Morning name: at Carnival, with a trumpet, in a tricorn

From some time ago: the morning name “Carnival of Venice”, referring to the virtuoso trumpet setting of the German folk song “Mein Hut, der hat drei Ecken” by Allen Vizzutti. No doubt WQXR-FM in NYC played it during the night while I was sleeping. A name that will take us many places.

So, the trumpet piece, played by Wynton Marsalis with the Boston Pops under John Williams: you can listen to it here. On the song, from Wikipedia:

The Carnival of Venice, is a folk tune popularly associated with the words “My hat, it has three corners” (or in German, “Mein Hut, der hat drei Ecken”). A series of theme and variations has been written for solo trumpet, as “show off” pieces that contain virtuoso displays of double and triple tonguing, and fast tempos.

Many variations on the theme have been written, most notably those by Jean-Baptiste Arban, Del Staigers, Herbert L. Clarke for the cornet, trumpet, and euphonium, Francisco Tárrega and Johann Kaspar Mertz for classical guitar, Ignace Gibsone and Louis Moreau Gottschalk for piano, and Giovanni Bottesini for double bass. Chopin’s “Souvenir de Paganini”, dedicated to the composer and violin virtuoso Niccolò Paganini, is another variation on this theme. The popular novelty song, “(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?”, written and recorded in 1952, is based on the tune. A more recent piece making use of the theme, by Allen Vizzutti, called “The Carnival of Venus,” is regarded as one of the most difficult trumpet pieces ever written due to range and technical demands.

The piece has also been arranged for tuba, notably played by John Fletcher and available on the CD The Best of Fletch. Also Roger Bobo on Tuba Libera (cd). Another tubist whose performance of the piece is noteworthy is Øystein Baadsvik, a Norwegian tubist.

In German, then in English:

Mein Hut, der hat drei Ecken,
drei Ecken hat mein Hut.
Und hätt er nicht drei Ecken,
so wär’s auch nicht mein Hut.

My hat it has three corners
Three corners has my hat
For had it not three corners
It would not be my hat

I have a very clear recollection of having learned the German version first, in grade school, but that almost surely can’t be right; memory is a very tricky thing. On the other hand, there’s the question of which language was the original. Sources available on the net don’t seem to speak to the question, but on the face of it, it looks like the English is a f=translation of the German, or else that the English (with the archaic syntax of its third line) is of considerable age.

Side Note: from Wikipedia:

“(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?” is a popular novelty song published as having been written by Bob Merrill in 1952 and very loosely based on the folk tune, “Carnival of Venice”. This song is also loosely based on the song “Oh, where, oh, where, has my little dog gone?” The best-known version of the song was the original, recorded by Patti Page on December 18, 1952, and released in January 1953 by Mercury Records as catalog numbers 70070 (78 rpm) and 70070X45 (45 rpm) under the title “The Doggie in the Window”, with the flip side being “My Jealous Eyes”. It reached No. 1 on both the Billboard and Cash Box charts in 1953, and sold over two million copies.

You can listen to the Patti Page recording here.

Now to the the actual Carnival of Venice. From Wikipedia:

The Carnival of Venice (Italian: Carnevale di Venezia) is an annual festival held in Venice, Italy. The Carnival ends with the Christian celebration of Lent, forty days before Easter, on Shrove Tuesday (Martedi’ Grasso or Mardi Gras), the day before Ash Wednesday. The festival is world-famed for its elaborate masks.

The masks (and full costumes) are quite fantastical, gorgeous and dream-like, especially for women:



The costumes for men include a number with tricorn hats, which is where the three-cornered hat comes into it. Some of the masks and the characters they represent:

bauta: a standardized society mask, worn by men with a tricorn hat and a cloak, often black:


Columbina: Columbine from the commedia dell’arte
medico della peste: ‘the plague doctor’
moretta: the dark lady
volto (‘face’) or larva (‘ghost’)
Pantalone:  Pantaloon from the commedia
Arlecchino: Harlequin from the commedia
Zanni: another stage character

One Response to “Morning name: at Carnival, with a trumpet, in a tricorn”

  1. Julian Lander Says:

    But the archaic English may be necessary to preserve rhyme and scansion. It’s funnier in German, at least to my ears (I learned some German in college).

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: