Transcript of the Pannel in the Tower on the
King Charles Bridge, Prague.
From time immemorial, music was to be heard being played from atop stone walls and tower parapets. Such productions were at first a warning of some imminent danger, and later, for important royal or civic events.
Trumpeters working from town gates, town hall towers, and bridge towers performed the role of security guard. As it can be seen from these rooms, many of them did live in these towers. In the 15th century, a sporadic record of the trumpeters’ existence begins with a privilege given by King Vladislav II in 1497. From various groups of these trumpeters arose several performing groups, one of which has been engaged on the St Vitus Cathedral Tower since the second half of the 16th century, and was independent of thecourt group. The most frequent configuration of musicians was five, however some groups had chime cornetts and drums (see glass case C).
In addition to signalling music demonstrations, other kinds of entertaining dance music and instrumental arrangements of polyphonic nature were performed. For example, the trumpeters of Prague’s Old Town were charged in 1585 to trumpet devotionals from the Old Town City Hall Tower two times a day. This charge enabledthe trumpeters to play in churches and for such occasions as weddings.
The use of trumpets was limited to a certain extent by privileges granted to military trumpeters. Within the baroque 17th century, trumpets take their place in all their glory. Scarcely two natural trumpets – clarints – together with timpagnons, or with drums, could form an independent musical group. When enriched by cornetts and trombones, the performed compositions gain an unprecedented, celebratory tone (see glass case A).
From ships on the Vltava and adjacent bridge towers, the so-called “water music” (musica navalis) was regularly hearable in the 18th century, often celebrating the name of St. Jan Nepomucký – St. John Nepomuk. The litaniesand sacral cantatas composed by S. Brixie and F. Brixie, V. Jacob, J. Zach, and others were played in a similar manner.
With respect to the gradual conversion of trumpeters into town musicians, their instruments also changed in scope to include string and thruminstruments, flutes, clavichords, cymbals, and regales (see glass case B).
The tower music tradition has continued as well into the 19th century. Apparently, the appropriate variations of repertoire and social sounds result has been applied. On May 15, 1891, a group of sixteen musicians, accompanied by timpanists performed a ceremonial fanfare from Prague towers. This was composed by Antonín Dvorák for the opening of the Country Anniversary Exhibition. The manuscript of the composition, designed for natural trumpets in the spirit of Haydn’s “Emperor Hymn”, is exhibited on the upper floor of the tower together with other musical instruments, period documents, and illustrations related to the arrangement of entirely modern musical instruments. The playing of music from towers is still alive in our hasty times and itcontinues to enrich our daily lives from time to time.