not always the most effective for chamber-like baroque utterances.
The most obvious dividing line exists in this trumpet and piano project between those works where only the voice-leadings in the melodic line and the bass need to be kept intact (such as the Sweelinck arrangement here), and those works - or parts of works - where the entire contrapuntal texture must be retained sacrosanct (such as the Purcell Fantasy). In the latter case a multi-voiced work must have melodic lines distributed such that the duet medium does not obscure the contrapuntal workings, and yet be free to add a new element of dialogue.
So, in some works lines are merely redistributed for the two instruments, according to the possibilities of the context (eg. the plaintive Cabanilles work), with the solo piano sometimes providing natural paragraph divisions (eg. the Arauxo Tiento). Here the wide range of declamatory styles of the music provides its own variety and unusual characters in the new incarnation.
In other places textures can be filled out with almost total freedom according to one's felt response to the music (in both the spirit of elaboration and improvisation, eg. Scocca Pur). This ‘filling out' highlights the problem of octave registration on the piano: added octaves in the piano bass are a good way of rooting a texture and supporting a clarion solo line, but can also hint at laboured Victorian baroque parody; in some works moving freely into, and out of, a 16-foot bass provides delicate negotiating possibilities (especially so in the Muffat Sonata). Changes in octave registration of the whole texture can also create fresh new colours for the music (eg. the Couperin Chromhorne on this disc.)
On some occasions the texture seems so open to manipulation that ‘extra' counterpoints keep suggesting themselves at every turn (cf. the Monteverdi and Marchand works) - here the thrust and character of the music are too infectious to call for any kind of restraint.
Assuming, in both arranging and performing, a pragmatic and playful approach to realising this richly expressive and interesting music, new guises do not simply reflect off the originals - in some cases they are a reflection on the music, or simply a reflection of it. In some of these works the new version leaps at the ear like a fresh piece, in others the music asks for a kind of personal communication with itself too, rather than with an audience - in the true spirit of so much of baroque music making.
© Daniel-Ben Pienaar
Special thanks to the Royal Academy of Music
Recorded at St George's, Brandon Hill, Bristol from July 16th-18th 2007
Engineered by Philip Hobbs
Post Production by Julia Thomas at Finesplice, UK
Sleeve design by John Haxby