VIRTUOSO TIMPANI CONCERTOS (Alexander Peter/ Alexander Peter/ Dresden Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.557610)
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VIRTUOSO TIMPANI CONCERTOSAndre Philidor (c.1647-1730) and JacquesPhilidor (1657-1708): Marche de TimbalesJohann Carl Christian Fischer (1752-1807):Symphony with Eight Obbligato TimpaniJohann Melchior Molter (1696-1765):Sinfonia No. 99 in F majorJohann Christoph Graupner (1683-1760):SinfoniaGeorg Druschetzky (1745-1819): Concerto forSix Timpani and Orchestra Partita in C major
The earliest references in European literature tokettledrums appear in accounts of the crusadersconfronting Moslem armies. For example, in his Life ofSaint Louis, Jean de Joinville describes meeting thearmies of the Sultan of Cairo at the Egyptian coastal cityof Damietta in the spring of 1248: \It was a sight toenchant the eye, for the sultan's arms were all of gold,and where the sun caught them they shone resplendent.
The din this army made with its kettledrums andSaracen horns was terrifying to hear" (Joinville &Villehardouin, Chronicles of the Crusades, trans. M. R.
B. Shaw [Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1963], 201).
The persistent conflicts between the Ottomanempire and western Europeans led to the adoption oflarge Turkish-style kettledrums (kus) into westernmilitary music. Large kettledrums were the prerogativesof the Ottoman sultan's elite military or Janissary guard.
In battle, capturing the Turkish kettledrums was asource of pride. By the early fifteenth century westernnobles were entitled to employ military kettledrums andtrumpets. Even cities could obtain this right. Forexample, in 1426 the Emperor Sigismund establishedthe privilege of having town city trumpeters and kettledrummers in Augsburg.
The musicians had to be guild members and servedapprenticeships of up to six years. These guildspersisted well into the late eighteenth century. JohannErnst Altenberg's Versuch einer Anleitung zur heroischmusikalischenTrompeter- und Pauker- Kunst (Halle,1795) details some practices. Instructive for thetimpanist is the last chapter in which he discusses someSchlagmanieren or types of beatings required of themilitary timpanist.
The pairing of the drums stems from their militaryuse as instruments played while mounted on horsebackand normally a noble might have but one pair. Altenbergtells us that on festival or special occasions more thanthe normal pair of timpani could be used. He says thatseveral timpani of varying sizes and pitches (he infers asmany as eight) could be placed in a semicirculararrangement for more comfortable performance. Hecites Johann Reichardt's 1786 Cantus lugubris inorbitum Friderici Magni borussorum regis (Cantata onthe death of Frederick the Great) in which four timpaniare needed to play in quick succession the pitches G Aflat c and d flat. Earlier in the text when mentioningfamous contemporary trumpeters and timpanists, hecites Georg Druschetzky, composer of two workspresented on this recording. The other works recordedno doubt also have their origins in court ceremonies orentertainments.
Virtuoso timpanists from the eighteenth century orearly nineteenth centuries are not easy to identify. GeorgRoth, a Nuremberg timpani virtuoso, gave a concert atthe Karntnertor Theater in Vienna on 29th April 1798.
The concert advertisement shows him performing onsixteen timpani with three sticks in each hand. In theearliest timpani tutor, Georges Kastner's 1845 Methodecompl?¿te et raisonee de timbales he cites an early 19thcenturytimpanist from Berlin who played a concerto onten timpani and juggled his sticks in the air as he ranfrom drum to drum. Kastner also says that "the Germantimpanists were, overall, very famous" and drawsparticular attention to a celebrated timpanist fromStrasbourg called Willig, who "had a superb costumeand a big salary."The works on this recording present someinteresting differences from the normal eighteenthcenturyusage of two timpani with two trumpets inwhich the timpani play the tonic and dominant notes ofthe key. These avant-garde attempts to use more thantwo pitches to reinforce the harmonic or melodicstructure of the music are paralleled in more recentworks using pedal mechanisms developed in the midnineteenthand twentieth centuries.
The timpani of the eighteenth and early nineteenthcenturies were much smaller in diameter than those innormal use today. The typical pair often measured abouteighteen and twenty-one inches in diameter, with ashallow depth of about twelve to fifteen inches. Theslackness of the thick calf or goat-skin heads played byvery hard sticks gave a different sound, less resonantand generally softer in dynamic impact that what isheard today. The larger size of our modern timpani (thelargest drums in common use measure 32 inches indiameter) thus create some different problems for themodern timpanist who attempts to play the multipletimpani works. Alexander Peter performs on eighteenthcenturystyle drums mounted with goat-skin heads andplayed upon with wooden sticks. Note the varying tonecolours he produces within these simple parameters.
This recording presents several styles of music formore than two timpani. The phrase "multiple timpani"music aptly describes it. The duet by the Philidorbrothers typifies the older semi-improvised style used bymilitary drummers. The works by Molter and Graupnerare elegant symphonic examples of court music in whichthe timpanist enhances the bass, Fischer continues in thistradition but includes more soloistic passages, andDruschetzky displays the virtuosic capabilities inferredby Altenberg and articulated by Kastner.
Scattered throughout the seventeenth century arereferences to the use of the timpani in military music,but the most consistent use of the instruments in othercontexts dates from the latter part of that century inmanuscripts preserved in Germany and France. Thebest-known of these documents are several manuscriptscopied by Andre and Jacques Philidor, musicians andmusic librarians at the court of Louis XIV at Versailles.
The Philidor brothers wrote the Marche detimballes 4 for Louis XIV's 1685 carousel. The work isa duet with two pairs of drums tuned G and c and e andg respectively. An initial motive unifies the seventeencouplets. Homorhythmic sections contrast withsyncopated and imitative passages. The final couplet is avirtuosic tour de force. Alexander Peter adds again alevel of virtuosity to this work by performing both partssimultaneously.
For nearly two hundred years the Symphonie mitacht obligaten Pauken 5-7 was thought to be byJohann Wilhelm Hertel (1727-1789) since it is boundwith his other symphonies. In his 1977 Ph.D.
dissertation at the Wilhelm-Pieck University in Rostock,Studien ??ber das Musikschaffen Johann Christian undJohann Wilhelm Hertels, Reinhard Diekow conclusivelydetermined on stylistic grounds that the work is not byHertel but Johann Carl Christian Fischer (1752-1807), amusic copyist, musician, and theatre director at theLudwigslust Palace near Schwerin in the employ ofHerzog Friedrich Franz I. Most likely Fischer wrote theSinfonia that requires four pairs of timpani, twotrumpets, two oboes, and strings for an entertainmentheld in the beautifully decorated main ballroom, dergoldene Saal, probably in the 1780s or before hisretirement in 1792. The music is in Fischer's handnotated on paper from the late eighteenth century; nocomposer is indicated. The work in C major is the firstknown concerto for the timpani and features a writtenoutcadenza at the end of the first movement. The eighttimpani are tuned G A B c d e f and g. Leipzig born,Johann Georg Hoese (d. 1801), court timpanist andmusician at Ludwigslust (1747-1800), may be thesoloist for whom Fischer wrote this concerto.
The first movement, a loosely constructed concertoform, contrasts florid solo timpani passages, often usingAlberti-bass patterns with tutti sections in which thetrumpets and drums sound the