Copyright © 2000, 2001 by Richard I. Schwartz
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Early History Part 8
End of Chapter
The primary resource for the rest of this chapter was the dissertation entitled, "The Cornet à Pistons in French and French-influenced Orchestration from 1830 to 1936" (Davis 1990). The major composers who were outside the scope of this document, and were not included here, are those who used the instrument after 1900, for example Debussy, Stravinsky, Enesco, Elgar, and Vaughan Williams.
After Symphonie Fantasique, Berlioz used the cornet in Harold in Italy (1834). The movements are in classical order and there is a recurrent theme given to the solo viola. The main motive is actually played by the cornet and bassoons very early in the piece (beginning in m. 68). The range for the cornet is somewhat high, waltz-like, and very melodic. The tessitura is from f 1 to b flat 2, and the solo lies in a nice range for melodic playing. At first, Berlioz only used one D piston-trumpet for the entire work. He later used two cornets in A at the beginning of the work and two cornets in D for the rest for the piece (beginning in m. 109). He subsequently decided to have only two cornets in A, the parts for which were written on the top staff of each page. (Berlioz , volume 25, 51)
In the "Tuba Mirum" movement of Berlioz’ Requiem (1837), four "Orchestras" of brass players are to be used in performance. A total of 140 players is required for this section of the piece, including the four brass orchestras, four tam tams, ten pairs of cymbals and sixteen kettledrums. The four orchestras are to be placed in the four directions of the compass, i.e. north (orchestra #1), east (orchestra #2), west (orchestra #3), and south (orchestra #4). Orchestra #1 consists of four cornets in Bb, four trombones, and two tubas. Orchestra #2 consists of two trumpets I in F, two trumpets II in Eb, and four trombones. Orchestra #3 consists of four trumpets in Eb and four trombones. Orchestra #4 consists of four trumpets in Bb, four trombones, and four ophicleides (Berlioz 1967-). This is an incredible group of brass players and is very difficult to procure for a correct performance of the piece. The cornets do take a leading melodic role in this section of the piece, opening it up with a fanfare.
In the "Lacrymosa," four cornets in A are used in the first orchestra of brass players. Orchestra #2 has four trumpets in E; orchestra #3 has four trumpets in D and orchestra #4, four trumpets in C. The most lyrical writing is for the cornet. The "Sanctus" has four cornets in Bb and the "Rex Tremendae," two cornets in A (Berlioz 1967-, volume 9). Berlioz had expressed concern about the reliability of his trumpet players changing crooks in the "Tuba Mirum" when it was played for a benefit for the director of the Paris Opera in 1840. Changing crooks accurately and quickly all the time must have been a problem and could have resulted in some confusion. It would have been very easy to misplace or attach an incorrect crook in the stress of a performance, or even to play a practical joke on another player and switch crooks of similar length and appearance. Apparently Dauverné would occasionally do such a thing during rehearsals of Symphony Fantastique before its premiere performance. This of course did not happen at the premiere of the piece. Normally, however, enough time was allowed in French scores to change crooks, but accidents and practical jokes must have happened.
Benvenuto Cellini (1834-38) follows the pattern of "two plus two" (two cornets and two trumpets) at the begining of the overture in both Paris (versions 1 and 2 ) and Weimar 1851-2] versions, but has four trumpets (in different keys) and two cornets in A for the rest of the overture. Originally Berlioz had only one cornet part in the piece, but added a second part in a later score. Cornets in Bb and A and trumpets, in various keys, play throughout the rest of the composition in both Paris and Weimar versions (Berlioz 1967-, volume 19, XXI).
In Le carnaval romain (1844), Berlioz uses material previously heard in his opera Benvenuto Cellini. "two plus two" occurs here as well, i.e. two cornets in A and two trumpets in D. The cornet plays two roles in this piece for the part is not only fanfare-like, but also melodic.
In La Damnation de Faust there are two cornets in A and two trumpets in C. Here the cornet plays its two roles as well. An especially interesting solo occurs in the "Moderato assai un poco Lento" in Scene VII. It explores most everything that Berlioz detests about the instrument. The solo is slow, melodic, and very low (tessitura is from low g to c1). One wonders again about Berlioz’ true opinions about the cornet when we see such use of the instrument.
Berlioz continued to use the instrument in "two plus two" combination throughout his compositional career, e. g., in Te Deum, op. 22 (first heard in 1855), L’enfance du Christ (first heard in 1854), Les Troyens (1856-1858), and Béatrice et Bénédict (1860-1862) in the original autograph (the second part was omitted in later editions. The original second part, however, can be found in the Malherbe and Weingartner's edition of the work) (Berlioz 1969-, volume 3, XI). In Romeo et Juliette (1857-8) cornets in Bb (Eb in the autograph and first published score) are in movement two. Movements six and seven have two cornets in A (Berlioz 1967-, volume 18).
Charles Gounod (1818-1893) scored also for the "two plus two" combination in Faust (1859). This is contrary to his more usual use of only two trumpets. Neither the pair of cornets nor the pair of trumpets play at the same time in Faust. This brings up an interesting question. Why would Gounod write the cornet/trumpet parts that way? Joyce Davis believes that it was more likely that four players were employed and each pair waited for the other to stop playing rather than only two players alternating between the cornet and trumpet parts. This probably would not have happened. Gounod wrote for two separate pairs of instruments for compositional reasons only and had no thought of the trumpet players’ possible disdain of the cornet. The parts could have been easily played by either two or four players.
In Mignon (1866), Ambrose Thomas (1811-1896) wrote for the cornet à pistons in A, and the "two plus two" combination was used in Hamlet (1868). It is in the works of César Franck (1822-1890) that the parts written for trumpet and cornet are practically indistinguishable. This indicates the certain usage of valve trumpets in Franck’s Les béatitudes (1879), Le Chasseur Maudit (1882), and Psyché (1888). The trumpet actually becomes the dominant instrument beginning with his Symphony in d minor. Although Frank uses "two plus two" (cornets in Bb/A and trumpets in F) in his Symphony, there is no equality. The trumpet is much more responsible for melodic material than the cornet is throughout the symphony. Often the trumpet carries the melodic line while the cornet fills in with harmonic support. The trumpet achieves certain dominance, for there is no cornet part written in the second movement at all, only a part for trumpet.
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) utilizes the "two plus two" combination only in one composition, Henry VIII (1883). Georges Bizet (1838-1875) uses "two plus two" in the L’arlésienne Suites (1872) (Bb/A cornets in Bb and A, and trumpets in C and E), and a pair of A cornets in Carmen. Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894) wrote for "two plus two" in his Wagnerian Gwendoline (1885); but in Le roi malegré lui (1887), Fête polonaise, March Joyeuse, and Habanera, he wrote only for two cornets. In España (1883), Chabrier uses two cornets in Bb and two trumpets in F. Here each pair of instruments participates in the leading role. For example, the trumpet takes the leading role from measure 29 to 45, and the cornet, from measure 380 to 392. Jules Massenet (1842-1912) uses "two plus two" in Herodiae (1877), Le Cid (1885) and the incidental music to Phèdre (1900). Both pairs of instruments usually have harmonic function, and apparently the cornet and trumpet are paired in these works more as a matter of tradition than for any other reason. Vincent d’Indy (1851-1938) uses "two plus two" ( cornets in A and trumpets in E) in his Symphony sur un chant montagnard français (op. 25) (1886) and "two plus two" (cornets in A and Bb, and trumpets in E and F) in Le Chasseur Maudit (1882). Both pairs of instruments have equally significant melodic parts. Gustave Charpentier (1860-1956) uses "two plus two" (cornets in A and trumpets in F) and explores the melodic capabilities of the cornet in Impressions d’Italie. In L’apprenti sorcier (1897) by Paul Dukas (1865-1935), "two plus two" is used and both pairs of instruments achieve melodic equality.
Although Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) does not use the cornet in any of his symphonies, he does utilize the cornet in many other compositions. In Swan Lake (1876), he uses the cornet for the first time. The cornet very frequently takes the predominant role in this piece. One of the most interesting solos for the instrument appears in the "Danse napolitaine" (Act III, no. 22). Here the solo starts slowly only with thinly scored strings. It is then joined by the flute and piccolo in measure six, and becomes a virtuoso solo after eighteen measures. He may have been influenced by hearing one of the bands on his trips to Paris, or by studying Gevaert’s Traité général d’instrumentation in 1864. Whatever the reason, he wrote very significant parts for the cornet à pistons in Swan Lake.
In March Slave (1876), Tchaikovsky writes for "two plus two" (cornets in Bb and trumpets in Bb). This is the first time that he uses the Bb trumpet. The change from G or F trumpet to Bb trumpet already occurred in Germany around 1870. Although both cornet and trumpet parts are mainly fanfare-like, the cornet does contain significant melodic parts from measure 58 to 63. In Francesca da Rimini (op. 32) (1876), two cornets in A and two trumpets in E play melodically equal parts. In Capriccio Italien (op. 45) (1880), the same keyed pairs of instruments occur. There are places, for example, from measure 185 to 191, where there is melodic interplay between the cornets and trumpets, but generally the trumpets are still subordinate to the cornets, except for the beginning fanfare. The pair of cornets have two places of great significance in this piece, i.e., the cantilena, written in thirds for two cornets in A from measure 117 to 125, and a bravura solo for cornet in A from measure 189 to 196.
This type of writing reinforces this author’s opinion about using the appropriate instrument on the appropriate part. Any orchestral composer could have written for four trumpets very easily at this point in music history. I do not believe that tradition was the motivating factor for this practice. I firmly believe that such composers wanted the conical sound of the cornet! Orchestral cornet parts after 1870 should, in my opinion, be played on the cornet, and not on the trumpet. Low Eb clarinet parts are not played on the Bb clarinet. Bass trombone parts are not played on the tenor trombone or alto trombone. Third trombone parts are not played on the tuba. It only makes sense to extend the same respect to composers of the cornet.
Tchaikovsky used "two plus two" in 1812 Overture (op. 49) (1880) and Festival Coronation March (1883). The cornet parts in the 1812 Overture were in Bb while those in the Festival Coronation March were in A (Tchaikovskii 1940-[197-]). In the Manfred Symphony, Tchaikovsky uses "two plus two" (cornets in A and trumpets in D) in the first movement, no cornets or trumpets in the second movement, trumpets in the third movement, and "two plus two" again in the fourth movement. The trumpet is melodically equal with the cornet in Manfred. In Sleeping Beauty (op. 66) (1889), both parts are of equal importance again, and the range of the trumpet is extended to b2. Tchaikovsky uses "two plus two" (cornets in Bb and trumpets in Bb) in Hamlet, Overture Fantasy (op. 67) (1888), but does not use "two plus two" in Nutcracker (1892).
Giuseppi Verdi (1813-1901) uses the cornet in three of his operas, i.e. Les Vespers siciliennes (1855), Don Carlos (1867), and Otello (1887). Vespers was written for the Great Exhibition of 1855, and was premiered at the Paris Opera. Again pairs of cornets (in A, Ab and Bb) and trumpets (in E) are used. Often the cornet was melodically dominant over the trumpet, and the trumpet parts were certainly written for non-valved instruments.
In Don Carlos, pairs of cornets in A and Ab, and trumpets in C, E, and Eb are used. In addition, there are two off-stage trumpets in D. The trumpet parts achieve some equality here, and their parts are definitely written for valved-instruments. The cornets are usually higher than the trumpets, when both are playing simultaneously. Both parts are technically difficult at times, which indicates the possible use of multiple tonguing techniques. In Otello, "two plus two" was used (cornets in Ab, A, and C, and trumpets in C, Eb, and E), with four off-stage trumpets in C in Act III. Solo passages were given to the cornet (as in Act I, mm. 21-23), but generally total equality is achieved between the two pairs of instruments. The writing is technically difficult and even chromatic at times.
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