Johann Ernst Altenburg - Concerto for 7 Trumpets & Timpani

$ 19.90

ALTENBURG Johann Ernst, Concerto for 7 trumpets and timpani

Composer: Altenburg, Johann Ernst (1734-1801)

Year of composition: 18th cent.
Duration: 6'
Series: Edward H. Tarr Series
Arranger/Editor: Edward H. Tarr
Publisher The Brass Press


Johann Ernst Altenburg has been called «the last representative of the heroic guild of trumpeters and timpanists.» Born in Weissenfels on June 15, 1734, he was apprenticed to his father Johann Caspar Altenburg (1689-1761) at the tender age of two and released from his articles as a trumpeter sixteen years later. At that time, however, the Baroque social order was in full decline.
Many smaller and larger courts were being dissolved, among them in 1746 Weissenfels itself, an important center of trumpet-playing which had already produced Johann Caspar Altenburg and, before him, Gottfried Reiche.When Altenburg had finished his apprenticeship in 1750, he was not able to find a position as court trumpeter. He first became a secretary (Stallschreiber) to a friend of his father's, a Royal Polish Stablemaster, then studied the organ and composition with Johann Theodor Romhild in Merseburg until 1757 and (very briefly) with Bach's son-in-law, Johann Christoph Altnikol, in Naumburg. Still in 1757, he then joined the French army as a field trumpeter and participated in the Seven Years’ War. He returned to Weissenfels in 1766.
In 1767 he found a position as an organist in Landsberg, and in 1769 in Bitterfeld, a small village of 2500 inhabitants. He auditioned unsuccessfully for better positions and died embittered and impoverished on May 14, 1801. Altenburg is best known for his valuable treatise on the «trumpeters’ and kettledrummers’ heroic and musical art», a work which, though finished in manuscript and offered on a subscription basis by J. A. Hiller as early as 1770, was not published until 1795. The present concerto, entitled «Concerto a VII Clarini con Tymp.», was included as a kind of appendix to Altenburg's treatise on pages 133-142. It is entirely possible that Altenburg was not the composer. For example, on page 104 of his treatise appears a two-part fugue in G minor, a work which was first published in 1676 in Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber's «Sonatae tam aris quam aulis servientes».
If this one piece was not by Altenburg, the shadow of doubt is thus cast over his authorship of the remaining musical pieces in his book. It is our opinion that the concerto came from the repertoire of the Dresden court trumpeters and dates from the 1760’s. It is similar in style to some Dresden processional fanfares from this periods; and Altenburg, as a good Saxon subject, was evidently in close contact with the trumpet corps of that court, which according to the Imperial Privileges of the Trumpeters’ and Kettledrummers’ Guild was the second most important court in the Holy Roman Empire after Vienna, the Electors of Saxony being Archmarshals of the Empire and responsible for any disputes arising among trumpeters. Altenburg also knew the full names of the individual members of the Dresden trumpet corps in 1771, and it is quite probable that one of them gave him the music of the concerto around that time. In this connection, it is interesting that at the time of the subscription announcement in 1770, the appendix to Altenburg's treatise did not yet contain the concerto, but rather a «Dialogue between teacher and pupil concerning the Privileges and rights of trumpeters, as well as other matters and subjects which it is necessary to know.»
Whoever was its composer, the Concerto for Seven Trumpets and Tympani was certainly a so-called table sonata, a piece of music which according to Altenburg «should properly be sounded at the table of high gentry.» The concerto is in eight parts, with two choirs of three trumpeters each, plus the soloist and the kettledrummer. A table sonata, according to Altenburg, «generally consists of eight or nine parts, divided into two choirs, which alternate with one another, whereby one or two clarino players play a solo accompanied by the others.» The concerto has three movements. «Like other concertos,» a table sonata «is usually divided into three separate movements of which each has its own tempo and its individual time signature.» Altenburg concluded his description by lamenting: «Unfortunately one hears such a table sonata played only rarely.»
The present edition adheres faithfully to the original printing of 1795, with the following emendations and corrections: The original title, as well as the names of the instruments, have been Anglicized. The original instrument designations, from top to bottom, were: Clar[ino] Con[certato] , Clar[ino] I, Clar[ino] II, Princip[ale] , Clar[ino] I, Clar[ino] II, Princip [ale] , Tymp[ani]. Altenburg does not give the pitch of the trumpets or kettledrums, but we may assume that C major was intended, since he speaks of this pitch with regard to some musical examples on page 104 of his treatise. The erroneous assumption that Altenburg's musical examples, including this concerto, are in the key of D was apparently initiated by Hermann Pietzsch (Die Trompete, Leipzig 1906; reprint: Chicago s.d.). F. G. A. Dauverné printed it correctly, in the key of C, on pages xxxii-xxxviii of his remarkable «Méthode pour la trompette» (Paris 1856).

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