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The Trumpet in the Work of Johann Sebastian Bach


As a trumpeter, I contemplate the notion that we, as interpreters, may inadvertently restrict the potential of our instruments when we label certain pieces as “not trumpet-like.” Historical precedent indicates that such limitations have impeded the evolution of trumpet technique. The natural trumpet, with its inherent limitations and reliance on the natural-harmonic series, transformed from a rudimentary metal tube into a remarkable instrument. The chromatic trumpet of the 19th century expanded the instrument’s capabilities, aligning it with other melodic opportunities.

Drawing inspiration from Jean-Marie Londeix’s tripartite formula for instrumental development, I explore the collaborative efforts that shaped the trumpet’s evolution. The guilds of trumpet makers in Nuremberg, particularly in the 16th century, laid the foundation for technical advancements. The emergence of the chromatic trumpet in the 19th century reflected collaborative efforts, showcasing the interplay between scientific advancements, musical exploration beyond current limits, and the composer’s courage to challenge technical boundaries.

Gottfried Reiche, a virtuoso trumpeter and friend of Johann Sebastian Bach, played a pivotal role in pushing the boundaries of trumpet music during the 17th and 18th centuries. Bach, aware of Reiche’s technical prowess, composed sixty-five works prominently featuring the trumpet, surpassing the norms of the time. Examining Bach’s deliberate use of trumpets in various keys and configurations reveals symbolic layers, such as the Holy Trinity represented by three trumpets and timpani. The exploration of harmonics beyond the 18th to the 24th harmonic in compositions like the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 showcases the audacious pursuit of beauty and expression.

The collaboration between Bach and Reiche underscores the symbiotic relationship between composer and performer, transcending the perceived limitations of their era. Their legacy resonates through time, inspiring subsequent generations of trumpeters to continue the tradition of innovation and artistic exploration. The natural trumpet, once a humble metal tube, evolved into an instrument capable of expressing the sublime, thanks to the visionary contributions of individuals like Reiche and the creative genius of Johann Sebastian Bach.

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ISSN: 2792-8349

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International Journal of Music