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The last representative of the heroic guild of trumpeters
Johann Ernst Altenburg has been called «the last representative of the heroic guild of trumpeters and timpanists.» Born in Weissenfels on June 15, 1734, he was apprenticed to his father Johann Caspar Altenburg (1689-1761) at the tender age of two and released from his articles as a trumpeter sixteen years later. At that time, however, the Baroque social order was in full decline.
Altenburg is best known for his valuable treatise on the «trumpeters’ and kettledrummers’ heroic and musical art», a work which, though finished in manuscript and offered on a subscription basis by J. A. Hiller as early as 1770, was not published until 1795. The present concerto, entitled «Concerto a VII Clarini con Tymp.», was included as a kind of appendix to Altenburg's treatise on pages 133-142. It is entirely possible that Altenburg was not the composer.
Whoever was its composer, the Concerto for Seven Trumpets and Tympani was certainly a so-called table sonata, a piece of music which according to Altenburg «should properly be sounded at the table of high gentry.» The concerto is in eight parts, with two choirs of three trumpeters each, plus the soloist and the kettledrummer.