Haydn: Concerto in Eb Major

We are incredibly fortunate to have this concerto in the classical trumpet repertoire, and its historical significance makes the work’s legacy even more profound. Austrian trumpeter Anton Weidinger premiered both the Haydn and Hummel concertos, projects that stemmed from Haydn’s own interest in the new ability of the trumpet to play chromatically. Contrary to some beliefs, Weidinger did not “invent” the keyed trumpet, but was one of many trumpet players experimenting with this new technology.

Movement I, or at least its exposition, is a frequent choice for orchestral auditions requiring a solo. This trend is interesting but not surprising, for the detail and quick stylistic changes is very similar to playing different excerpts side-by-side. Of course, as musicians we should always strive to tell a story and not allow these shifts of style to sound labored or artificial.

I’ve learned an approach to this movement from Charles Geyer (retired Chicago Symphony; current Rice University faculty) and altered his approach to fit my personal needs as a player. Mr. Geyer views the first movement as a conversation between three characters: Joe, Fritz, and Marie. Joe is stately, perhaps like a king with pompous taste. Fritz, however, is a jester who is constantly laughing and zipping around. Marie is the feminine, lyrical character who occasionally quotes Joe and Fritz in an attempt to charm them. When applying this idea to the music, it’s easy to let your imagination run wild. Some musical figures are quite obviously one specific character, like the arpeggiated fanfares for Joe and running sixteenths for Fritz; other figures are less clear, and that’s why your own interpretation can thrive. I’ve found it helpful to mark each character in a color in my part. Here’s a look at my first page: click here.

Technically speaking, the first and third movements require similar “trumpet skills” that one will want to build into daily fundamental sessions. More specifically: practice light, beautiful, and clean articulations in the upper register; spend time refining intervals, especially 4ths, 5ths, and octaves; and be able to sound “stately” without becoming too broad or romantic. Again, my suggestion to students (and to myself) is to practice all of these things during daily fundamentals. Upper register sixteenth runs are perfect for your Clarke No. 2 practice, etc.

I comment on the second movement last only because I believe it is one of the most overlooked solo passages in the repertoire. Many trumpet players in school, by my own observation, spend little time with this movement because it seems “easy” compared to the outer movements. Perhaps technical demands are fewer, but Haydn truly has written a beautiful moment for us to sing through the horn. The 6/8 feel should not be rushed. Enjoy the time between phrases and through the long notes. Listen to your favorite soloists as models, but develop your own style through imitation and assimilation. As a practice tool, I am providing below a video with piano accompaniment. The video also includes roman numeral analysis; the harmonic structure of this movement is interesting, so take a minute to observe the intricacy in Haydn’s masterpiece:

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