Maurice Andre, a onetime coal miner who left the pits as a boy and rose to become one of classical music’s most acclaimed trumpeters, an undisputed master of aural grace, died Feb. 25 at a hospital in Bayonne, France. He was 78. A cause of death was not immediately known.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced the news of Mr. Andre’s death and said in a statement that the trumpeter “leaves an immense void in millions of French homes where, thanks to his talent and his legendary simplicity, he had introduced, sometimes for the first time, classical music.”
Were it not for Mr. Andre, proclaimed the British classical music publication Gramophone in 2004, the trumpet would still be “associated with beer and blazons” and not the “light, lyrical voice” he gave it through his lips, fingers and diaphragm.
And were it not for the coal mines in the south of France, Mr. Andre often said, he would not have possessed the power and control to play his instrument so fluidly.
“Look at these lungs, feel these back and shoulder muscles,” he told Time magazine in 1974. “That is what it takes to play the baroque trumpet.”
Mr. Andre played in music’s most vaunted concert halls, but his work might be most familiar to Washington area residents who listen to radio host Diane Rehm’s public affairs program. His trumpet bounces through the opening notes of the show’s introductory song, “Toot Suite,” composed by pianist Claude Bolling.
The renowned trumpeter and conductor Gerard Schwarz once said that Mr. Andre helped the trumpet gain recognition as a soloist’s instrument in classical music.
“He made it all possible — just the way Jean-Pierre Rampal made it possible for flutists,” Schwarz told the New York Times in 1983. “He has paved the way for others to follow.”
Mr. Andre commissioned works from leading composers. He also took solos meant to be performed by other instruments and played them on his trumpet.
“I had to do a great many things to give the nobility back to the trumpet,” Mr. Andre told the Times in 1983. “The original repertory was not large or rich enough. I broadened it by transcribing music for other instruments — the flute, the oboe, the violin — to enrich it.”
The result astounded classical musical audiences worldwide. After his Carnegie Hall debut in 1974, Times music critic Donal Henahan wrote that Mr. Andre “took the hall by the ears with glittering spins through concertos” and his “spectacular trills and other flourishes.”
Some years, Mr. Andre was in such demand that he performed more than 200 concerts. He was best known for bringing modern verve to his interpretations of baroque concertos by Albinoni, Telemann and Haydn.
Mr. Andre stood 5-foot-7 and had a voluminous belly. His thistly eyebrows and tousled gray hair made him look more like a “Paris taxi driver,” Time magazine wrote, than one of the world’s most esteemed musicians.
But on stage, his pudgy digits flirting with the brass valves of his trumpet, Mr. Andre was able to deliver music “in the form of a glistening dessert,” Times reviewer Bernard Holland wrote in 1984, “fabricated by a master patissier.”
Maurice Andre was born May 21, 1933, in Ales, in the south of France. He was the son of a coal miner. His father played the trumpet as a hobby. Given a cornet as a boy, young Maurice played in his spare time between shifts in the mines.
At the behest of a private instructor, Mr. Andre’s family was persuaded to send the trumpet player at age 18 to the Conservatoire de Paris, a prestigious music school in the French capital. In 1963, he won a trumpet contest in Munich that established him as a virtuoso.
Survivors include his wife, Liliane Andre, and two children, Nicolas Andre and Beatrice Andre, both of whom are musicians.
“It takes a strong personality to make an impact with the trumpet,” Mr. Andre said in 1983. “You’re like a matador in the bullring. I see flutists and oboists go on the stage gingerly. If you do that with the trumpet, you’re finished. You have to go on as a winner.”