Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra
For Bb or C trumpet and piano (1996)
By John Williams

Biographical Info

“Given a background of playing trombone and trumpet as a teen, and after writing so much brass music for films and for ceremonial pieces, you can imagine my pleasure when the Cleveland Orchestra asked me to write a concerto for their newly appointed principal trumpeter, Michael Sachs.  Not only did this commission offer me an opportunity to compose a work for an instrument that I truly love, but it promised the privilege of having the piece performed by one of the world’s greatest orchestras and featuring one of the world’s most elegant trumpeters.

The premiere performances were brilliantly conducted by the orchestra’s music director Christoph von Dohnanyi in October of 1996 with Michael Sachs as soloist.  Mr. Sachs has also very successfully performed this version for trumpet and piano.

Whether the influences mentioned above can be felt at any level of this piece, I cannot say, but I neve3rtheless hope that interested students and professionals might find a fraction of the pleasure that I have found in writing this concerto and having it performed by these wonderful artists.”

– John Williams

Suggested Equipment

It is published with both C and Bb parts and I have performed it on both horns on different occasions.  I prefer the C trumpet for this work.  The range goes from a low concert G to a concert D above the staff.  (Personally, I would rather play D’s on a C than E’s on a Bb!)  The following clips were recorded on an Eclipse C trumpet.

There are no mutes called for.

Practice/Performance Tips

The piece is filled with lyricism and technical flair and begins right off with a brilliant fanfare.

mvt. 1 opening

There are a number of large intervallic gestures that occur in fast articulated sections as well as flowing lyrical sections.

mvt. 1 theme 1

mvt. 1 theme 2

The first movement has a wonderful extended cadenza that becomes integrated with the piano near the end.  It is my understanding that in the orchestral version, the conclusion of the cadenza is a combination of the solo trumpet with the three orchestral trumpets.  In any event, it is a very exciting moment.

mvt. 1 cadenza

mvt. 1 cadenza conclusion

The end of the first movement calms down with the soloist on a “very sustained” low G that segue’s into the Second movement.  I find this spot very tricky to get my heart rate down after all the excitement, but it’s a very effective way to begin the next movement.

The Second movement is filled with soaring lyrical lines with large intervals.

mvt. 2 theme 1

There are a number of quintuplet sixteenth rhythms that I take to mean to add a sense of rubato or urgency to the line.  There are times when the trumpet is declamatory then cantabile.  Be sure to change your articulation and style to showcase this.

mvt. 2 theme 2

The Second movement also has a cadenza, though much shorter.

The final movement is a fast, technical movement that is mostly in 9/8.  Perhaps you could think of it as a modern Tarentella or Gigue.  The meter changes occur often enough as to break up any discernable rhythmic pattern.  Avoid the temptation to play the opening of the movement too loudly.  (There’s plenty of time for that at the end!)

mvt. 3 theme 1

The highpoint of the movement, if not the entire work, for me occurs on the last page beginning at m.229 and going till the end.  Williams uses a wonderful combination of meter changes, articulations, range, intervals, multiple tonguing and extreme dynamics to achieve a fantastically frenzied effect.

mvt. 3 ending

The entire work is about 20’.

Suggested Recordings

As of this post I know of no commercial recordings of this piece.