Maurice André, the son of French miner who sparked an international renaissance for the solo trumpet, died Saturday at age 78. André was praised for his bright tone and seemingly effortless virtuosity, but he also played a role in the Baroque music revival through his playing on the piccolo trumpet. André appeared on more than 300 recordings over a 50-plus-year career.
He died in a hospital in Urrugne, near his home in southwestern France. His family declined to disclose the cause of death.
André was born in 1933 in Rochebelle near Ales in the south of France. He followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a miner at age 14, even as he had begun playing cornet and then trumpet. His father, who was also an amateur trumpet player, recognized the depth of young Maurice's talent and arranged lessons for him with a local teacher.
While his father couldn't afford to send him to the Paris Conservatoire, the young André's teacher devised a plan: he would gain a scholarship to the prestigious school by first joining a military band. The scheme worked, and at the age of 18, André began studies at the conservatory under Raymond Sabarich.
In 1953, André began playing professionally in two ensembles, the Lamoureux Concert Association Orchestra and the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra. Competition victories soon followed, including the Munich International Competition -- of which he was invited to be a judge but he instead entered as a contestant and won first prize. By age 30 he had established a solo career.
Because the repertory for trumpet is small, André began transcribing -- or convincing others to transcribe -- works for violin, oboe, voice and other instruments. André also began commissioning works from some of the leading composers of the day including Blacher, Jolivet, and Tomasi.
André was eager to pass on his art, and worked as a professor at the Paris Conservatoire until 1978, where he taught over 100 trumpeters. He also became known to the general public, frequently appearing on television. In a 1978 interview, André estimated that he typically played a 180-concert schedule and had made over 220 recordings up to that time. That included the occasional crossover and jazz gig as well as concerto appearances.
In 2004, when André retired from the concert stage, he wrote a column for the Paris newspaper Le Monde. Among his observations: "The trumpet is a difficult instrument. It arouses mixed feelings, whether it's used for the military, the spirit of triumph and parades, or in its biblical origins as an image of the Apocalypse. But it also knows how to get the girls to dance!"
French president Nicolas Sarkozy hailed the memory of trumpeter Sunday, saying his life "is living proof that hard work and talent can do everything."
He added: "Maurice André managed to combine, in an incomparable manner, the highest artistic standards in a fierce desire to popularize the instrument beyond classical music to the widest audience."