Hansen: Sonata for Cornet and Piano

The Danish Thorvald Hansen was born into mid-19th century Europe at the height of Romanticism, and as Mahler set to work on his lush symphonic textures, Hansen found himself a jack of all trades, playing multiple instruments including violin, piano, and cornet. Spending time as a church organist and performing on violin and trumpet, Hansen left us a true gem of the repertoire with his Sonate for cornet.

In fact, I would argue this piece not only boasts great pedagogical value, but takes its place as one of the finest romantic works for our instrument. Stylistically, let’s examine one movement at a time:

Movement I, Allegro con brio

From the second measure, the trumpeter needs to skillfully dovetail the melodic line that the piano starts. Young students may experience tension in these opening passages due to the range each phrase begins; remember that we need not approach the horn any differently here, but each descending phrase should be sung with a free and supported sound.

Furthermore, dotted rhythms need to bounce without hesitation: allow the air to do the work. As persistent dotted eighths transition into flowing melodies, phrase with your pianist as the line intensifies and resolves.

Movement II, Andante molto espressione.

This movement affords us the opportunity to play with a beautiful, vibrant sound in the softs of the horn. The written hairpin dynamics should flow naturally: don’t force. The color of the trumpet/cornet and piano can be amazing in this movement, but only if we really use our ears to connect with our friend on piano.

Movement III, Allegro con anima.

This movement should be approached with great enjoyment. One could call it a march, but be careful not to cheat note lengths. Once again, hairpin dynamics should sound natural and even, unlike the modern interpretation we often see with contemporary classical music. The relatively few dynamic markings allow us to make key phrasing choices: be sure to think about your music and play convincingly! But most of all…have fun!!

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