EXPLORING MUSIC

An Italian Trumpet Festival

Author

David M. Greene

Publication

MHS Review 214 Vol. 1, No. XVI December 19, 1977

Listen

 

Bologna (pr. Bo-LOHN-ya) is one of that endless string of cities along the Emilian Way up there in the North Italian plain. It is noted for an innocuous fuzzy wine called Lambrusco, for pasta sauce called ragu, for yummy stuffed pigs' feet called zamponi, and for a sausage called mortadella, which we know as bologna (pr. bo-LOH-ni). Bologna has one more leaning tower than Pisa. It boasts an ornate Neptun fountain by Giovanni da Bologna or Giambologna, sculptor of the Flying Mercury (but not of the Vaulting Volkswagen), who was really a Fleming born in Douai; the waterjets emanate in part from several buxom Baroque nymphs in a fashion that may correctly be described as exuberant. Bologna has had a communist government for years and seems none the worse for it. It has had a university even longer; in fact, the University of Bologna is one of the oldest in the world, having been incorporated in the late twelfth century, though it already existed in some form perhaps nearly two hundred years earlier. And Bologna has the Church of San Petronio, which was meant to be overwhelmingly enormous, only the money ran out. To my eyes, its unfinished facade is stunningly ugly; unhappily, I can't speak for the inside, for when I was there the doors were closed, as happens with churches in Catholic countries in the afternoon, presumably so that the Deity may have lunch.

 

What has this Traveltalk to do with trumpet concerti? Well, a good deal, actually. San Petronio is a notably musical church, historically (a number of records have emanated from there) and it has an important musical archive, which, if I understand the sources I am looking at, contains a good deal of early trumpet music. For whatever reason, trumpets (as distinguished from the wooden cornetti one is apt to encounter in Venetian wind music) loomed large in Bolognese life from early on. Town criers a century before Columbus were accompanied by "trombe e trombette" and for the 1487 wedding of Lucrezia d'Este with Bologna's very own Annibale Bentivoglio the musical forces included "100 trombite." The brasses obviously figured importantly in ceremonial affairs, and the Bolognese ''trumpet sonata'' seems to have originated as a sort of glorified fanfare for such occasions, to which form the Carcasio sonata for trumpets, oboes, and organ seems to hark back. (Early in its history, that then ill-defined term sonata was applied to trumpet calls--i.e., calls to be sounded--whence Shakespeare's stage­direction "sennet;" his "tucket" is a toccata.

 

The Bolognese trumpet-sonata tradition lasted long enough to sire some genuine trumpet concerti in the Baroque, repre­sented here by examples by Manfredini and Bononcini, both of whom imbibed their music with water from the Neptune fountain. There is some confusion in the material sent me as to which Bononcini is meant; in one place the dates indicate Giovanni Maria (father), but elsewhere Giovanni (son), Handel's London rival, is clearly meant, and the fact that his Op. 3 contains sinfonie seems to clinch it (but we are told that it consists of four such works, whereas the title of this one proclaims it to be number ten! I wish I had room to comment in detail on the liner notes, which are so execrable as to be ludicrous.)

 

As I have indicated, Venice--whence the Vivaldi and Legrenzi works--also had an important wind-music tradition (see Gabrieli) though the cornetto was commoner than the trumpet. Vivaldi's is perhaps the most famous of all two-trumpet concerti; one cannot resist imagining his little Ospedale charges, Teresa Tromba and Tina Trombetta, girlfully struggling with the high Louisarmstrong notes. Perhaps that's why the concerto was a one-shot affair!

 

An Italian Trumpet Festival

Author

David M. Greene

Publication

MHS Review 214 Vol. 1, No. XVI December 19, 1977

Listen

 

Bologna (pr. Bo-LOHN-ya) is one of that endless string of cities along the Emilian Way up there in the North Italian plain. It is noted for an innocuous fuzzy wine called Lambrusco, for pasta sauce called ragu, for yummy stuffed pigs' feet called zamponi, and for a sausage called mortadella, which we know as bologna (pr. bo-LOH-ni). Bologna has one more leaning tower than Pisa. It boasts an ornate Neptun fountain by Giovanni da Bologna or Giambologna, sculptor of the Flying Mercury (but not of the Vaulting Volkswagen), who was really a Fleming born in Douai; the waterjets emanate in part from several buxom Baroque nymphs in a fashion that may correctly be described as exuberant. Bologna has had a communist government for years and seems none the worse for it. It has had a university even longer; in fact, the University of Bologna is one of the oldest in the world, having been incorporated in the late twelfth century, though it already existed in some form perhaps nearly two hundred years earlier. And Bologna has the Church of San Petronio, which was meant to be overwhelmingly enormous, only the money ran out. To my eyes, its unfinished facade is stunningly ugly; unhappily, I can't speak for the inside, for when I was there the doors were closed, as happens with churches in Catholic countries in the afternoon, presumably so that the Deity may have lunch.

 

What has this Traveltalk to do with trumpet concerti? Well, a good deal, actually. San Petronio is a notably musical church, historically (a number of records have emanated from there) and it has an important musical archive, which, if I understand the sources I am looking at, contains a good deal of early trumpet music. For whatever reason, trumpets (as distinguished from the wooden cornetti one is apt to encounter in Venetian wind music) loomed large in Bolognese life from early on. Town criers a century before Columbus were accompanied by "trombe e trombette" and for the 1487 wedding of Lucrezia d'Este with Bologna's very own Annibale Bentivoglio the musical forces included "100 trombite." The brasses obviously figured importantly in ceremonial affairs, and the Bolognese ''trumpet sonata'' seems to have originated as a sort of glorified fanfare for such occasions, to which form the Carcasio sonata for trumpets, oboes, and organ seems to hark back. (Early in its history, that then ill-defined term sonata was applied to trumpet calls--i.e., calls to be sounded--whence Shakespeare's stage­direction "sennet;" his "tucket" is a toccata.

 

The Bolognese trumpet-sonata tradition lasted long enough to sire some genuine trumpet concerti in the Baroque, repre­sented here by examples by Manfredini and Bononcini, both of whom imbibed their music with water from the Neptune fountain. There is some confusion in the material sent me as to which Bononcini is meant; in one place the dates indicate Giovanni Maria (father), but elsewhere Giovanni (son), Handel's London rival, is clearly meant, and the fact that his Op. 3 contains sinfonie seems to clinch it (but we are told that it consists of four such works, whereas the title of this one proclaims it to be number ten! I wish I had room to comment in detail on the liner notes, which are so execrable as to be ludicrous.)

 

As I have indicated, Venice--whence the Vivaldi and Legrenzi works--also had an important wind-music tradition (see Gabrieli) though the cornetto was commoner than the trumpet. Vivaldi's is perhaps the most famous of all two-trumpet concerti; one cannot resist imagining his little Ospedale charges, Teresa Tromba and Tina Trombetta, girlfully struggling with the high Louisarmstrong notes. Perhaps that's why the concerto was a one-shot affair!

 

Title