You can wait months to hear a trumpet concerto, and then two come along in a week. Soloists Alan Thomas and Hakan Hardenberger talk to Christopher Morley.
I'd originally thought of this column as a tale of two trumpeters, but as I thought about it I realised a third was involved - and then a fourth.
On Sunday Alan Thomas, CBSO co-principal trumpet, is soloist with the Sinfonia of Birmingham in a performance of the Hummel Trumpet Concerto at the CBSO Centre. The conductor is Michael Seal.
Alan, Birmingham Conservatoiretrained and an LSO-Shell Competition prizewinner, is clear that a different mindset is involved when playing as a soloist.
"You have to produce a different sound, a more concentrated sound," he tells me as we sit on the Symphony Hall stage after a CBSO rehearsal. "Especially with a concerto like the Hummel, because it's more of a 'classical' sound.
"Using a different instrument as well, which is the E-flat trumpet, when it was written for a trumpet in E, and there's not many E trumpets around these days."
How does Alan feel, playing as a soloist in front of some of his colleagues?
"It's enjoyable, because they all know what it's like. Everyone's quite supportive when they're behind you, everyone wants you to do well.
"I've done the Haydn here in Symphony Hall with Michael. He's easy to work with, and a great fan of the trumpet!"
More and more composers are writing for the trumpet, and Alan welcomes this expanding of the repertoire.
"Hakan Hardenberger has been fantastic in getting more repertoire for the trumpet. It's really a shame that since Haydn and Hummel no other composers have written much for it.
"Richard Strauss should have written something. Two horn concertos, but not a trumpet one. That's a real shame."
Next Wednesday Alan Thomas will be playing in a CBSO concert which brings Hardenberger, possibly the world's greatest trumpeter, to Symphony Hall in the UK premiere of the Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth's ...miramondo multiplo..., composed especially for Hardenberger.
Speaking to me from his base in Sweden, Hardenberger says he is not sure it is quite accurate to say he feels a responsibility to expand the trumpet repertoire.
"In the beginning it was a necessity, if I wanted to play music of high quality, as there was so little of it," he laughs.
"And now I see it as something that is very good for me. It takes me forward, I've been playing the trumpet all my life, so it will be a new piece that develops me, maybe."
How does he manage to motivate himself when faced with yet another performance of the perennial trumpet concertos by Haydn and Hummel?
"Well, in those two pieces, first of all there's always a difference. There's a difference in quality, the Haydn being absolute top-quality music, whereas the Hummel... maybe the second movement is, the outer movements a little bit less.
"That's a fun piece, but that's a piece that suffers more from too many performances, whereas the Haydn seems to have absolute endless limits."
Hardenberger comes to Symphony Hall next Wednesday to join the CBSO in the UK premiere of the trumpet concerto ...miramondo multiplo..., specially composed for him by the Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth, and first performed by him at the 2006 Salzburg Festival with the Vienna Philharmonic under Pierre Boulez.
Forty year-old Neuwirth was herself an aspiring jazz trumpeter before a car accident intervened. Her concerto is a sequence of five "arias" looking at the world from different angles, and with several allusions to other kinds of music.
"The form, first of all, is interesting," says Hardenberger. "It's five arias, with the trumpet being, in my view, a very vocal instrument.
"She did play the trumpet as a child, and I feel very much this is in some respects a love-song to the instrument itself. But also, of course, it has the trumpet used as a looking-glass to see the world in different aspects. You have the titles of the arias explaining quite a lot, and particularly the second movement is a sort of dream-world of different quotations, and different trumpet moods - 'Aria della memoria'."
So now we have three trumpeters: Alan Thomas, Hakan Hardenberger and Olga Neuwirth. The fourth?
None other than the conductor of the CBSO March 5 concert, music-director elect Andris Nelsons, who was plucked from the trumpet desk of the opera-pit to be launched on a career on the rostrum.
Does that worry Alan Thomas, who will be playing so frequently under a fellow-trumpeter?
"So far it's been great! He's been very supportive, and very trumpet-friendly. He makes sure we keep fresh lips for the show, so he hasn't overworked us on the day of the show, which has been fantastic!"
* Alan Thomas appears with the Sinfonia of Birmingham at the CBSO Centre in Berkley Street on Sunday at 7.30pm (Box office: 0121 767 4050). Hakan Hardenberger performs with the CBSO at Symphony Hall on Wednesday at 7.30pm (Box office: 0121 780 3333).