Competition "Théo Charlier"

Théo CHARLIER

 (1868 – 1944)

Théo Charlier was a privileged witness of the evolution and the manufacturing of the trumpet. His contribution to the style progress of trumpeters was considerable.

Born at Seraing, nearby Liège, while studying the cornet, from the age of twelve on he attends the Conservatoire Royal de Liège, where he distinguishes himself by obtaining, at seventeen, a cornet first prize and the year thereafter a trumpet first superior prize. He gets a job as a trumpet soloist simultaneously or successively in various orchestras : société des "Concerts du Palais des Arts et du Commerce d'Anvers", Théâtre Royal Français, Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, société des "Concerts Ysaye", société des "Concerts Populaires de Bruxelles" …

It seems tough that Théo Charlier did not get under the spell of military music which was much acclaimed at the end of the 19th century. His merit was to anticipate the importance of the evolution of musical tastes towards the insensible replacement of soft and velvet sounds from cornets and bugles by the brilliancy and the vividness of the trumpet, thereby giving Belgium its place among the avant-garde of this modernistic trend.

His influence will have a decisive effect on the rapidity with which the trumpet will get its preponderant place at the end of the 19th century. Taking account of the technical and artistic evolution of the trumpet, he will be one of the most talented instrumental performers, not at all avoiding the difficult parts composed by baroque music masters and which nobody dared to play. It seems he was the first instrumentalist to perform, in its integral version and without modifications, the perilous trumpet part of the 2nd Brandenburg Concerto written by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Being a soloist of international reputation, he nevertheless also was appointed from 1901 onward a trumpet teacher at the Conservatoire Royal de Musique de Liège. At the beginning of this pedagogical career, a career that will last 32 years, he wrote the Thirty-Six Transcendent Studies for the Chromatic Trumpet in B-flat, studies which still today receive a wide diffusion throughout the world. These genre studies have allowed innumerable musicians to get initiated into a high-level lyrical and romantic expression. Other works from this exceptional musician would deserve wider diffusion and among those the 2nd Solo for Trumpet Contest in B-flat, his last composition from 1943, one year before his death.

(document written on the basis of an article by Rosario Macaluso : "The trumpet school of Liège" in Brass Bulletin nr90 nov. 1995)