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The Robert Minter Collection: A Handlist of Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Trumpet Repertory

Trevor Herbert

The trumpet and its history

Within the general context of the early music revival there was a renewed interest in the way that the trumpet was understood in the period before mechanised trumpets – especially valve instruments – were invented (in the early nineteenth century). The outline story was well known: the trumpet has an ancient history in various cultures, but in European cultures it seems to have passed through an important change as the sixteenth century gave way to the seventeenth. It moved from being an instrument associated mainly with declamatory fanfares and signalling to having some prominence as a melodic instrument in elite art music. The earliest-known written music for the trumpet which started to appear in the early seventeenth century seems to confirm this, and the fact that both of the earliest sources – an unpublished treatise by Cesare Bendinelli (1614), and a published treatise by Girolamo Fantini (1638) – are didactic in nature leaves us in no doubt that by the time of their authorship trumpeters were expected to be musically literate.

In the century and a half that followed there were centres of trumpet-playing brilliance in several parts of Europe, German-speaking countries, Italy and England being especially prominent. The repertoires that survive in these places and in some more remote satellites provide evidence of both virtuosity and lyricism. It was these repertoires that captured Minter’s interest.


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