Auguste Vern – Flutist and Composer

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.

Obituary[i] of
Auguste Vern,
Composer of Music,
By Vergnaud-Romagnesi,
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:

  1. Three duos for oboes, dedicated to M. Rime-Beaulieu.
  2. Three duos for oboes, dedicated to M. Montbarron.
  3. An opera burned in Lyon.
  4. Three quartets burned in Lyon.
  5. Six duos for flute, dedicated to Maréchal Brune.
  6. Six duos for flute, dedicated to M. de Moypia, jr.
  7. Six duos for flute, dedicated to the same.
  8. 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].
  9. Three duos for flute, dedicated to Tulou.
  10. Three duos for flute, dedicated to Vanderlick[iv].
  11. A nocturne for harp and flute, dedicated to Mlle. Démar.
  12. A theme varié for flute, dedicated to M. C. Cayot and S. Maiffredy, of Marseille.
  13. A theme varié, dedicated to M. Warbuton.
  14. Four duos for flute, dedicated to M. Marcueyz.
  15. Twelve unpublished melodies for English horn, dedicated to M. J. Ruzé.
  16. Twelve unpublished melodies for English horn, dedicated to M. Vergnaud-Romagnési.
  17. A romance, Le Preux, words by M. Vergnaud-Romagnési.
  18. 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.
BNF
=no. 1 in above list?

 

3 Duos concertants pour deux hautbois, op. 2. Paris, B. Pollet.
BNF
=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.
BNF
BL

Six duos concertans pour deux flûtes … Œuv. 5. [Parts.]. Orléans, Chez Demar.
BL

Duo concertant No. I-II: Op 5,1-2. Augsbourg, Gompart et Comp.
Aarhus
= no. 5 in above list?

 

6 Duos concertants pour deux flûtes, op. 6. Paris, B. Pollet.
BNF
=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.
BL

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.
BNF
=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.
BNF
=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.)
Aarhus

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.
BNF
=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
Oberlin College

4 grands duos concertans pour deux flutes. Oeuv. 14. Paris, A. Cotelle.
University of Michigan

3 Duos concertans (sic ?) pour deux clarinettes. Paris, Imbault.
BNF

 

3 Sonates concertantes pour 2 hautbois composés… par Auguste Vern. Paris, Imbault.
BNF

 

6 Duos concertants pour deux flûtes, divisés en deux parties. Paris, Benoist Pollet.
BNF

Six grand duos concertans pour deux flûtes, etc. Liv. 2. Berlin.
BL

3 Duos concertans pour deux flûtes. Paris, Imbault.
BNF

Trois grands duos concertans pour deux flûtes. Paris, Janet et Cotelle.
University of Michigan

Nocturne en harmonie… par Auguste Vern. Paris, Melle T. Demar.
BNF
= 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.
BNF


[i] http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k1315827.r=vergnaud-romagnesi.langEN

[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. 

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Sally Walker – An Interview

Elena Kats-Chernin’s new flute concerto Night and Now is the result of a long friendship and collaboration with flautist Sally Walker. Sally will be premiering the concerto on Saturday 24 October with the Darwin Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Matthew Wood.

Angus McPherson spoke to Sally Walker. (Excerpts from Elena Kats-Chernin’s program note for Night and Now are in italics.)

 

When did you know Elena was writing you a concerto?

The idea of writing me a concerto stemmed naturally from our many other collaborations; it had been talked about for some years but crystallised once Elena was awarded the Australia Council Fellowship in late 2014, which also meant a confirmation of a timeline of events. She then began writing furiously and by January played me her idea for the first movement (on piano, from which she composes).

Photo: Steven Goodbee Publicity.

Sally & elena

How did the collaboration between you and Elena work?

Our collaboration process is very easy. It always begins with a lot of talking and a lot of laughing in a session at her place around the piano – trying things out. As we are both very itinerant, we are emailing mostly thereafter, with occasional phone calls. If we are in the same city at the same time, of course we try to meet, but the contact is very constant in the written form. Sometimes I will send her a sound file (like yesterday, so she could hear the recording of the first tutti rehearsal).

Sally often hears sketches of my work as I’m writing them and she has great insight into my processes. When Sally and I began to think about what a major work for flute and orchestra would sound like, we discussed all of these qualities and how to showcase the flute as a solo instrument and emphasise its unique sound and capabilities. Sally’s sound is full bodied. It isn’t a little flute which flies away – it has earth. That is Sally…how she is, very earthy and elf‐like at the same time. That’s what flute is, the way Sally plays it.

We began with talking about what the piece should be. I said that I would like a work of depth and seriousness, which has beautiful melodies and embodies her knowledge of unusual harmonies. I especially wanted some darkness (so many flute concertos have the ‘brilliante’ aspect of the flute, but I think our low register is very stirring). In 2006, Elena wrote her flute and piano version of Blue Silence for me and it became my favourite of all her works. She needed some persuading that the slowness of the music was convincing; she is more comfortable writing very busy music. When it was broadcast by the ABC on a show called For Matthew and Others, she received enormous praise for this contemplative work. I had wanted that work to be a starting point for the concerto. Consequently, the concerto starts on a low E, in a minor key and very slowly. “Night”.

The timbre and sonorities of the flute itself offer much variation to the composer. It can be brilliant, shrill and scurrying, or whispering and mellow. The flute can draw sharp or soft lines. It can be rich, or mystical, or virtuosic, penetrate a full sound or sigh into the texture.

I wanted her somehow to document her childhood in Russia, with all its extremes, its suffering and its wonder.

It is a Concerto in three movements and takes aspects of the Russian personality and character as its starting point, as well as aspects of the flute itself. It draws very much on my own experiences as a child of that world, both aurally and from day to day life. Until I was 17, that was everything that I knew. One of my overriding memories of childhood in Russia is of lining up for hours and hours for one loaf of bread or piece of cheese, and the perseverance and sometimes ultimate disappointment that had to be faced when food just ran out.

 

Being familiar with Elena and her music, did you have any preconceptions about the piece? Were there any surprises?

I was delighted to hear a reference to J.S. Bach in the fugue-ish second movement. I half-jokingly suggested a ‘Latigo’ (an Argentine Tango technique) in the second movement and then I saw she put it in the score! – both for violin (which is typical) and then for piccolo (not typical, but effective).

 

What has been the most challenging thing about preparing Night and Now?

That I premiere this in three days and we are still making changes. I love to play from memory, but I think that may be a little too risky!

 

How would you describe the overall sound of the work?

Colourful, from the foreboding to the sublime. It is a transformation, really, from the darkest of darks to exuberant triumph (with abundant percussion). A Lament, a Fugue and a Tarantella.

Sally also suggested to me that I might use stories from my early years in Russia, or from my own life as a template to the overall design of the composition. And so I did. The first movement is based on two imagined Russian fairy tales; one taking place deep in the woods – always a place of foreboding and unease (for this writer), but also promise and adventure and transformation. The other is in a silvery castle, impressively elaborate and bejewelled. Two very different “nights”.

 

What is your favourite moment in the music?

The first, certainly. For its intensity and colour. Low register flute, low strings and Tubular bells is an eerie, other-worldly sound.

 

Are there different challenges when preparing and performing a work written for you by a friend?

Somehow it feels like a higher responsibility, even though I have been integrally involved in the whole writing process. You want everybody to be happy with the final result. Luckily I love the piece – imagine where would it leave a friendship if someone writes you a concerto and you don’t like it!

 

How do you see this work fitting into the wider canon of flute concertos?

It is perhaps more focussed upon melody than virtuosity (although there are a couple of awkward acrobatic moments). We had specifically wanted a piece that many people could enjoy playing, so its level of technical difficulty is not as high as other concertos. Also, we discussed the idea of making the concerto for multiple flutes, but I thought that would limit how many people would play it and so it is for C flute only.

Although it is an ‘Australian Flute Concerto’, it is very much bound with Elena’s cultural background as a Russian Jew, so there are elements of Russian music certainly, hints of Klezmer and, of course, Bach.

 

Are there any plans for further tours?

It will be performed with the Zelman Symphony, conducted by Mark Shiell, in Melbourne on December fifth, with the Newcastle Youth Orchestra in September next year and the Queensland Youth Symphony the year after. Some overseas orchestras have approached us too; it would be really special to take this work to different countries.

 

UPDATE Monday 2 November 2015

ALL of the team at FTA extend our most heartfelt congratulations to both Elena and Sally and of course the Darwin Symphony Orchestra on an incredibly successful world premier of “Night and Now” which received a standing ovation!

Please find below some stunning photos of the World Premier courtesy of the Darwin Symphony Orchestra

image4 image3 image2 image1

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What is the ‘midi flute’ and it’s function?

Question:

Regarding the Pierre Boulez: “…explosante-fixe…” a work for MIDI flute solo, live electronics, and chamber ensemble. Does anyone know about this ‘midi flute’ and it’s function. Is it some type of electronica or another instrument?”

Answer:

It seems to be a flute combined with a fingering detection system. There is a clearer description here:

http://parsely.tumblr.com/post/25090056078/the-midi-flute-and-cyborg-intelligence

 

Got anything to add?  Please feel free to post your input regarding the above question in the comments field below.

All articles and reviews published on this website are representative of the opinions of the author/s alone and do not reflect the opinions of FTA or it’s affiliates

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Why did Joachim Anderson write the 8 performance pieces for flute and piano (Op.55)?

The following question was received from a curious Australian flutist…

“The wonderful flautist Joachim Anderson wrote a set of 8 performance pieces for flute and piano (No.6 Scherzino seems to be the most well known) and I’m wondering if anyone knows ‘why’ he wrote this particular set. A commission? A competition? Perhaps it was simply because he enjoyed writing for flute, but I’m curious if there was another motive. Thoughts?”

 

Here are the responses we received via our network.  Please feel free to add input via the comment’s section below.

“The 8 Performance Pieces for Flute and Piano, Op.55 were published in 1894 by Zimmermann Leipzig. That means Andersen lived at that time in Copenhagen, because of a desease of his tongue he was not able to play flute anymore.

Kyle Dzapo, the American flute player, has written a book about Andersen: Joachim Andersen : a bio-bibliography / Kyle J. Dzapo ; foreword by Walfrid Kujala. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1999.

A short excerpt can be found on:  http://www.naxos.com/mainsite/blurbs_reviews.asp item_code=8.572277&catNum=572277&filetype=About%20this%20Recording&language=English

She writes about contact of Andersen with Paul Taffanel around the 1890th, so it could have been with him in mind that Andersen composed opus 55.   I have also read that Marcel Moyse has played for him (year?).” Mia

 

 

“With regard to Andersen’s Op. 55: Andersen composed these pieces as he was making a difficult transition from his career in Berlin, as founding solo flutist of the Berlin Philharmonic, to a fresh start back in his native Copenhagen. Health problems forced him to terminate his flute performance career and resign his position with the Philharmonic in April 1893 after nearly a year-and-a-half of decreasing performances. The Op. 55 collection was published by Zimmermann in 1894 as Andersen was trying to earn money and establish himself as a conductor in his native city. Unlike most of his works, he offered no dedication for this collection. While he played many of his earlier compositions in Berlin (and created some of them for performances with the Philharmonic where he was a very popular soloist), he was no longer performing when he composed Op. 55. He was no doubt pleased when several of his students performed them at venues in Copenhagen around the turn of the century.

As to competition pieces: Only Andersen’s Deuxième Morceau de Concert, Op. 61, was composed specifically as a competition piece. It was commissioned by Paul Taffanel in 1895 and used as the Paris Conservatory’s concours piece in 1897. (Due to some miscommunication between Taffanel and Andersen, Concertstück, Op. 3, written many years earlier, was selected for the 1895 concours.) I am currently working with Zimmermann toward a new edition of Concertstück, Op. 3. It is planned for release later this year.” Kyle Dzapo

 

All articles and reviews published on this website are representative of the opinions of the author/s alone and do not reflect the opinions of FTA or it’s affiliates

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