Bach and the Others: Eighteenth-Century Trumpeter-Hornists
Edward H. Tarr
Trumpet player and musicologist. Former director of the Trumpet Museum in Bad Säckingen, Germany (1985 to 2004), and former professor of modern and Baroque trumpet at the Basel Music Academy in Basel, Switzerland (1972 to 2001).
This scholarly exploration delves into the musical works of Johann Sebastian Bach during his tenure as the cantor of St. Thomas in Leipzig (1723-1750), focusing on instances where musicians were expected to proficiently play more than one instrument. The research uncovers a notable tradition among brass players, specifically trumpeters and hornists, who demonstrated versatility by seamlessly transitioning between trumpet and horn performances. Examining specific cantatas in chronological order, such as BWV 128, BWV 14, and BWV 195, where musicians skillfully navigated both instruments, the study sheds light on the intriguing intersection of trumpet and horn in Bach’s compositions.
The investigation extends beyond Leipzig to explore instances where Bach modified original instrumentation during repeat performances, perhaps due to the availability of certain instruments or the evolving skills of his musicians. Noteworthy cases include the replacement of trumpets with oboes and the adaptation of solo trumpet parts into the first violin section. The paper also considers instances where musicians played diverse instruments within a single performance part, introducing the intriguing concept of instrument interchangeability in selected cantatas like BWV 3 and BWV 68.
Drawing attention to the dynamic musical landscape of Leipzig during Bach’s time, the research underscores the significance of the city’s wind-instrument players, particularly the Stadtpfeifer and Kunstgeiger. Additionally, the paper delves into the broader historical context, exploring the traditions of other musical institutions in Leipzig and neighboring regions, such as the Neukirche musicians and the court of Weissenfels.
As the narrative unfolds, the study introduces key figures in Leipzig’s musical scene, including renowned trumpeters and hornists like Johann Gottfried Reiche. The evolving roles of municipal musicians, their duties, and the changing dynamics among the Stadtpfeifer and Kunstgeiger are thoroughly examined, revealing a rich tapestry of musical life in 17th and 18th-century Leipzig.
In conclusion, this comprehensive exploration not only illuminates the specific instances of instrument versatility in Bach’s compositions but also provides a broader understanding of the intricate relationships among musicians, instruments, and musical institutions in Leipzig during a pivotal period in music history.