Gottfried Reiche

Gottfried Reiche

Gottfried Reiche (February 5, 1667 - October 6, 1734) was a German trumpet player and composer of the Baroque era. He is best known for having been Johann Sebastian Bach's chief trumpeter at Leipzig from Bach's arrival there in 1723 until Reiche's death.


Reiche was steeped in trumpet playing from an early age -- he was born in the town of Weissenfels, which had a long tradition of trumpet music at its court. He went to Leipzig in 1688, eventually succeeding trumpeter Johann C. Genzmer there as "Senior Stadtmusicus" in 1719.

Reiche was a musician of great skill, if one can judge from the trumpet parts written for him by Bach. They are among the most florid, creative, and difficult trumpet parts of the Baroque, quite clearly intended for a player of great talent and virtuosity.

He is the subject of a famous painting of the era, which was done by Leipzig artist E.G. Haussmann for the occasion of Reiche's 60th birthday in 1727. In the portrait, Reiche holds a coiled natural trumpet in his right hand. In his left hand, he holds a sheet of music manuscript on which is written a short "abblasen" or fanfare. The musical notes are depicted accurately on the painting, and the fanfare has been transcribed and performed by several artists. It has also served for many years as the theme music to the U.S. television show "CBS Sunday Morning".

While Reiche himself composed many such "abblasen" and other "tower music" ("turmmusik") (most of which is lost), some scholars believe that the style of the music in the portrait hints at possibly being composed by J.S. Bach himself, perhaps as a birthday gift for his chief trumpeter.

Reiche died of a stroke, collapsing in the street while walking home one night. A contemporary account attributed the stroke to the strain of having played trumpet the previous evening, with "his condition having been greatly aggravated from the smoke given off by the torch-lights." Over time, this account became distorted and exaggerated into an "urban legend" of sorts amongst trumpeters, to the effect that he actually collapsed and died "while" performing. Some of these legends even specified the actual work and passage that spelled his demise (from the opening chorus of the secular cantata BWV215, later reworked by Bach as the "Hosanna" movement of his "Mass in b minor)."

After his death, Reiche was succeeded by Christoph Ruhe.


*Don Smithers, "Gottfried Reiches Ansehen und sein Einfluß auf die Musik Johann Sebastian Bachs", Bach-Jahrbuch 73, p.113-150, 1987
*Don Smithers, "Bach, Reiche and the Leipzig Collegia Musica", Historic Brass Society Journal 2, p.1-51, 1990
* The Ewald Brass Quintet's recording of the complete "Vierundzwanzig neue Quatricinien" (1696): Hungaroton HCD 32451

External links

* [ Musical score and sound files of the "Abblasen"]
* [ Did Bach actually compose the famous "Abblasen?"]

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