A descendant of medieval battlefield horns and the later post-horn, the cornet’s name comes from the Latin ‘cornus’, meaning simply a horn. The advent of precision metal machining techniques in the early 1800s enabled Heinrich Stölzel and Friedrich Blühmel to manufacture and patent reliable piston valves of the type still in use today. The first notable virtuoso cornet player was Jean-Baptiste Arban, whose famous manual on playing technique, published in 1864, has been in print ever since. The B-flat cornet is identical in pitch and playing technique to the trumpet, but has a tapered bore producing a mellower tone better suited to brass bands. The nine B-flat cornets in a British-style brass band are divided into solo, repiano, seconds and thirds — the power-house of the upper harmony. Above them, a single soprano cornet in E-flat is used to add sparkle and a brilliant, though not usually continuous, descant.
Not to be confused with the modern brass cornet is the medieval ‘cornett’ (‘cornetto’ in Italian, ‘zink’ in German): a curved, sometimes leather-covered, wooden pipe about 60 cm. long with a small cup-type mouthpiece and holes covered by the fingers. Brilliant passages for the cornett are found in Giovanni Gabrieli’s music.
Libby Rowley Bell
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Jenny McNeil (Repiano Cornet)
Sally-Anne Lardner (2nd Cornet)
Andrew Patten (3nd Cornet)
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