Neruda: Concerto in Eb Major

Bohemian J.B.G. Neruda brought us this concerto mid-18th century, right on the cusp between the baroque and classical eras. Conceived for the corno da caccia, the work reflects stylistic traits from both musical time periods. With a variety of performance possibilities in this light, it perhaps is an unsung staple of the brass repertoire.

Regarding performance options: baroque performance groups with access to harpsichord, viola da gamba, etc., could present the basso continuo to accompany the solo part, perhaps even exploring the corno da caccia instead of the modern trumpet. Furthermore, piano, organ, or string orchestra are additional accompaniment options. MIDI versions of both the piano and harpsichord versions may be found on Smartmusic (Note: searching “Neruda” within the program will not reveal the listing for this concerto; simple scroll through the solo listings under the Bb trumpet tab).

The first fingerprint of the baroque is the ritornello form of the first movement. The soloist should take care to create a balance of “remind and surprise.” For example, there are countless options for articulations, mordents, and grace notes. As with earlier baroque solos, going from less ornamented to more is perhaps the best way to present the work in an educational light.

The second movement is a personal favorite. Sing with the most beautiful sound you can imagine and don’t allow yourself to stop spinning the air with the arpeggios ascending to the high concert B-flat.

Neruda’s final movement (in the more classically-based sonata form) presents the soloist with a few technical challenges that should be noted. Be sure to hear the intervallic content before you play. Also, keep the phrase going despite the stepwise direction of sequential ornaments; remember that ornamentation adds musical tension and release within the small units of each phrases (sometimes by the measure). Don’t let yourself loose the picture of the longer phrase through this sequential content.

Here are a few favorite recordings:

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