Jonathan Freeman-Attwood plays Wilfred Owen’s ‘looted’ bugle

-Posted on 11.11.2018

Principal of the Royal Academy of Music, Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, was invited to play a bugle belonging to Wilfred Owen as part of events marking 100 years since the end of the First World War.

Freeman-Attwood recorded The Last Post and Reveille – a military call synonymous with acts of remembrance – for BBC Radio 4’s Today programme ahead of a commemorative ceremony in Ors, northern France, to mark the centenary of the celebrated poet’s death.

Owen, whose words powerfully convey the horrors of the First World War, was killed on 4 November 1918 during the battle to cross the Sambre-Oise canal, just seven days before peace was declared.

The bugle originally belonged to a German soldier killed in action. According to a letter dated May 1917, Owen found the bugle on the battlefield, referring to it as ‘loot’, and initially intended it as a gift for his younger brother Colin. However, he writes that ‘I have got too fond of the thing to part with it!’.

The Academy’s Principal commented that the German-made instrument, which he was invited to play by the Wilfred Owen Association and Glen Art, ‘gives a full sound’ and has ‘a wonderful degree of craftsmanship’.

It differs from a British Army bugle in its shape and tuning: ‘It’s shorter so is pitched a minor third higher, in C sharp,’ says Freeman-Attwood. ‘The effect in the field would have been very different to a British bugle which is pitched in B flat. The intervals are incredibly pure and the top notes truly ring out.’

An excerpt of Freeman-Attwood’s playing can be heard on BBC Radio 4’s November 3 edition of the Today programme (from 1:54:58). You can listen to the full recording of The Last Post and Reveille below.


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