Baroque Battle Music for Trumpet Consort
Igino Conforzi, trumpets and conductor
[SACD Arts 47666-8]
The copious amount of documents which describe the ensembles of pifferi and trombetti shoulder to shoulder (or rather balcony to balcony), leads us to imagine a join performance of the two instrumental groups. At the very least, it seems difficult to exclude a partial fusion in performance of shawms and trumpeters in favor of a perpetua alternati an of the two groups, except in the culmina don of a ceremony or of an event that was taking place.
Yet even if this hypothesis is accepted, we have no knowledge of music performed jointly by these civic and court companies. One might suppose that the strongly rooted oral tradition made it possible for the players to perform a sort of improvisation or, at least, an ad hoc arrangement of some recently performed piece or of one belonging to the shared traditional repertoire.
The work presented here is the fruit of these considerations.
The long research that follows into this “alternative” repertoire has followed the category of pieces for wind instruments that mark out the idiom and display the character of the trumpet, in some cases finding a perfect match with the reconstruction of the pealing sound body of the trumpeters. In other instances. albeit less numerous, we have drawn on pieces contained in collections devoted to the Art or the Trumpet, amply described below, which in themselves represent objects of reconstruction.
Again the performance method of the bands of pifferi (naturalized piffari) does not seem simple.
Though the music was written down completely from the start, making way for polyphonic writing, a multitude of instruments appeared an the musical scene in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries attenuating the rigid functional classification and the criteria which fixed their combination – a question which would require a study of its own. What is more, the concessive formula used by sixteenth-century publishers for any sort of instrument should not be misunderstood; a trap for incautious amateurs, professionals were ali well aware of the conventions that made a particular instrument suitable for a particular circumstance.
The “Battalia”, a vocal-instrumental composition very much in fashion between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, plays a central role in this recording. We could not, indeed, have failed to investigate a form that evokes the phases of a battle and which then rewarded us with an addition to the repertoire of our ensemble. Pieces which make great use of onomatopoeia to imitate the din of war – where military music is entrusted to the trumpeters enrolled in the militia – include characteristic idioms and at times melodies based wholly or largely on the natural sounds of the trumpet.