Program Notes – Trumpet & Organ Concert 4/9/2016

New Directions for Trumpet and Organ

A 350-year span

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). Compared to most other major composers, Johann Sebastian Bach’s life and career were confined to a very limited geographical space. Born and raised in Thuringia, his parameters were Hamburg and Lübeck (north), Carlsbad (south), Dresden (east) and Kassel (west). And yet he intersected personally and professionally with three other composers on the program: Bohm and Fasch, and of course, that of his son, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Kent Kennan, three centuries later, references  J. S. Bach deeply and extensively in his scholarly textbook, Counterpoint.

Georg Böhm (1661-1733) was a German Baroque organist and composer. He is notable for his development of the chorale partita and for his influence on the young J. S. Bach.  Böhm is mainly known for his compositions for organ and harpsichord (primarily preludes, fugues, and partitas). Many of his works were designed with flexibility of instrument in mind: a particular piece could be played on the organ, the harpsichord, or the clavichord, depending on the situation in which the performer found himself. Böhm’s music is notable for its use of the stylus phantasticus, a style of playing based on improvisation.

Johann Friedrich Fasch (1688-1758) was  a violinist, organist, Kapellmeister, and composer. Born north of Weimar, he was a student at St. Thomasschule in Leipzig under J. S. Bach’s predecessor Johann Kuhnau; he also studied composition with Christoph Graupner. He was invited to apply for the position of Thomaskantor in Leipzig, but withdrew; this position was eventually held by J. S. Bach, who held Fasch’s compositions in high esteem. Indeed, one of Fasch’s organ compositions was long thought to have been composed by Bach himself, who performed Fasch’s works in his Collegium Musicum. Telemann, the most famous German musician of the day, performed a cycle of Fasch’s church cantatas in Hamburg in 1733. Most of his vocal compositions are lost, but most of the instrumental ones survive, including this Concerto for Trumpet, which has for this concert been transcribed for trumpet and organ.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788), son of Johann Sebastian Bach, was an influential composer working at a time of transition between his father’s baroque style and the classical and romantic styles that followed it. His personal approach, an expressive and often turbulent one known as empfindsamer Stil or ‘sensitive style’, applied the principles of rhetoric and drama to musical structures.  He was probably the first composer of eminence since the time of Lassus, Monteverdi, and Gesualdo to make free use of harmonic color for its own sake, and in this way also he takes rank among the most important pioneers of the First Viennese School.

Kent Kennan (1913-2003) was an American composer, organist and pianist, author, educator, and professor. The Sonata for Trumpet and Piano was commissioned in 1954 by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) in an effort to augment available repertoire of high quality for students, and indeed, this work has become a staple in student recitals ever since. It was dedicated to Kennan’s University of Texas colleague J. Frank Elsass, who gave Kennan advice as to how to best write for the trumpet and was the first to perform the work at a NASM convention in 1955. Its musical style is ‘50’s modern – tonal in design if not always in expression, highly stylized and rhythmic, and possessing an appeal that has endured through the succeeding decades. Its brash Americanism is reminiscent of moments in Copland, yet is never derivative. Originally written for trumpet and piano, it has been transcribed for trumpet and wind ensemble, and today is being performed in a new transcription by Peter Sykes for trumpet and organ.