Repertoire

Trumpet Concerto in Eb

Frans Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

I allego (sonata) II andante (sonata) III allegro (rondo)

Joseph Haydn was one of the most prolific and prominent composers of the
classical period – he wrote an astonishing 107 symphonies, 83 string quartets,
45 piano trios, 60 piano sonatas, 14 masses and 26 operas amongst many
other scores.

But in all this abundance, this is his only trumpet concerto. It was composed
in 1796 soon after Haydn’s return to the employ of the Esterházy family, for
whom Haydn had worked much of his life. Prince Nikolaus II, unlike his
predecessors, did not ask a great deal of his Kapellmeister – only that he
produced one new mass a year. This left Haydn time and energy to compose
some of his most beautiful music!

His trumpet concerto was written for the new ‘keyed’ trumpet, which had
recently been invented by his friend Anton Weidinger. Before this time, the
trumpet (or ‘natural’ trumpet as it became known) was valveless and had a
limited range, particularly in the lower register. But Weidinger’s keyed
trumpet – with drilled holes covered with flute-like keys – could play
chromatically through its entire range and this concerto was designed to show
off its new capabilities. With characteristic playfulness, Haydn introduced this
new, much anticipated instrument by giving it a teasing single note and then a
simple fanfare – which would have been quite possible to play with the old
natural trumpet. However, when the main solo theme comes in a few bars
later, it includes notes that would have been impossible to reach without
Weidinger’s new keys, and throughout the three movements Haydn employs
unusual intervals in the low and middle registers where the natural trumpet
simply cannot reach.

Despite the fact that Weidinger was reported to play his trumpet very
beautifully (Johann Hummel’s trumpet concerto of 1803 was also written for
Weidinger and his keyed instrument), the sound quality of this new instrument
was poor and it failed to catch on! Haydn’s trumpet concerto follows Mozart’s
pattern of three movements – a fast and showy first movement which includes
a cadenza (Alice’s is stolen from one by Helmut Wobish and another by
Marius Flothius), a slow and lyrical middle movement and a brisk last
movement in rondo form with a triumphant finale!

Programme notes for BHSO performance, Nov 2014
Written by Willo Horsbrugh

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