The Altenburg Ensemble is the UK's premier historical ensemble performing on natural trumpets.
Their historically informed performances, chiefly of Baroque and Renaissance music, draw from the treatises of the period, including those of Cesare Bendinelli (1614), Girolamo Fantini (1638) and Johann Ernst Altenburg (1795).
Despite the fact that much of the music is well over two hundred years old this is an exciting new development in early music performance. It is only with recent developments in understanding of period techniques, as pioneered by Jean-François Madeuf, that it has become possible to play this music on the instrument for which it was intended, the “noble and heroic” natural trumpet.
The natural trumpet uses only the pure intervals of the harmonic series, the intervals becoming narrower in the high register. This means that only the high register (clarino meaning high, clear tone) is suitable for melodic playing. Hearing the combination of the beauty of clarino playing resonate with the energy and power of the principale (lower register) and timpani it is easy to appreciate why the natural trumpet symbolised the heavens and the angels.
The glorious heralding of trumpets is most closely associated with fanfares, but the exceptional musicianship of trumpeters of the seventeenth and eighteenth century was highly prized. They could play music appropriate for any occasion. Solemn services would have required poise and subtlety, whereas accompanying chorales required a great beauty of tone (the sound of trumpets was compared to singing or playing the flute).
The ensemble aims to lead the way through performance and through research in the revival of the art of this ancient instrument. In addition to exploring just intonation and historical tuning the group is constantly finding new repertoire and demonstrating the amazing range and possibilities of the natural trumpet.
A Concert with a Difference!
Check out Giles Whittome's article on our concert in the October edition of the Brass Herald!