By Tom Moore
We are lucky to have an extensive obituary for the flutist and composer Auguste Vern, who is well-represented in the printed editions from this lifetime, but, since he was from the provinces, and after his education in Paris, returned to work in the provinces, appeared relatively little in the Parisian press, and to my knowledge, does not appear in any of the musical encyclopedias of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
My translation of the obituary follows.
Composer of Music,
Member of the Society of Antiquaries of France, and of various Literary, Scientific, Agricultural and Philharmonic Societies in France and Abroad.
The dean of composers of instrumental music in France, and the dean of teachers of music in Orléans, M. Claude-Josephe-Auguste VERN, passed away in his 85th year, on May 18, 1854, in Orléans.
Born at Thoissay, near Macon, in 1669 [sic], he was taken at a young age to Lyon, where his parents had properties. Intended by his parents for a military career (artillery), his studies were directed to that end, and soon the siege of Lyon (1793) came to put his courage (which never failed) to the test, no more so than his principles, devoted to a wise freedom free from all excess. In the number of the vanquished after the fall of Lyon, and destined to be shot, he happily escaped the horrible massacre by throwing himself to the ground at the moment the command of “Fire!” was given, but he was wounded in the head by the grapeshot, which did not prevent him from dragging himself through the dead and dying, making his way to the Rhone, which he swam across, and making his way to Italy.
He then took service in the same regiment with the young Bonaparte. He later was attaché to the unfortunate Maréchal Brune, for whom his brother was secretary.
Frank and loyal in character, but a little brusque, and having become taciturn after the events marking his painful life, tormented first by the peril that he had gone through with the burning of his properties in Lyon, and then by considerable disappointments, he nonetheless maintained an inviolable attachment to this friends, an inexhaustible sympathy for his peers, and a rare disinterestedness taken to the extreme.
But the least injustice, the least departure from good behavior exasperated him. It is thus that, seeing himself in the army as the victim of a free ride, he brusquely broke off his military career in order to devote himself entirely to the study of music, which he had, until then, although with success, only pursued in his moments of leisure.
On returning to France and after having been applauded as flutist and oboist at the theatre of La Scala, Milan, and at that of Lyon, he came to Paris with well-founded hopes for his success, in the capital, in obtaining a place as professor at the Conservatory. It happened otherwise.
Discouraged by this unjust lack of success, he was called on by some amateurs in Orléans to come and be heard there. Soon students were asking for him, and facilities given for publicizing his compositions by a distinguished composer-publisher musician, Sébastien Démar. The success of his first works surpassed his expectations, and he decided to settle in Orléans, seeking a little business for his estimable spouse, while he occupied the place of flute and oboe in the Orléans orchestra, then very complete. The loss of his wife came to sadden his life, and paralyze a business that an artist was scarcely appropriate to carry on.
Eighteen collections for flute and for oboe published in succession, and numerous students had brought him an honest ease that his great heart made him compromise many times.
Until the age of eighty-two he continued to hold the position of flute and oboe at the orchestra of the theater with distinction. But finally his strength could not match his persevering courage, and he had nothing more than the highly estimable recognition of people he had once obliged, and the affection of his students who competed with each other, up until his last moment, in disguising, in various ways, the aid due to his great age, and to the general feeling of estimation and affection that everyone felt for him.
His students cherished him in spite of the strictness of his teaching, the result of his zeal in teaching his art well. The musicians who were his contemporaries gave resounding praise to his talent and the progress he had brought to the flute, in marching with a new and more assured pace in the path opened by those like Devienne and Hugot.
His compositions are in general severe, with an elevated taste, and the melodies that one often finds there are full of grace and sweetness. Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and lastly Reicha, were his favorite authors. Scarcely had Reicha published his immortal quintets for winds [Paris, 1817-1820], but Vern dared to propose and perform them in the provinces. The flute was given to M. Marcueyz, his student, he himself played the oboe, M. Louis played the clarinet, an excellent teacher and hornist, M. Vaillant, played that part, the bassoon was played with more zeal than talent by the author of this notice, and we owed to the musical intelligence of M. Vern an execution satisfying even for the performers of Paris, of these difficult works. There were frequent musical reunions at the house of M. Vern, and they contributed to training the numerous amateurs who still remember those fine days for instrumental music for winds in Orléans.
Toward the end of his career, M. Vern had composed some remarkable duos or songs for two English horns (voce humana[ii]). These melodies have remained unpublished along with other manuscripts that he himself destroyed with hunting fanfares for two horns.
But he left unpublished a set of oboe duos that he esteemed considerably.
The works of M. Vern are:
- Three duos for oboes, dedicated to M. Rime-Beaulieu.
- Three duos for oboes, dedicated to M. Montbarron.
- An opera burned in Lyon.
- Three quartets burned in Lyon.
- Six duos for flute, dedicated to Maréchal Brune.
- Six duos for flute, dedicated to M. de Moypia, jr.
- Six duos for flute, dedicated to the same.
- Three duos dedicated to his brother. (This set, to which a publisher added three oboe duos arranged for flute, was arranged by M. Vern himself for two oboes and dedicated to M. Demadières-Miron[iii].
- Three duos for flute, dedicated to Tulou.
- Three duos for flute, dedicated to Vanderlick[iv].
- A nocturne for harp and flute, dedicated to Mlle. Démar.
- A theme varié for flute, dedicated to M. C. Cayot and S. Maiffredy, of Marseille.
- A theme varié, dedicated to M. Warbuton.
- Four duos for flute, dedicated to M. Marcueyz.
- Twelve unpublished melodies for English horn, dedicated to M. J. Ruzé.
- Twelve unpublished melodies for English horn, dedicated to M. Vergnaud-Romagnési.
- A romance, Le Preux, words by M. Vergnaud-Romagnési.
- A unpublished set of duos for oboes.
Numbers in this list evidently correspond to opus numbers for Vern’s published works, opp. 1-14. Op. 3-4, given as burned in Lyon, do not survive. Nos. 15, 16, and 18 were evidently never published. No. 17 may have been published, but does not survive.
Surviving works by Vern:
Aarhus: Aarhus University Library
BNF: National Library, Paris
BL: British Library, London
3 Duos concertants pour deux hautbois, op. 1. Paris, Imbault.
=no. 1 in above list?
3 Duos concertants pour deux hautbois, op. 2. Paris, B. Pollet.
=no. 2 in above list?
Trois duos concertans pour deux hautbois composés et dédiés à son ami Charles Louis de Montbarbon… par Auguste Vern opéra 2.d. Paris, Benoît Pollet.
Mediathèques de Montpellier
3 Duos concertants pour deux clarinettes, extrait de l’oeuvre 2e des duos de hautbois, arrangés par Charles Bochsa Père. Orléans, Demar.
Six duos concertans pour deux flûtes … Œuv. 5. [Parts.]. Orléans, Chez Demar.
Duo concertant No. I-II: Op 5,1-2. Augsbourg, Gompart et Comp.
= no. 5 in above list?
6 Duos concertants pour deux flûtes, op. 6. Paris, B. Pollet.
=no. 6 in above list?
Six duos concertans pour deux flûtes, divisés en deux parties, op. VI. Paris, Melle. Demar.
University of Michigan
Six Duos concertans pour deux Flûtes. Op.vi. Paris.
Duo concertant pour deux flutes oeuvre 6 no. II / composés par Auguste Vern. Augsbourg : Gombert, [ca. 1810] Pl. no.: 517 –
-republished Cornetto-Verlag, c2001
6 Duos concertants pour deux flutes, op. 7. Paris, Imbault.
=no. 7 in above list?
Six duos concertants pour deux flûtes … opéra 7, [1re.-2e.] partie. A Paris, Chez Imbault.
University of Michigan
Six Duos concertants pour deux Flûtes. Op. 7. Paris.
University of Michigan
Three duetts for two flutes, op. 7, bk. 1. London, Monzani & Hill.
University of Iowa, BL
3 Duos concertants pour deux flûtes op. 8. Paris, Imbault.
=no. 8 in above list?
Trois duos concertans pour deux flûtes … oeuvre 8. A Paris, Chez Imbault.
University of Michigan, Royal Library, The Hague
Trois duo concertans pour deux flûtes, oeuvre 8, 2e. partie. Paris, Janet et Cotelle.
Central Library, Zürich
3 Duos (grands) concertants pour deux flûtes, op. 9. Paris, Janet et Cotelle.
BNF, Central Library, Zürich
=no. 9 in above list?
Trois grands duos concertans: Op 9. (S.l.)
Trois grands duos concertans pour deux flûtes oeuvre 9. Mayence, Schott.
University Library Carl von Ossietzky, Royal Library, The Hague
3 Duos (grands) concertants pour deux flûtes, op. 10. Paris, Janet et Cotelle.
=no. 10 in above list?
Trois grands duos concertans: Op 10. Bonn, Berlin, Hamburg, London, N. Simrock.
Arhus, Royal Library, The Hague, SLUB Dresden
=no. 10 in above list?
Thème varié pour flûte principale avec acc. de 2 violons alto, basse, 2 cors et hautbois, ou piano à défaut d’orchestre. Op. 12. Paris, Gannal.
BNF, Oberlin College
=no. 12 in above list?
Thème varié pour la flûte avec accompagnement de basse où de forte-piano, op. 13
4 grands duos concertans pour deux flutes. Oeuv. 14. Paris, A. Cotelle.
University of Michigan
3 Duos concertans (sic ?) pour deux clarinettes. Paris, Imbault.
3 Sonates concertantes pour 2 hautbois composés… par Auguste Vern. Paris, Imbault.
6 Duos concertants pour deux flûtes, divisés en deux parties. Paris, Benoist Pollet.
Six grand duos concertans pour deux flûtes, etc. Liv. 2. Berlin.
3 Duos concertans pour deux flûtes. Paris, Imbault.
Trois grands duos concertans pour deux flûtes. Paris, Janet et Cotelle.
University of Michigan
Nocturne en harmonie… par Auguste Vern. Paris, Melle T. Demar.
= No. 11 from the list in the Obituary?
Nocturne en harmonie: for flute, 2 clarinets, 2 horns and 2 bassoons : with optional 2 oboes or clarinets, contra-bassoon, trumpet and trombone. Lancaster, Phylloscopus Publications.
Variations concertantes sur la cavatine (di tanti palpite) de Rossini, arrangées pour harpe et flûte. Paris, Demar.
[ii] The vox humana is described in some detail in Geoffrey Burgess, The Oboe, Yale University Press, 2004, p. 99. It was a “straight tenor in F in two parts (the centre joint and bell were unseparated”.
[iii] Demadières-Miron was the director of the Musée d’Orléans, and chevalier de la Légion-d’ Honneur. Died Feb. 4, 1852.
[iv] i.e., Johann Georg Wunderlich, 1775-1819, professor of flute at the Conservatory in Paris.
Published on Flutation.com.au with permission from Prof. Dr. Tom Moore
About Prof. Dr. Tom Moore
Tom Moore holds degrees in music from Harvard and Stanford and studied traverso with Sandra Miller. From 2004 to 2007, he was visiting professor of music at the University of Rio de Janeiro (UniRio), where he co-directed the early music ensemble, Camerata Quantz. He has recorded with Kim Reighley and Mélomanie for Lyrichord (USA) and with Le Triomphe de l’Amour for Lyrichord and A Casa Discos (Brazil). Mr. Moore writes about music for BrazilMax.com, Musicabrasileira.org, 21st Century Music, Opera Today, Flute Talk, Flutist Quarterly, and other journals. He has also sung professionally with the Symphonic Chorus of Rio de Janeiro and Concert Royal and Pomerium Musices of New York. He is presently head of the Sound and Image Department of the Green Library of Florida International University, Miami, FL.