Barry Bauguess, trumpet; Leah Peroutka, violin; and John O'Brien, piano, joined forces at The Music House to present a number of surprisingly intimate pieces for trumpet and accompaniment, along with two violin sonatas.
Bauguess chose two of his many original and replica brass instruments, in this case an original cornet of 1862 by Besson of Paris and a replica keyed trumpet, a copy by Egger of a ca 1821 instrument by Alois Doke. The distinction between a cornet and a trumpet is the conical bore of the former and the parallel bore of the latter.
The music began with a Konzert-Polka for cornet and piano by Wassily Brandt (1869-1923), for a while principal trumpet at the Bolshoi. Bauguess mentioned that early in his career he had worked his way through Brandt's 34 orchestral etudes, still a popular set of trumpet exercises in the late 20th century. He used the 1862 cornet, perfectly suited to Brandt's period. O'Brien performed on his Lyon fortepiano, a replica of Mozart's last piano. Its warm and gentle tone was a little overwhelmed by the cornet.
Peroutka joined O'Brien to play the Clementi Sonata Op. 5, No. 2 for piano and violin and Mozart's Sonata in C, composed in Mannheim in 1778. This was a slight re-arrangement of program and, as Peroutka commented, putting the Clementi before the Mozart did Clementi a favor.
It's obvious, just listening to Opus 5, No. 2 that Clementi was a piano virtuoso and piano building entrepreneur, not a violinist. The violin part is largely banal, while the keyboard part is crisp and interesting. Peroutka did everything the violin part demanded of her, but there was no way she could gild this swamp cabbage into a lily. Hers was definitely a subsidiary role. O'Brien's seemingly delicate touch, belying his strength, let the music trip off his fingers like drops of dew, falling alas on the aforementioned swamp cabbage. These same players had performed the same pieces the previous day in Durham, using the Duke University's original 1805 Clementi piano. One who was there reported that the piano had given serious problems, leading O'Brien to remark that he much preferred replica instruments.
Peroutka came into her own with the Mozart, in which the keyboard and violin have equally intellectual parts. Peroutka is a strong and precise player; her ability to contrast forte with piano is a wonderful delight. Her fortes are fine, but her incredibly delicate pianos are breathtaking.
Josef Kail transcribed the second movement of Mozart's Horn Concerto, K. 495, for the rotary-valved B-flat trumpet about 1835. It was Bauguess' and O'Brien's intention to perform it as such, but Bauguess' rotary-valved trumpet proved in rehearsal to be too loud for both the room at the Music House and for the piano, so Bauguess used the Besson cornet again. The conical horn bore of the cornet was perfect for what was original horn music. The movement is marked "andante"; calling it a romanze is icing on the cake. There were no problems with the piano or with the performers – this was just lovely.
After the usual Music House intermission of wine and canapes, the three musicians united to play Johann Nepomunk Hummel's Quartett in E for keyed trumpet, violin, and piano. Hummel's Quartett and Haydn's famous trumpet concerto were both written for the trumpeter Anton Weidinger, who was a strong proponent of this new gadget. Like so many gadgets, it worked in principal, but the engineering was impossible. An otherwise fairly straightforward valveless orchestral trumpet of the day is fitted with a series of keys that provide strategic leaks in the tube. This enables all the chromatic notes of the low register to be played, inspiring the new style of trumpet writing of the two pieces of music. Unfortunately, the tone of the trumpet is seriously compromised and the simplicity of the earlier (and later) trumpets is made totally complicated.
Bauguess observed that the keyed trumpet was popular only beginning about 1795; it had died out completely by the 1840s. Bauguess suggested that his trumpet would be for sale cheap after the concert! Although the Egger copy of the Bauer keyed trumpet was carefully played, the wheezy tone quality is more authentic than beautiful. Bauguess, the spokesman for this piece, drew particular attention to the efforts of Peroutka: "Hummel has given the whole orchestra's parts to one violin. Watch her – she never stops playing." And so it was; she told me after the concert that the piece "has some really nice lines and then all of a sudden you're playing second viola."
The Hummel Quartett is nevertheless full of memorable tunes and was a fitting conclusion to a fine evening of excellent playing.