Gottfried Reiche, Don Smithers, and CBS News Sunday Morning

27

January
2011

The American television news magazine program CBS News Sunday Morning has been on the air since January 28, 1979. During its continuous run, the show has always begun with the same trumpet fanfare—Gottfried Reiche‘s Abblasen—as viewers have watched footage of a rising sun.

For most of the show’s first two decades, the trumpet soloist was Don Smithers, who played the virtuosic fanfare on a copy of an 18th-century trumpet modeled after one depicted in Reiche’s 1726 portrait, painted by Elias Gottlob Haussmann and housed today at the Stadtgeschichtliche Museum in Leipzig, Germany.

Haussmann is best remembered for painting Johann Sebastian Bach’s portrait two decades later.

The cover of Smithers’ 1975 Philips LP “Bach’s Trumpet” features the Reiche portrait (above), which includes the only known source of Abblasen, meticulously reproduced by Haussmann. The LP not only opens with the fanfare, but that very performance was used on Sunday Morning.

Listen:

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When the show approached a twenty-year milestone, the producers saw the need to commission a new recording of the iconic fanfare. The intent was to “retire the old, scratchy vinyl phonograph version in favor of a new, clearer, high-tech recording.”

Instead of re-mastering the original or asking Smithers to re-record it (or another baroque trumpet virtuoso, or classical trumpet player), the producers hired Doc Severinsen, former leader of the Tonight Show orchestra, who played it on a modern piccolo trumpet.

I wonder if the Severinsen interpretation really had any lasting appeal because it wasn’t long, just a few years, before a third musician was asked to record it.

That trumpet player, Wynton Marsalis, champion of modern jazz, is the one heard when you tune it to watch the show today. And while I am a big fan of Marsalis and his many excellent classical trumpet CDs, the interpretation leaves something to be desired.

The only issue for me is the ornamentation, the added decoration a performer is expected to contribute in Baroque music.

In the case of Abblasen, the ornamentation is already built-in, its virtuosity apparent by the flurry of notes written into the composition, meant to impress visually and aurally. In other words, it doesn’t need any gilding.

This is what Abblasen looks like with out anything added (click to view larger):

Marsalis’ ornaments violate the fabric of the piece in two ways: they are unplayable on a baroque trumpet (therefore, exceeding the natural boundaries of fanfare) and are uncharacteristic of the Baroque style, including the two random little trills early on, the lightning-fast scale up to the high note, and the Spanish paso doble-like turn on the final note—all of which are being copied by trumpet players everywhere.

With that said, what Marsalis lacks in appropriate Baroque style he more than makes up for it in energy and spirit.

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