THE ART OF THE BAROQUE TRUMPET, Vol. 3 (Charles Medlam/ Edward H. Tarr/ London Baroque/ Niklas Eklund/ Susanne Ryden) (Naxos: 8.553735)
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The Art of the Baroque Trumpet, Vol. 3 Music forSoprano and Trumpet
Handel Caldara Fux Predieri Stradella Scarlatti
During the late Baroque period it became fairlycommon for a vocal part to be accompanied by an instrument, in order to heightenthe expressiveness of the text. These additional instrumental parts weredescribed as obbligato, or necessary. During the 1670s this had becomecommon practice in operas, especially in Venice, but it gradually became lessfrequent and by about 1710 had almost ceased to exist in Italy. This wascertainly owing to the fact that now the singer was to be the centre ofattention, without competition from any instrumentalists. The singer was tohave full scope for his virtuosity and power of expression and the orchestrawas to serve merely as a background. The trumpet, as an obbligato instrument,where such parts were employed, was mainly used to symbolize war, combat,revenge or Fama, the goddess of rumour. This association of ideas could beextended to fights for love and, strangely enough, also to feelings of griefand pain, as, for example, those experienced over unrequited love.
Born in Halle in 1685, George Frideric Handelshowed early promise, studying there with Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow. In 1702 heembarked on a musical career, with employment at the Hamburg opera-house,moving in 1706, to Italy, where the leading composers of the day made a greatimpression on him. In 1710 he was engaged as Kapellmeister at the court ofHanover, but in the same year was given permission to visit London, where,after a second visit in 1712, he took up permanent residence. Here his firstengagement had been for the provision of Italian opera and at first his workfor the opera-house was very successful, but when public interest began todecline in the 1730s, he turned also to the composition of English oratorio.
His Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne, described as a Serenata, waswritten for the Queen's birthday on 16th February 1714 and was his firstselling of an English text. This commission shows even at this stage the extentof Handel's renown in England. The aria Eternal source of light divine, whichintroduces the cantata, was originally written for a countertenor but it wasnot uncommon to adapt an aria to suit a different singer, with transpositionsand other changes.
In some of his earlier operas Handel had used obbligatotrumpet parts, and the same holds true for his oratorios in the 1740s. Theoratorio Samson was, apart from the recitatives, composed in October1741, to be completed only after the composition of Messiah. A yearlater Handel made changes in his score, to accommodate a larger group ofsingers, adding the aria Let the bright Seraphim, which, placedimmediately before the final chorus, became the high point of the oratorio. Thetrumpet part was written for Valentine Snow, the foremost English trumpeter ofhis time, who had been a member of Handel's orchestra since the 1730s. Thewell-known music historian Charles Burney praised Snow for his silver sounds.
Rinaldo was Handel's s firstopera for an English audience. Almira, betrothed to Radamisto, sings the aria Lasciach'io pianga ('Let me weep'), when suffering the unwelcome attentions ofthe Saracen king, Argante. It has always been considered one of Handel's finestarias.
Although the use of obbligato instrumentsdisappeared in Italy about 1710, Italian composers active in Vienna continuedthe older practice. Special gala performances of operas were given for thebirthdays and name-days of the Emperor Charles VI and the Empress Elisabeth andduring the Emperor's reign, which lasted from 1711 to 1740, there was in Viennaa large and brilliant Court Orchestra, with many eminent musicians, especiallyin the trumpet section. The Italian composer Antonio Caldara was born in Venicein 1670 and was probably a pupil there of Giovanni Legrenzi. He began hiscareer in 1689, composing operas, oratorios, sacred music and some purelyinstrumental music. Between the years 1700 and 1707 he was Kapellmeister in Mantua,but very little remains of his compositions from that period. From 1708 to 1716he was in the service of Prince Ruspoli, who was, together with CardinalOttoboni, the foremost patron of music in Rome. In 1716 Charles VI engaged himas assistant Kapellmeister in Vienna, where his industry and versatilityenabled him to take over the duties of Johann Joseph Fux, the ageingKapellmeister. As the Emperor's favourite composer he wrote 63 operas, 27oratorios, a great amount of sacred music and several other compositions. Theopera Ifigenia in Aulide (Iphigenia in Aulis) was composed in 1718 forthe name-day of the Emperor. From this work La vittoria segue (Victoryfollows) can best be described as a basso continuo aria, that is an ariawith no orchestral accompaniment, but here with an obbligato trumpet.
In 1715 Johann Joseph Fux was able to exchangehis title of assistant Kapellmeister to that of Kapellmeister of the courtmusical establishment in Vienna. He is nowadays best known as a scholar,especially for his book Gradus ad Parnassum, but he also composed a widevariety of music. The opera Enea negli Elisi ('Aeneas in Elysia') waswritten for the birthday of the Empress on 28th August 1731. The concertantetrumpet lends a heroic character to Gloria's aria Chi nel camin d'onore ('Whoon the path of honour'). The very demanding trumpet part goes as high as e'''on a trumpet in C, just as in the preceding aria by Caldara. It was probablywritten for Johann Heinisch, who was famous for his virtuosity and was praisedby Fux. The aria is a da capo aria, in tripartite A-B-A form, and isaccompanied by basso continuo only, except in the central section, wherethe trumpet is silent and the singer is accompanied by a four-part orchestra.
Luca Antonio Predieri, who arrived in Vienna in1737, the year of Caldara's death soon became assistant Kapellmeister and in1746 Kapellmeister. He retired five years later, still keeping his salary, andreturned to his native Bologna, where he died in 1767. In Vienna he composedoperas as well as sacred music. The opera Zenobia was written for thebirthday of the Empress on 28th August 1740. Zenobia is the wife of Radamisto.
In his absence she refuses the protection of Prince Tiridate, since he has oncetried to violate her. In the aria, therefore, she sings Pace una volta, ecalma lascia ch'io trovi, ('Let me find peace and calm') and the trumpetunderlines her desire. The trumpet part is very demanding with long ascendingpassages and quavers in a high position, together with the very infrequent noteof e''' flat. Both singer and trumpet-player are confronted with a verychallenging task, with long coloratura passages that reach as high as c'''.
In Italy the trumpet could also be given a concertantefunction in an introductory operatic sinfonia. A good example ofthis is the sinfonia for the first act of the serenata Il Barcheggio byAlessandro Stradella, performed at a wedding in Genoa in 1681. Stradella, bornin Rome in 1644, was active in several different cities, including Venice, Romeand finally Genoa. At his death he was only 37 years old, but he had by thenacquired a distinguished reputation as a composer. The trumpet occurs inseveral arias in Il Barcheggio, the second act of which also opens witha trumpet sinfonia.
Together with the opera, the cantata shared aposition as the most important vocal genre during the second part of theseventeenth century. A canta