Ever heard of a double-bell trumpet? If not, it’s time you did. Dutch musician and musical innovator Marco Blaauw is in town for the first time playing the rare instrument for audiences who have likely never heard it before. Together with the Israeli Contemporary Players, Blaauw opened the 17th season Saturday night in Tel Aviv and will repeat the concert today in Jerusalem.
In his youth, Blaauw was advised not to become a professional trumpet player by his conservatory teachers and was told to look for alternatives. “I switched to piano, but after three years, I came back to the trumpet – I liked the instrument so much. I studied with the principal trumpet player of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, but after graduating I felt bored with the repertoire I had to play. It was then that I knew I was not made for playing in an orchestra.”
Blaauw found refuge in teaching until he realized that “playing new music was what I really liked to do.” He continued his studies with the likes of Markus Stockhausen and later played with various ensembles. Today he plays with a Cologne based MusicFabrik ensemble and is counted among the world’s most important trumpet players. His ensemble specializes in contemporary music from all over the world, but also work with artists of other mediums, including video artists and dancers. The ensemble also runs educational projects for all kinds of audiences, from young kids in schools to “adults who yearn to learn more about the music of today but don’t know where to start.”
Some people claim that a double bell trumpet is just a gimmick, but many contemporary composers, who write for Marco, think differently.
“The trumpet as a solo instrument started developing very late compared to other instruments,” explains Marco. “It began only after the WWII, under the influence of jazz musicians like Miles Davis. You cannot change the shape of the violin without losing the quality of the sound, but the trumpet is still young.”
And as the trumpet has become more flexible and colorful, leading contemporary composers such as Luciano Berio, Ligeti, Kurtag and Peter Etvos have begun writing for it.
Blaauw says that in his quest to widen the trumpet’s range, “it was almost logical to start thinking of adding another bell, but I realized I could be more flexible in changing the colors of the sound by muting one bell and having another bell open.”
The idea was not new. Jazz player Bobby Shew used a double bell trumpet and at the beginning of the 20th century a double bell cornet was produced in France. But according to Blaauw, the instrument never influenced the world of music until he introduced his instrument and began playing it.
In 2000, after a year of experimenting, Blaauw’s double bell trumpet was ready.
“It turns out that you can slowly change between the open bell and muted bell and it gives a very wide variety of sound colors. So it was not a big surprise that Peter Etvos immediately wrote a piece for this instrument,” he says. “Etvos wrote for a double bell trombone previously, so he was familiar with the idea of changing between bells. Other composers like Rebecca Sounders soon joined in. Now more and more trumpet players are copying the instrument and creating new repertoires .”