O.J.'s Trumpet Page Interview

Baldwin and Charlier

David Baldwin is known throughout the world as the foremost interpreter of trumpet etudes of Theo Charlier. International Trumpet Guild (ITG) sponsored  the release of a solo recording called “The Etudes of Charlier and Bitsch”. It was recorded in 1993 as a 2-CD set and distributed to all ITG’s members.

In 1999, ITG produced a new CD with Baldwin called “The Lost Etude of Theo Charlier”. On this CD was in addition to the 37th etude of Charlier (manuscript # 18), 16 Etudes de Perfectionnement by Regionaldi Caffarelli and the well known 14 Characteristic Studies by J. B. Arban.

In August 2000, David Baldwin recorded 32 Etudes de Perfectionnement by Charlier. These 32 etudes was written by Charlier in 1940 for trombone or tuba. Baldwin has adapted them for trumpet. A book with this trumpet version was published by Edition Henri Lemoine, Paris in 1999 and is sold in the US by Theodore Presser Company.

We had a little “cybertalk” with David Baldwin about this last Charlier project – the “new set of Charlier trumpet etudes”:

David, as a start, can you tell us a bit about your own background as a trumpeter?
Like most American students I started the cornet in the sixth grade (12 years old) and took private lessons from Eric Duro, a former British Brass Band cornetist. I studied with Mr. Duro from seventh through twelveth grade and played only cornet. He was an excellent musician and gave me a thorough grounding in Arban. I bought my first trumpet as a sophomore at Baldwin-Wallace College (no relation to me) in Berea, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. At Baldwin-Wallace College I studied with Charles Gorham, who later taught for 25 years at Indiana University. Here I gained a love of the music of Bach and learned much of the orchestral literature. Mr. Gorham conducted the Brass Choir and encouraged me to experiment transcribing music. A piece that I transcribed for the Baldwin-Wallace Brass Choir in 1967, Let All the Nations Praise the Lord by Volckmar Leisring was just recently published by Shawnee Press.

I was fortunate to study two summers with Bernard Adelstein, then principal trumpet with the Cleveland Orchestra and still my favorite orchestral trumpet player. He gave me many valuable tips on rhythm and style. 1969 was the height of the Vietnam War and I enlisted in the Army and auditioned for the West Point Band. Looking back, this was an excellent experience for me. I did a drastic embouchure change with the help of Robert Nagel, who I would study with three years later at Yale University. I would need a longer article to desribe this embouchure change but suffice it to say, it worked! While in the West Point Band, under Col. William Schempf, I studied with Ray Crisara and William Vacchiano in New York. In 1971 I went to Yale University for graduate work with Robert Nagel and in 1974 I got my first and present job at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Robert Nagel was a fantastic teacher and I use his ideas on a daily basis in my teahcing and playing today.

Theo Charlier is known among trumpet players for his “Transcedental Etudes for Trumpet”. That he was one of the first to play Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 is maybe not known to all. Could you tell us shortly about him both as a player and as a composer?
First, I should say that literally everything I know about Charlier is from Rosario Macaluso's wonderful article in issue no. 90 of the Brass Bulletin. Charlier must have been an unusually complete musician in that he played piano and even taught singing. It is also of interest that he favored the trumpet over the then more popular cornet. His first awards were in cornet and I found it fascinating that the contest required a piece on the trumpet as well, as if this were something extra. Charlier may have had a great influence on the dominance of the trumpet today.

How did you discover this “new set of Charlier trumpet etudes”?
Paul Niemisto, the trombone teacher at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota gave me a copy of the valve trombone/ tuba book to my friend and colleague, Lynn Erickson and Lynn showed me this book, knowing of my interest in Charlier. I was astounded to say the least, and I continue to be amazed that very few euphonium, trombone or tuba players know about this fine book of etudes.

I played them for a while reading the bass clef and then decided to write out the whole book up a step and an octave, so that, if I played these studies on a B-flat trumpet with a euphonium player, it would sound in octaves.

You say in the CD cover that “I could tell that this was a work of a more mature composer”. Can you elaborate on that?
That's a tough question. I think that the last ten studies are longer, more complex and yet smoother in their form than the trumpet etudes.

Can you tell us a bit about the recording process?
Yes, it has been an interesting education working with Russ Borud, my recording engineer for over twenty years. I should tell you that in 1977 I received a very small grant from the University of Minnesota to record the Charlier trumpet etudes. My goal was to be able to hear them as I would like from beginning to end, something I could not do 'live'. I did the recording in four sessions and all the editing myself by hand. After a year and a half I had a tape that wasn't of high enough quality to distribute, so I decided to start all over and do it right. I released the first half of the book in 1981 on a 33 and 1/3 LP record and the second half of the book on another in 1983. The editing was done by hand, cutting the tape and splicing it together. It took many hours of listening carefully to several takes of each etude and deciding which sounded the best. Each etude is about five to eight pieces.

The second book of 32 Etudes de Perfectionnement, which I recorded last fall, was done in three sessions and all the editing was done digitally. This process is much cleaner and there are a lot more possibilities for 'fixing' details. I still try to play these pieces in performance as much as I can, but I take some time to rest between sections. It's still fascinating to me to be able to hear an etude the way I envision it the same every time (recorded) and to be able to experiment with new ways of playing it 'live' as time goes by.

When trumpet players start working on the 32 etudes, are there any advice you would give to them?
Yes--- rest very often and work on small chunks before attempting a whole etude. Work slowly enough so that you can do all the details of dynamics and tempo and nuance the first time. Don't just work on the notes and do the dynamics later. Read all the information at once --- just do it slowly and in small sections. Also, remember the most important part of music making --- have fun doing it --- make it look easy.

Etude no. 2 in the “Transcedental Etudes for Trumpet” is a favorite piece for many trumpet players. Do you have any personal favorite among these 32 “new” etudes?
Believe it or not, I really like them all. No. 2 in the new book is very beautiful and much simpler than the famous No. 2 in the trumpet book. It is a marvelous piece to do with another player, trading four-bar phrases and winding up in unison at the end. Also No. 32 is a favorite because of the challenge of working out the many technical problems and planning how much rest is needed to reach the end and confidently play a nice ringing high D. It can be done.

David Baldwin, thank you very much for this “cybertalk”!
If people want to get the CD and the book what should they do?
The book is available from any good music store. (Sheet Music Service of Portland; www.sheetmusicservice.com) The publisher is Theodore Presser.

The double CD album is available only from me right now:

David Baldwin,
589 Lincoln Ave.,
St. Paul, MN 55102
($20 for the 2 CDs plus $5 postage and handling)
Thank you for this rare opportunity to talk to others about one of my favorite subjects.

o.j. 2001