O.J.'s Trumpet Page Interview

The Regent's Bugle

CD cover

Interview with Crispian Steele-Perkins

The summer 2004, I visited the Bate Collection in Oxford. There, I found the latest recording by Crispian Steele-Perkins, The Regent's Bugle. Other performers on the recording are Ian Partridge, tenor, Leslie Pearson, piano and David Woodcock, violin. Crispian Steele-Perkins is known as a virtuoso solo trumpeter whose particular interest is to restore, play and record upon antique instruments of the trumpet family.

The Regent's Bugle features four of the earliest types of mechanised trumpet performing music either specifically written for them, or arranged to display their innovative ability to play as nimbly and expressively as any other instrument.

The CD is divided into 4 sections, A The English slide trumpet, B The Keyed Trumpet, C The Two Valved Trumpet and D The Cornopean.

We chose to divide the interview into these 4 sections:

A. The Regent's Bugle (Short Model Slide-Trumpet)
slide trumpet

The title of the CD, The Regent's Bugle, is also a name for this trumpet. Tell us about this instrument!

They were not made in large numbers but are twice coiled as opposed to single coil which has the advantage of a longer bell-taper, thus posibly better intonation of the basic harmonics. Mine is a converted "cavalry" or "duty" trumpet by J Astor, London dated1798, the addition of a slide having been considerably later.Their mouthpieces are invariably more funnelled than a conventional trumpet which produces a less strident tone. I have seen references to the use of one of these by Johann Gottlob Schmidt [1775-1822], the first EVER [as far as I can ascertain] German trumpeter to gain employment in London [c 1801] which is surprising considering the great German tradition and strong musical & military links with Hannover. There are interesting conclusions to be drawn from this.

The tradition to play on this type of instrument was kept for a long time in England by players like Harper senior and junior.

Thousands of English Slide Trumpets survive from the 19th century [I have 9].They are robustly built and are a perfected natural trumpet. The Handelian tradition in Engand [ where we have 3 seasons not 4, Spring , Summer & "Messiah"] kept this obsolete instrument well occupied, even into the early 20th century.

I understand you are very fond of this instrument. What make it so special?

The purity of sound which Purcell & Handel heard on the trumpet is completely preserved on the slide trumpet which continued to use a large Hemispherical mouthpiece which eliminates the horrible screaming noise which modern engineering has bequeahed to a formally "noble" tone !

On several of the tracks marked A, you play pieces by John T. Norton. Who was he?

John Norton was a superb Trumpeter who preceeded Harper as Professor at the Royal Academy of Music. He emigrated to the USA in c.1827 and was probably every bit as fine a player as Harper.

B. The Keyed Trumpet
keyed trumpet

This is the trumpet that Haydn and Hummel wrote their trumpet concertos for. Is it an original instrument you play on here?

My Keyed Trumpet was made by Robert Vanrynne C 1996

What is the main challenge playing the Keyed Trumpet?

The difficulty is to obtain an even tone between the "open" and "Closed"
notes. The height to which each key is raised is critical as is the precise size of the hole. It should not on any account be blown to forcefully - don't try to make it sound like a modern trumpet - it is beautiful as it is !

You perform the andante and rondo by Hummel as a trio, with piano and violin. Do you know if Weidinger, for whom Hummel wrote the concerto performed it like this?

Allgemeine Musicalische Zeitung fully reported a concert by Weidinger in Dec 1802 in which amongst other things he played "a nicely written Trio for Keyed Trumpet , Violin and Pianoforte" by Hummel of Vienna. It is my contention that this was expanded in to his Concerto.

In the slow movement of Hummel, track 5, you play some trills that are very special. It sounds a bit funny and this effect indicates that Weidinger and Hummels must have worked close together.

The 2nd & 3rd movements clearly have Weidinger "leaning over Hummel's Shoulder" [the opening one is less gimmicky] This is evident from the trills on the same note [wavy lines] in the last 2 movts. only obtainable on the notes Hummel uses.

The Two Valved Trumpet
two valve trumpet

What can you tell us about this instrument?.

Early valves were just an instant crook; but they soon made the trumpet cromatic.

The final track, no. 21, is played with this instrument. It is the famous Ave Maria by Schubert. Thomas Harper played it with such a trumpet. How did you find out this?

There are many well preserved concert programmes and advertisments which tell us exactly what Harper & his colleagues played, amongst these pieces are Schubert's "Ave Maria" specifically promoting his Valved Trumpet !

D. The Cornopean.  

The Cornopean is regarded as an early cornet. What is the difference?

Cornopean are not tapered at the mouthpiece end. They accept crooks and mouthpieces with stems as big as a natural Trumpet's. Cornets are Tapered and accept smaller mouthpieces and sets of crooks which are also tapered.

You play on an original Cornopean. How was it to play on?

Mine from 1839 by Kohler, London has Disc valves which cannot wear or
leak, so it plays as well as the day it was made ! Beautiful free tone with intonation to shame ANY modern manufacturer !!!

The opening track is Mendelssohn's Spring Song, played on the Cornopean. All the other tracks played on this instrument is also by that composer. Did he write anything for the Cornopean?

No, Mendelssohn would have regarded these instruments as "plebian" I think! The loss was his - but his "Songs without Words" lie very well for the Cornet / Cornopean.

Some final questions:

The combination of the human voice and the trumpet is very interesting, especially with such a great singer as Ian Partridge. Do you often perform with singers?

I love to perform with good singers; it perfectly illustrates the point that in earlier times the trumpet blended well with the voice and effotlessly for both parties; a modern trumpet tends to overwhelm or "drown" a singer - not ALWAYS such a bad idea !!

When you play on these different instruments, you have to switch to very different mouthpieces. Is that a problem?

One just has to get used to all the different sizes of mouthpieces. If you use the wrong one it will not sound properly. An instrument generally amplifies the sound you put in, also the tuning is invariably better if you use an appropriate mouthpiece.

How can people get this CD?

This CD only comes from me Direct : crispiansp@trumpet1.co.uk

o.j. 2004