The Trumpet Book by Gabriele Cassone

cassonecoverThe Trumpet Book by Gabriele Cassone. Zecchini Editore Pub. 2009 ISBN 978-88-87203-80-6. 336 pages. $75. With accompanying CD. Website:

When I received the original Italian language edition of Gabriele Cassone’s La Tromba (2002) some years back, I thought that it was not only the most beautifully published book on the trumpet (over 400 exquisite color photographs on glossy large format paper), but perhaps the most beautiful book on any musical instrument I’ve seen. Unfortunately, my knowledge of Italian is about on par with that of the great Louis Armstrong. When on one of his many tours of Italy and asked how his Italian was, the great trumpeter responded, “Oh fine, pizza!!” I may be able to order a few more types of food but now we have the English translation of Cassone’s wonderful book and it is even more beautiful than the original Italian edition. There are additional photos and some photos enlarged and made slightly brighter.

Tom Dambly has edited the English translation and contributed to the chapter on jazz trumpet which was written by Scott Yanow. A quick comparison with the original Italian publication shows that it covers the same material but the chapters on contemporary music and jazz seem to be somewhat revised. There are additional photos added in those sections. Even though this book has the elegance of a coffee-table book, it is also a fine historical overview of the trumpet. Cassone covers every aspect of trumpet history with thoughtful care and detail. There are seven chapters; The Trumpet: Physical Characteristics and History (covering periods from pre-history to the 21st century), The Natural Trumpet, Contemporary Music for Trumpet, Instrumental equipment, The Mute, Modern Trumpet Technique, and The Trumpet in Jazz.

While the historical overview is very good, the best aspect of this book has to do with the nuts and bolts of the trumpet. Cassone, as a world-class trumpet virtuoso on early instruments as well as the most contemporary trumpet music, shows his real strength when discussing pedagogy, repertoire, and performance practice. His passion for the trumpet shouts through on every page in these sections. While Cassone seems to be a proponent of the Jacobs methodology, he presents a balanced view of a wide range of brass playing approaches. In terms of performance practice issues, Cassone not only thoroughly discusses many early brass topics such as ornamentation, tempi, articulation and style but he gives equal focus to contemporary music performance. HBS members quite rightly regard Gabriele Cassone as one of the greatest natural trumpeters in the world but he is equally renowned as a player of 19th century cornet solo repertoire as well as the most contemporary trumpet music being performed today. He presents a careful and thoughtful view on a wide range of repertoire, often with the particular excerpts given.

The CD which accompanies the book includes Cassone performances of trumpet music ranging from the 17th to the 20th centuries. The CD cover has a photo of five instruments; natural trumpet, keyed trumpet, 19th century rotary trumpet, 19th century cornet and modern C trumpet. Presumably these are the instruments on which he performed the works on this wonderful recording. The program includes Sinfonia from Il Barcheggio by Alessandro Stradella (1639-1682), Excerpts from Abraham in Egypt by Giovanni Viviani (1638-1692), an aria from Pace una volta from Zenobia by Luca Predieri (1668-1767), The Haydn and Hummel trumpet concertos, Verdi’s Adagio for trumpet, Arban’s Carnival of Venice and Noturna for trumpet and live electronics by Michele Tadini (1964). There is plenty of florid and virtuosic trumpet music here and Cassone plays it flawlessly. Having heard him play absolutely perfectly in numerous live performances, it is a safe bet to assume that these recordings did not receive any extra “help” after the fact! Gabriele Cassone is a rare and spectacular trumpeter.

One small disappointment with the new English edition is the elimination of the 10 page color photo section on the steps of making a natural trumpet, which is in the original Italian book. The Trumpet Book is a stunning volume and will grace the bookshelf of any brass musician.

-- Jeffrey Nussbaum