Could anyone explain how to choose what design of trumpet to perform Brandenburg 2 on? I'd expect it to be performed on a Bb piccolo trumpet - but there are three-valve and four-valve piccolos, and there are piston valve and rotary valve piccolos. And presumably Bach wrote for natural trumpet - as if the music wasn't hard enough already...

So what are the advantages/disadvantages of one physical design over another?

Note - I'm specifically not looking for brand recommendations - rather I'd like advice on which design to choose and why.

And is a piccolo trumpet mandatory - could you perform it on some other high-pitched trumpet instead?


The part as written is for a natural trumpet (clarino) in F. You could theoretically play it on any high trumpet.

There is some evidence that the part might have been intended to sound an octave lower then it is normally played. (See this discussion):

Thurston Dart postulated the part was intended for "Tromba, o vero corno da caccia" but this would put the part an octave lower than written. I believe there was a player, possibly even Reiche, who could have played it or had the required skill. Remember the portrait of Reiche holding a "Jaegertrompete?" It's impossible to say if such an instrument was common or not despite the famous painting as the only surviving such instrument was destroyed during WWII by allied bombing.

A feasible answer to the question "trumpet or horn?" might be that on occasion Bach allowed for a performance of the work incorporating a horn instead of a trumpet. The German name "Jaegertrompete" (hunter's trumpet) for a trumpet which was coiled, and looked like a horn, may have been mis-translated into Italian as "Corno da caccia" (hunter's horn), and thus the debate began.

If you do decide to play it on the B♭ piccolo, you don't need the fourth valve. And as for the choice between piston and rotary valves: that is entirely your personal choice. The part is hard enough, you should play it on the instrument you feel most comfortable on.

  • Thank you for the answer. I was hoping for some solid reasons for preferring either piston or rotary valves. – Brian THOMAS Jul 9 '19 at 17:58
  • @BrianTHOMAS You won't hear solid reasons for either choice. It's all a matter of personal preference. There are plenty of excellent recordings on both instruments. – PiedPiper Jul 9 '19 at 18:01

Yes, it's usually played today on a B♭ piccolo trumpet. As there's obviously no issue with authenticity, choice between the various designs is completely at the player's discretion. The arrangement of the valves makes minimal if any difference to the sound.

  • 1
    Why do you say "no issue with authenticity" ? piccolo trumpets do not sound the same as a standard trumpet in high octaves, for example. – Carl Witthoft Jul 9 '19 at 13:16
  • 1
    @CarlWitthoft B♭ piccolo trumpet is not authentic, so it doesn't matter which type of B♭ piccolo you use. – PiedPiper Jul 9 '19 at 13:37

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