Clarion call

Leading British Baroque trumpet player David Staff will be performing as part of the second annual Bach in Jerusalem Festival.

Musician David Staff. (photo credit: RUSSELL GILMOUR)
Musician David Staff.
(photo credit: RUSSELL GILMOUR)
Bach’s Mass in B Minor will be the key piece in the second annual Bach in Jerusalem Festival.
While most of the events of the festival, organized by the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra, will take in place in Jerusalem, mainly in the YMCA auditorium, known for its fine acoustics, the piece will also be performed in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beersheba.
This will be a historically informed performance on authentic instruments, with fine soloists – mostly Israeli – and additional singers who will accompany the soloists instead of a choir.
“The solo part of the trumpet is very beautiful and very complicated,” explains conductor and harpsichordist David Shemer, the artistic director of the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra. “To perform it, we have invited David Staff, one of Britain’s leading trumpet players, to whom this instrument owes its revival.”
Staff, a virtuoso trumpet and cornet player specializing in music from the Renaissance to Classical periods, has performed and recorded with many of the world’s leading ensembles.
“When I was a little boy, I saw some of my schoolmates playing musical instruments, so I thought I should try, too,” says the musician in a phone interview from his home in England.
What is it about Baroque music that attracts him? Playing the Baroque trumpet is reputed to be quite a challenge.
“Indeed, it is very difficult,” Staff says. “When I switch to modern trumpet, it is so easy that I often laugh! The Baroque trumpet is two to three times longer than a modern one. And you can’t rely on your past experience; it demands constant work. But I love its rich sound so much, that practicing is not a problem at all because I am dealing with something I love and enjoy.”
What makes the sound of the old trumpet so rich?
“Basically, it has to do with the fact that the instrument is so long. The higher you play, the richer the sound becomes, for physical reasons. You can compare it with good and bad olive oil. Bad oil has no flavor at all, while a good one is very rich,” he explains.
Speaking about his favorite old trumpet repertoire, Staff says that they are pieces by Bach, which he describes as extravagant.
“I see two reasons for this.” he says.
“First, Bach had a very vivid imagination about what would be possible for the trumpet. And we know that he had exceptionally fine players at his disposal. Sometimes he pushed it so far that it seems impossible to play.”
Staff also makes trumpets himself.
“It’s not a hobby. I play the trumpet, I teach the trumpet and I make trumpets. It helps me to get a complete understanding of the whole thing. I cannot understand a trumpet maker who cannot play. Similarly, I cannot understand a trumpet player who cannot make a trumpet.”
Staff has more than 30 years of high-level conservatory teaching experience, with many of his former students becoming valued professional colleagues. He has given master classes and seminars worldwide.
He is currently Professor of Natural Trumpet at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam.
So what’s his secret?
“Enthusiasm. You have to show enthusiasm, which I don’t find difficult to do; it comes naturally. But I think that you should treat students not as students but as your colleagues. That is very important. As if we are all in this game together. The only reason that you are a student and I am a professor is that I am more experienced,” he says.
Bach’s Mass in B Minor will be performed by the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra under the baton of prominent early music specialist Andrew Parrott. The soloists are sopranos Keren Motseri and Channa Malkin; alto Avital Deri; tenor Richard Resch; and baritone Guy Pelc, as well as a vocal ensemble.
The concerts take place on March 21 at 8 p.m. at the Israel Conservatory in Tel Aviv; March 22 at 8:30 p.m. at Krieger Hall in Haifa; March 24 at 1:30 p.m. at the Beersheba Conservatory; March 25 at 8:30 p.m. at the YMCA in Jerusalem.
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