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The Trumpet: Instrument of Kings and Concert Halls!

Credit: Rob Shanahan
Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Trumpet David Bilger

The trumpet was the instrument of kings, in court and on the battlefield. Today the orchestral trumpet is an instrument for virtuosos, and used for a variety of purposes. WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more.

Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Trumpet David Bilger talks with WRTI's Susan Lewis about the evolving role of the trumpet in orchestral music.

Listen to WRTI 90.1 on Sunday, January 6 at 1 PM to hear The Philadelphia Orchestra play Stravinsky’s Petrushka featuring David Bilger on trumpet.

Radio script:

Susan Lewis: That's the sound of Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Trumpet David Bilger...without his  trumpet.

David Bilger: That’s just me with just my lips buzzing. We do that into the mouthpiece and we get open notes.

Credit Rob Shanahan
David Bilger

DB: And when we start to use the valves, we can play all the chromatic notes.

SL: Trumpets made it into the orchestra in the 1600s, but the addition of valves in the 1800s opened up new possibilities for composers. By 1947, when Igor Stravinsky rewrote his ballet Petrushka, first composed in 1911, he gave the trumpets lines in the orchestral texture and solos originally written for cornets. 

[MUSIC: Stravinsky: Petrushka, The Philadelphia Orchestra]

SL: Giving the trumpet multiple roles in the story.

DB: It’s incredibly physical...it's like being the truck in the back of the orchestra, and then all of a sudden you’re doing things that are very nimble and very exposed. The challenge is actually great fun. You get to show off everything the trumpet can do in one piece.

SL: Bilger says the solos in Stravinsky’s Petrushka have become standard audition pieces for aspiring orchestral trumpet players.

Listen to WRTI 90.1 on Sunday, January 6  at 1 pm to hear The Philadelphia Orchestra play Stravinsky’s Petrushka.

Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.