Baroque Trumpet

It’s Messiah season, and this time around we’re going to be doing it a bit differently. The orchestra is split between two programmes this week (Messiah and Traditional Christmas), so Rich Scholz is going to be playing with me. Since he and I played Messiah with Spiritus Chamber Choir on baroque trumpets last year at A=415, we thought that this would be our chance to give it a go for the first time at A=440 on the same instruments. 

Baroque trumpet has been a real adventure for me. I bought an Egger 3-hole a few years ago off of an internet buy and sell, and it took me a long time to start thinking I could make anything worthwhile come out of the bell. The style and musicianship that goes along with playing a baroque instrument is mostly the same as that required for historically informed performance on a modern one. As I had been pursuing that under the guidance of Ivars Taurins, who we see regularly here in Calgary, that wasn’t a big adjustment to me. 

Technically, however, the darned thing just doesn’t behave like a modern instrument. First of all, the mouthpiece is radically different. A super flat rim with a very sharp angle into the cup makes for a truly bizarre interface with the instrument, for a player accustomed to modern equipment. It has taken a lot of buzzing to get comfortable on the thing. The most striking difference I’ve found though, is the type of airstream that the instrument requires. 

One of the main challenges for me on any instrument is just to relax my airstream. My tendency has always been to go the other way, but on baroque trumpet the whole thing just shuts down when things are too high-energy. For this reason, learning the instrument has been really helpful to my playing as a whole. Playing it just ten minutes a day is a really great way to remind myself that I can recalibrate the way I blow. 

A lot more can be said about this topic, and I’m sure I’ll come back to it in the future. But for now, here’s a contrast: old-school piccolo trumpet compared with the state of the art in historical performance.