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Sound the Trumpet for a Pyrotechnician of Brass

* Though it's been out of favor with composers since the baroque period and it's a challenge to master, the instrument still sparks Steve Charpie's enthusiasm.


The trumpet was the star instrument of the baroque period, but it fell out of favor not long after.

"There are no trumpet concertos by Beethoven or Brahms," trumpeter Steve Charpie said in a recent phone interview. "There are no concertos by Ravel or Debussy. The role of the instrument went way down from its heyday in the baroque."

But what a heyday it was.

Charpie will give a sample when he plays concertos by Albinoni and Tartini with the Mozart Classical Orchestra, led by founder Ami Porat, on Sunday at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach.

Why is he playing two works?

"Because the trumpet parts during the baroque are so physically taxing and strenuous, the pieces are quite short," Charpie said from his home in Anaheim Hills. In those, brass instruments lacked valves; as a result, the players had to play skillfully and forcefully in the upper range to produce a melodic line.

"There's nothing of a substantial length that we could put on. Ami and I realized we would have to do two pieces to come up with a decent length."

One of the works, Albinoni's Trumpet Concerto in B-flat, actually was originally written for oboe. It was later transcribed by someone else for trumpet. Such shifts weren't uncommon. Charpie made his own edition, however.

"I was unhappy with the version that I purchased," he said. "In an effort to market the piece to trumpet players, they made it easier. They rescored some of the solo line into the violins and even cut solo parts. I've put in parts that were left out for the sake of the length of the piece and how taxing it is. Of course, that makes it more demanding for me."

Tartini's Concerto in D, on the other hand, was an original trumpet piece.

"It's got a lot of pyrotechnical playing. It really jumps around the horn. It's an acrobatic piece, very lighthearted. It's difficult, but fun to play."


A native of Kansas City, Mo., Charpie, 52, has been playing trumpet since fourth grade. He studied at the University of Kansas, the Manhattan School of Music in New York and at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., during the years he played in the U.S. Navy Band (1970-73).

He's been a member of the Long Beach Symphony for 20 years and the Mozart Classical Orchestra for three. Last year, he also started playing in the Louisville Symphony in Kentucky, traveling there once a month to play for a week.

"I do nothing but play trumpet," he said. "I have no students."

That living extends to playing and lecturing at historic brass-band performances, such as a tribute to Francis Johnson, the first African American to have music published in the United States; playing E-flat cornet at Gen. George Armstrong Custer reenactment events; and recently forming a reenactment brass band, named after Custer's 7th Cavalry brass band.

With this new group, he is recording music of Custer's world for a CD sponsored by the Shrine to Music Museum at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. The CD is scheduled for release in June.

"I knew nothing about this music from my own studies at conservatories and from playing," Charpie said. "I became interested in some antique instruments, a couple of cornets, I had seen. It was more their aesthetic beauty than the fact I was going to play them.

"Then I started researching the cornet and found the keyed bugle. That really caught my fancy. I became quite passionate about the instrument, and I looked at some of the colorful characters who had played cornet and keyed bugle.

"I stumbled onto all this, really, then became interested in playing some of the old literature. That's just how it happened. Now I've gone out and presented this music at high schools and colleges, trying to revive interest in it and teaching what a great history we have on cornet and trumpet."

It keeps him busy.

"I have had to do the legwork and encourage people to program this. But without exception, no one has been disappointed."

Chris Pasles can be reached at (714) 966-5602 or by e-mail at


Steve Charpie will play trumpet concertos by Albinoni and Tartini with the Mozart Classical Orchestra, led by founder Ami Porat, at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, 600 St. Andrews Road, Newport Beach. The program will also include works by Svendsen and Herbert. $15 to $31. (949) 830-2950.

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