Voisin eventually figured importantly in the sound of the orchestra. Koussevitsky used some French musicians, but his métier was Russian music and the BSO was not a French orchestra. With the arrival of the very French Charles Munch as the new conductor, whose affinity was for French music and not at all for Russian or German music, there were new auditions in 1952. Roger Voisin was named principal trumpet. As a short history of the BSO appearing in the New York Times put it, with the appointment of Voisin “the fate of the orchestra was sealed.”
I first heard Voisin play in a December 1951 concert. A college classmate, Dick Davis, talked me into playing hooky for a day in order to catch a performance in Boston’s Symphony Hall of Handel’s Messiah, organized by the Handel and Hayden Society. I had never heard the BSO live before, and it was also my first experience of the sterling acoustics of that hall. I noticed that the strings had a sort of woody, full bodied sound. The trumpets, which remain silent for quite a while, start up in an exuberant chorus, entering on the words “Wonderful, marvelous…” Truly it was a wonderful sound: brassy, sharply accentuated and highly energetic. With the great aria for bass and trumpet, “And the trumpet shall sound,” Voisin walked to the front of the orchestra, looking like a giant holding his trumpet. (His gigantic appearance may have been an illusion created by the dwarf-like D trumpet he was using.) It was a stark and powerful statement. I had never before heard the sound he got with that instrument. My friend Dick exclaimed that it was “palpable.” At 33 and still a few months before being named principal trumpet, Voisin was already an accomplished artist as well as a virtuoso.
My next memory of Voisin is just outside Boston. It was the spring of 1963 and I was listening to a radio broadcast of the BSO, conducted by Erich Leinsdorf, who had taken over from Munch in that season. The concert was held in a hall in Cambridge that could not have been more than a mile from the apartment where I sat listening. What amazed me was Mozart’s “Posthorn” Serenade, with Voisin playing the clarion call on some sort of deep trumpet-like instrument that was nothing at all like the French horn