Nicholas Mcgegan

Trumpet

The majestic trumpet’s heritage dates far back into ancient history, with examples having been found in the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen and in other archeological sites around the world. These were almost certainly signaling instruments, along the lines of the modern bugle.

In 15th-century Europe, craftsmen began to experiment with twisting the metal tubing in various ways, until the trumpet adopted a shape we would recognize today. Through this process, the trumpet also became an instrument for playing music. The historical instrument was the “natural trumpet,” one lacking keys or valves for changing pitch.

The importance of the trumpet in baroque music cannot be over estimated. Used in theatres, churches, and royal courts, it was much in demand. Georg Philipp Telemann, Henry Purcell, and Antonio Lucio Vivaldi are among those who wrote extensively for the trumpet. The natural trumpet requires great skill to play, and baroque composers often wrote their more difficult trumpet scores for particular virtuoso performers. Johann Sebastian Bach wrote works for Gottfried Reiche, his chief trumpet player in Leipzig; George Frideric Handel wrote for Valentine Snow, a prominent English trumpet player.

About 1800, the keyed trumpet appeared. This instrument expanded the trumpet’s range, at the sacrifice of some of its power. The great Austrian trumpet player Anton Weidinger became associated with the keyed trumpet (some even credit him with its invention). Franz Joseph Haydn and Johann Nepomuk Hummel were among the composers who created works for Weidenger. The keyed trumpet was ultimately replaced by the modern valued trumpet, which appeared in the late 19th century.