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Andrew King
Baroque Trumpet in France
The trumpet has been a militaristic, ceremonial, and religious instrument for quite some
time now. Some of its earliest appearances are in the Bible, such as in Numbers 10:9 where it
says when you go into battle in your own land against an enemy who is oppressing you, sound a
blast on the trumpets. Then you will be remembered by the LORD your God and rescued from
your enemies. The trumpets are clearly being used for a military function. The trumpets
mentioned in the Bible are some type of previous ancestor to the trumpet known today. The
trumpet nowadays is still used as a militaristic, ceremonial, and religious instrument and has
been used this way throughout history. In France during the
seventeenth century, this pattern was especially true. The
Baroque trumpet, or natural trumpet (Fig. 1), in France was
mainly used in the French court during the seventeenth century
and even when it
other genres, like

Fig. 1. Trumpet by Anton Schnitzer I,

Nrnberg 1581, Wien, Sammlung alter

was used in
opera, the music stilled retained a militaristic

style. The style of the Baroque trumpet in France during the seventeenth century was more
militaristic rather than in the clarino style like its German and Italian counterparts.
The Baroque French tradition came under the rule of King Louis XIV, or the Sun King as
he liked to call himself. Louis XIV was in control of what was being played in his court and it
was in the court that most of the trumpet playing was being done. For most of the seventeenth
century little was written for the instrument outside the court and military establishment of the
Roi Soleil (Smithers 228). However, having trumpets in the court was not new to Louis XIVs
reign. Under the rule of Francis I, he established the Grande curie which was responsible for
performances of music in the kings private chambers and in his chapel (Smithers 230). The

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Grande curie consisted of various instruments, like fife and drum players, as well as twelve
trumpeters. These twelve trumpeters are what eventually divided into two groups, the quatre
trompettes ordinaires ou de la chambre and the huit trompettes non servants under the rule of
Louis XIV (Smithers 230). Besides these twelve trumpet players, Louis XIV also had 24
trumpeters of the royal bodyguard, or de la garde du corps. Among the de la garde du corps
there were four elite trumpet players enlisted for les plaisirs du Roi who were responsible
directly to Louis XIV (Cassone 58). All the trumpet players were personally subordinate to the
King which in turn meant they received orders from him only and not from superior officers. The
trumpeters in the court held their own sort of ranking called chevalier, or knight (Tarr 86). These
trumpeters had many responsibilities, but above all their duty was to serve the King.
The trumpets in France were used for many things but were mainly used for war and
celebrations. Pierre Trichet gives his remarks on the uses of Baroque trumpet in France during
the first half of the seventeenth century. He says:
In France and in many other countries trumpets are at present in use only among the
cavalry and in warships intended for sea battlesofficers each of whom carries
before them a long, straight silver trumpet with a banner attached bearing the arms of
the cityemployed with their trumpets to make public proclamations and are
obliged to be present at executions of criminals. (Smithers 231)
The trumpet was very much a part of the military and its primary function was to act as signal
during war, perform ceremonial duties, and perform other military functions. Marin Mersenne
also describes the less musical role trumpet players had in France for the first part of the
seventeenth century. Mersenne says as to the use of the trumpets, they serve in time of peace
and war for all sorts of public celebrations and solemnities, as seen in marriages, banquets,

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tragedies and carrousels. But its principal use is destined for war, the greatest part of the actions
of which is signified by its different tones (Smithers 233). Trumpets and bugles are still used
today in the military for signaling and for ceremonies. Another thing that was used with trumpets
during the Baroque period that is stilled used today is a mute. Both Trichet and Mersenne
comment on the Baroque mute, which was made out of wood with a wooden handle on it.
Similar to todays use of a mute, it was used to muffle/soften the sound of the trumpet but was
not supposed to completely stop the sound from coming out. The neat thing about the purpose of
the mute back in the seventeenth century was that it served a militaristic function. When a
trumpeter needed give the camp a signal that they did not want the enemy to hear, they would
use a mute (Smithers 232-233). This points more to the militaristic purpose that the trumpet had
in the seventeenth century, rather than a more musical purpose. There were however other uses
for the trumpet than war.
The trumpet tradition that arose in France during the Baroque Period is very different
from that of Italy and Germany. Instead of developing a large repertoire of solo works for the
trumpet, France instead developed a large repertoire of trumpet ensemble music (Smithers 241).
One type of this trumpet ensemble music was carousels, or equestrian ballets. The Grande curie
would provide music for outdoor divertissements, such as carousels and boating parties on the
canals of Versailles, and added splendor to banquets and balls (Wallace 162). Carousels were the
most splendid use of the Baroque trumpet in France during the seventeenth century. As shown in
Fig. 2, carousels during this time period did not refer to an amusement park ride but rather to an
actual ballet performed on horseback

where the trumpet players and other

musicians would play their

instruments while riding a horse. The

combination of trumpets with timpani

or kettledrums was a very typical

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Fig. 2. Mounted kettledrum and trumpet players in a carousel:

combination in French Baroque music. The

engraving by G.C. Eimmart after David Klcker Ehrenstrahl, 1672.

titles of French trumpet music often tell a

lot about what the intended use was for the piece. For example, the great French composer and
member of Louis XIVs court, Jean-Baptiste Lully had a piece entitled Les Airs de Trompettes,
timbales et hautbois faits par M. de Lully par lordre du Roy pour le Carousel de Monseigneur
lan 1686 that was written specifically for the 1686 carousel. The title states what instruments are
being used, who wrote it, who ordered it, and what it was written for. Lullys carousel music is
also the only French music of its kind to
have survived completely (Tarr 86). A lot of
the earliest surviving music for these
gargantuan horse ballets is found in the
Bibliothque de Versailles and was in the
Conservatoire de Paris, but now is in the
music section of the Bibliothque Nationale in Paris. The collection and preservation of the
music from France in this time period was done by Louis XIVs librarian, Andr Danician
Philidor (Smithers 233). Besides being Louis XIVs librarian, Philidor was also one of the most
famous members of the Grande curie, a timpanist, a crumhorn player (Fig. 3 left), and a
performer on the tromba marina (Fig. 3 right). Philidor himself found time to specialize is
composing for trumpet ensembles for two or more voices, pieces which have survived till this
day (Cassone 58). As the librarian of Louis XIV, Philidor compiled volume upon volume of
music for ballets, operas, military music, carousel accompaniments, and a host of other musical
items. There are about 300 volumes in Philidors hand, containing hundreds of works by Lully,

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Lalande, Campra, and many other composers associated with the court of Louis XIV (Smithers

Looking once again at Lullys piece Les Airs de Trompettes, timbales et hautbois faits
par M. de Lully par lordre du Roy pour le Carousel de Monseigneur lan 1686, it is possible to
see what kind of instrumentation was being used for these Baroque carousels and other pieces.
Lullys Les Airs is a trumpet ensemble work but it is different from the trumpet ensemble music
that is known today. Today trumpet ensemble music is written for just purely two or more
trumpets. In the Baroque period it was written for two or more trumpets but also had other
instruments included, like oboe, violin, and timpani. Les Airs, for example, has four movements,
Prlude, Menuet, Gigue, and Gavotte. The Prlude, Menuet, and Gigue are scored for four
trumpets, four oboes, and timpani but the Gavotte is lacking the third and fourth trumpet parts, as
well as no second or third oboe. All the trumpets would have been C trumpets, which was the
usual pitch of a Baroque trumpet in seventeenth century France (Smithers 235). Something else
worth noting, in Les Airs trumpets one and two are notated in the French violin clef (Fig. 4, left),
which was the normal method of notating French trumpet parts, and the third trumpet is notated
in soprano C clef (Fig. 4, right). These are two clefs that are rarely used today if at all. The fourth
trumpet part also doubles the timpani part for most of the time, all the movements are in C major
(Smithers 234).
Fig. 3. Crumhorn (left) and tromba marina

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of military trumpeters, it is not surprising that trumpet parts in opera, ballet and vocal
compositions by most French composers of the time are the same style as military trumpet parts
(Smithers 236). With such a strong dominance of military style trumpet parts, it is easy to
understand how that military style found its way into other genres. This stylistic similarity can be
seen most clearly in the works by Lully, particularly his Te Deum in C major and his operas
Cadmus et Hermione, Alceste, and Amadis. The trumpet parts of these works are almost lacking
even the most basic clarino writing (Smithers 236). Clarino, or clarin playing
(Clarinblasen), was the tradition of Italy and Germany and it meant to play a melody on the
trumpet in the register from c and upwards, with a soft and melodious, singing tone, as distinct
from principale playing (Principalblasen), which meant to play with a powerful, blasting tone
(Dahlqvist). Since French trumpet ensemble music lacked clarino playing, it had other ways of
making sure it had a strong and distinct tradition. One of the distinctive features of Baroque
trumpet playing in France, at least before the eighteenth century, was that there would be more
than one trumpet on a part. In Germany and Italy most trumpet parts were performed with just
one on a part. The French would make enormous noise with sometimes as many as four trumpet
players on a part, which was a military tradition. Lully even in his Ballet des ballets had nine
trumpet players, and sometimes had them all playing a single part (Smithers 236).
Two other famous composers for Baroque trumpet are Michel-Richard de Lalande and
Marc-Antoine Charpentier. Their style of trumpet writing is still closely associated with the
military and the clichs employed by the trumpeters of the Grande curie. Seldom are there
melismatic and extended passages in the clarino tessitura, as found in the works of Purcell, of
most German composers and of the Italians writing in the last quarter of the seventeenth century
(Smithers 237). The music of Lalande and Charpentier is also more chamber and church music,

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which causes them to score for trumpets in D more often than not. This was because of the
Doctrine of Affections, which stated that each movement of a piece or each piece individually
should have its own separate mood. Going along with the Doctrine of Affections is the idea of
Affekt, where each key, C major, D major, expresses a different mood. This is why Lalande and
Charpentier and other composers would choose to write in different keys depending on the mood
they were trying to express.
Toward the end of the seventeenth century the operatic style of the French court had
invaded the domain of sacred music, and orchestral instruments were used to accompany the
voices in the Te Deum laudamus (We praise you, O God) which, gave composers another
opportunity to write for trumpet ensemble (Smithers 239). The Te Deum was a long hymn that
constitutes the supreme expression of rejoicing in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and other
Christian Churches (Scholes). This hymn is commonly used to celebrate victories in battle,
coronations, and other joyful events. During the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV military
victories and important royal events were often celebrated with the performance of a Te Deum
with orchestral accompaniment. The inclusion of trumpets by Lully in his Te Deum of 1677 was
emulated by Lalande and Charpentier (Wallace 164). Lullys Te Deum required two C trumpets
but Lalandes and Charpentiers only had one trumpet part, but would have required several
players to perform that one part.
The trumpet tradition from France is far different from the clarino traditions arising in
Germany, Italy, and elsewhere in Europe. The trumpet in France did not acquire a solo repertory
comparable to that which emerged in other countries during the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries. However, the highly distinctive trumpet ensemble repertoire from the reign of Louis
XIV highlights a tradition of trumpet playing at Versailles that matched, and arguably surpassed,

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in its sheer joie de vivre, that from anywhere else in Europe of that time (Wallace). The
distinctive style of the French court set the French Baroque trumpet apart from the others. It kept
a militaristic style across multiple genres, including opera and sacred music, and made a lasting
impression has music that is still around today. The assimilation of the trumpet in France into the
classic symphony and opera orchestra was rapid once it had transcended its singular and
restrictive role as a military instrument (Smithers 241). After the reign of Louis XIV the focus
shifted from trumpets to its younger rival, the horn. The trumpet would not see the same
demands and responsibility it had in France during the seventeenth century until the time of
Hector Berlioz (Smithers 241). If it wasnt for Louis XIV, his court, and composers such as
Lully, there would not have been the same strong Baroque trumpet tradition or trumpet ensemble
music that there was in France during the seventeenth century.

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Scholes, Percy and Alex Lingas . "Te Deum laudamus." The Oxford Companion to Music. Ed.Alison
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Sumerauer, Andreas. "Consort of Four Crumhorns." Banchetto Musicale. Figure 3. Banchetto
Musicale, 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.
Tarr, Edward H. The Trumpet. Portland, Or.: Amadeus, 1988. Print.
Wallace, John, and Alexander McGrattan. The Trumpet. New Haven: Yale UP, 2011. Print
Wikipedia. "Clef." Wikipedia. Figure 4. Wikimedia Foundation, 20 Nov. 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.