Trumpet Concerto in E-flat Major
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Haydn is perhaps the most unpretentious of all the great composers. He wanted
to write music anyone could understand, music that was accessible to people
with no knowledge of instruments, much less an orchestra. At the same time, he
was sophisticated enough to write for the trained ear, as well as to please
himself. This is why listening to Haydn reveals myriad delights on many levels,
from the simple to the sublime.
One of the best examples of Haydn's duality is the Trumpet Concerto in E-Flat
Major, written when new keyed trumpets were expanding the instrument's range
and power. The harmonic range of older, valveless trumpets had to be
manipulated by the player's lips alone, but the newer instruments allowed for a
much broader spectrum of sound. A good example can be heard by listening to
Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, where the trumpet plays its melody in the
upper register alone. With the keyed trumpet, the soloist could play melodies in
both upper and lower registers.
Composed in 1796 for the virtuoso Anton Weidlinger, the work was not well
received at first, in part because audiences were skeptical of its odd new sounds.
But it quickly gained favor, and soon found its place in the repertoire as one of
the great, if deceptively simple, works for the instrument. The opening movement
is all show – a razzle-dazzle cadenza for the soloist – once the trumpet pays
tribute to the strings and goes on its own way. Then, the trumpet introduces
themes that are repeated by the orchestra. This follows with a slow legato
movement that in turn forces the soloist to show tasteful restraint. The finale
offers a bit of pyrotechnics and extremely high passages designed to bring the
audience to its feet.
Program notes by Kurt Loft.
Kurt Loft is a music critic based in Tampa, Fl.