Variations on the Carnival of Venice has become one of the classic showpieces for the cornet and its ability to excite an audience has led many other instrumentalists to adapt the famous tune. Versions by Arban and Clarke are performed frequently, but more recent renditions like that of Allen Vizzutti are quickly setting new aspirations for trumpet players. A personal favorite is a performance by Ryan Anthony, who combines the Arban and Clarke versions into a very exciting orchestral arrangement:
The tune reminiscing of Venice’s biggest yearly celebration needs to take the listener into a lighthearted, constantly-smiling atmosphere (Mr. Anthony’s connection with his audience demonstrates this well, although it seems he is already at a carnival). With this character in mind, let’s delve into a few technical aspects of the piece.
For the purpose of this guide, I am referencing Arban’s version (beginning on pg. 417 of “Arban Complete Conservatory Method for Trumpet,” New Authentic Edition).
The Introduction (Allegretto) immediately sets the scene for the carnival. Sing with a free-spirited soloistic cornet sound, but be careful not to rush. When entering the presentation of the theme (dotted quarter = 88), I would recommend interpreting the staccatos as style, not as true length. The upbeat to the third measure, for example, needs to lead into the next.
Subdivision is the name of the game for Variation I. Make major dynamic differences between the beginning of the descending double tongued passage and the start of the trills (i.e. bars 10 and 11). Again, subdivide through the trills. Moving into the thirty-second note arpeggios, there can be tendencies to be late into the figure, then rush later to “catch up.” Avoid this and practice religiously and slowly with a metronome.
In preparing this piece, allow yourself ample time to practice the second variation. The triple tongue cannot inhibit the airflow; build studies into your daily fundamentals to work on this. When accents are added to bring out the tune, achieve the accent with AIR rather than harshness of articulation.
Variation III offers a slightly more relaxed walk through the carnival festivities. After the thrill of the previous sections, allow yourself to sing more romantically during the first part of this before bringing the listener back into the excitement when the pianissimo double tonguing begins in the second half. Slow practice with the metronome is again helpful here.
Variation IV should be practiced in several ways. For one, be able to play the upper “filigree” thirty-seconds without the lower accented tune, and visa versa. Practicing this way will ensure you clearly have the subdivision AND clarity of tone ingrained. Another practice strategy could be to have a friend play the lower line while you play the upper, and then reverse.
In general, approach this entire work with a sense of enjoyment. That’s what it’s about anyway, right?