Giovanni Punto (1746-1803)

punto

Giovanni Punto (aka Jan Václav Stich, Johann Wenzel Stich) was a virtuoso hornist (cor basse) who traveled most of Europe performing as a soloist and court musician. He composed many original works to display his unique virtuosity. Also an excellent violin player, Punto held positions in several orchestras as concertmaster.

Punto was born Jan Václav Stich in Zehušice, Bohemia, the son of a serf on the estate of Count Joseph Johann von Thun. He was taught singing, violin, and horn while growing up. Count Thun then sent him to study with Joseph Matiegka in Prague, Jan Schindelarz in Munich, and A. J. Hampel in Dresden. From Hampel, he learned hand-stopping technique, which he later improved and extended.

Stich returned to the rural estate of Count Thun and served for four years, but he acquired a reputation as a troublemaker. At the age of 20, he and four friends left the estate to find a better life. The Count sent soldiers after them with orders to knock out Stich's front teeth so he couldn't play horn again, but the runaways eluded the soldiers and escaped into the Holy Roman Empire, where Stich Italianized his name and became Giovanni Punto.

Punto played with the orchestra of the Prince of Hechingen, Germany, then in the Mainz court orchestra, and then toured Europe and England as a soloist. Charles Burney heard him play in Koblenz in 1772 and reported: "The Elector has a good band, in which M. Punto, the celebrated French horn from Bohemia, whose taste and astonishing execution were lately so applauded in London, is a performer."

Punto's use of hand stopping was criticized by some in London, probably because this technique was still novel in London at the time. He returned to London in 1777 and taught the horn players in the private orchestra of King George III. On his last trip to London in 1788, he performed at Gertrude Elizabeth Mara’s vocal concerts in the Pantheon, where he met a friend of Mozart’s, Michael Kelly, who noted the occasion in his own Reminiscences.

During this time, Punto played as soloist and with many court orchestras. He met Mozart in Paris in 1778. Mozart wrote to his father that "Punto plays magnifique" and composed the Sinfonia Concertante K. 297B (now lost) for him and other noted soloists (flute, oboe, and bassoon). Punto apparently contracted with Paris publishers during this visit since from this time forward nearly all his works were published in Paris editions. Previously his works were listed in Breitkopf's catalog.

Punto wanted a permanent position and a chance to conduct. After a short time in the service of the Prince Archbishop of Würzburg in 1781, he became concertmaster for the Comte d’Artois (later to become Charles X of France) in Paris. In 1787 he took a leave of absence to tour as soloist in the Rhineland.

Back in Paris for the start of the French Revolution (1789), he became the conductor of the Théâtre des Variétés Amusantes and stayed for ten years. In 1799, after failing to obtain a position at the newly founded conservatory, he moved to Munich and then to Vienna. In Vienna he met Beethoven, who wrote his Op. 17 Sonata for Horn and Piano for the both of them to premiere on 18 April 1800 at the Burgtheater. The following month they played the work again in Pest, Hungary, where a local music critic commented: "Who is this Beethoven? His name is not known to us. Of course, Punto is very well known."

Punto returned to his homeland in 1801 after 33 years away. He played a concert in the National Theater in Prague. The Prague neue Zeitung reported, "Punto received enthusiastic applause for his concertos because of his unparalleled mastery, and respected musicians said that they had never before heard horn playing like it…In his cadenzas he produced many novel effects, playing two and even three-part chords. It demonstrated again that our fatherland can produce great artistic and musical geniuses.

 

In 1802, after a short trip to Paris, Punto developed pleurisy, a common illness of wind players of the times. He was ill for five months, and finally passed away on 16 February 1803. He was given a magnificent funeral in the Church of St. Nicholas before thousands of people, so great was his fame at the time. Mozart’s Requiem was performed at the graveside. His tomb was inscribed: "Punto received all the applause. As the Muse of Bohemia applauded him in life, so did she mourn him in death."

Like many soloists of the time, Punto composed pieces that displayed his own talents and virtuosity. He was a cor basse player, using a silver cor solo made for him in 1778 in Paris.  Works composed by and for him show that he was a master of quick arpeggios and stepwise passagework. Punto was acclaimed as a virtuoso of the highest order, considered to be the finest horn player to date, and perhaps of all time.

Among his works are found 16 horn concerti (nos. 9, 12, 13, 15 and 16 lost), a two-horn concerto, a clarinet concerto, a horn sextet, 21 horn quartets, 47 horn trios, and 103 horn duos. Punto also revised Hampel’s horn tutor manual and wrote a book on daily exercises for the horn.

Image from copperplate engraving (1782).

John Burden (1921-2010)

john burdenJohn Harold Burden played in the London Symphony Orchestra (1946-1955), joined the Sinfonia of London (1955-1958), was a member of the Virtuoso Ensemble of London, founded the London Horn Trio, and was principal horn of the Menuhin Festival Orchestra, but he is also known for his association with the Beatles.

John’s father, a priest in London’s East End, wanted him to take holy orders, but John was more interested in music. He took up the horn at age 16 and won a place at the Royal Academy of Music two years later. His teacher at the RAM was Aubrey Brain, and Dennis, born the same year as John, was a fellow student. When World War II broke out, both joined the RAF Central Band. In 1953, they performed together in the orchestra assembled for the Coronation in Westminster Abbey, Dennis on first and John on second.

Management of the London Symphony Orchestra insisted on remaining solely a concert and recording orchestra, but a group of players, including John, resigned en masse, most joining the Sinfonia of London to record for films. John played on the soundtracks of many movies, including The Ladykillers, Hitchcock’s Vertigo, early James Bond films, and the Pink Panther franchise.

The London Horn Trio, founded in 1959 with violinist Lionel Bentley and pianist Celia Arieli, performed over the next twenty years. John also made a number of appearances with Dizzy Gillespie when his band toured Britain in the late 1960s.

EMI producer George Martin approached John in 1967 to play on the Beatles’ album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band along with hornists James W. Buck, Neil Sanders, and Tony Randall. “They didn’t really know what they wanted,” John later recalled. “I wrote out phrases based on what Paul McCartney was humming to us.” John can be heard on the album’s title track.

John’s daunting workload took its toll, and by 1979 his embouchure had been permanently affected. He retired from playing and became a professor at Trinity College of Music until 1998, then taught at Ballymena Academy from 1990 until his retirement in 2005.

Information for this biography came from John Burden’s son, Tim Burden, is his tribute, John Burden: Legendary Horn Blower. An obituary in The Times was written by Mark Walker, son of Gordon Walker, a flutist and friend of John Burden’s.

Joseph Leitgeb (1732-1811)

Because of many written sarcastic remarks by his good friend Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, it has been assumed that Joseph Leitgeb was "slow of wit." Whether or not this is true is not certain, however Leitgeb was without doubt a fine horn player. Many critics of the time wrote about his superior musical and technical abilities.

In 1773, after playing first horn in the band of the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg and touring various European cities, he settled in Vienna. Though popular myth often relates that Leitgeb opened a cheese shop, Michael Lorenz notes that this assertion "is based on a number of misunderstandings, aggravated by lack of archival research."

"A Little Leitgeb Research," The Horn Call XLIV, no. 2 (February 2014): 68.

 

For more info, see THE HORN CALL
Volume XLIV, No. 2, February 2014

Jacques François Gallay (1795-1864)

GallayJacques François Gallay was the last great natural horn specialist in France, renowned for his quality of tone in both open and stopped notes, his certainty of attack and clarity in rapid passages.

He was born in Perpignan, France, the son of Marie Bertin and amateur horn player François Gallay. At age 10, he began to study solfège, the traditional French system for improving aural skills and sight-reading, and two years later he started horn lessons with his father, though he was largely self-taught. When Gallay was just 14, and the horn player at the Perpignan’s theatre went sick, he was already sufficiently skilled to be able to stand in for him. Musicians visiting the city recommended that he should move to Paris to study at the Conservatoire, but his father was reluctant to let him leave home.

Galley composed and performed a horn concerto around 1818  and finally, in June 1820, at the age of 24, he went to Paris to meet Louis-François Dauprat, the Conservatoire’s horn professor. Though Dauprat was keen that Gallay should study with him, special dispensation had to be obtained before he could be accepted at the Conservatoire because he was above the maximum age for starting there.

In 1821, after just a year under Dauprat’s tuition, Gallay won the coveted first prize for horn in the Conservatoire’s annual Concours, the competition to find the best player on each instrument there. Clearly, he was already regarded as someone special. He performed in the prize-winners’ concert in December, and a review said that though the piece he played was “rather feeble,” he managed to play his “rebellious instrument” with the facility of a flute. Three months later, after a performance of a Nocturne for horn and harp, Le Miroir des spectacles declared that his tone was beautiful, his playing sang sweetly, and the impression he made enhanced an already brilliant reputation. “Soon,” the author continued, he will earn a place “among the great masters.”

Gallay played in the orchestra at Paris’s Odéon Theatre for a short while, but in 1825 he moved to the Théâtre Italien as solo horn player, and it was there that he met Gioacchino Rossini, who dedicated his Introduction, Andante and Allegro for horn and piano to him. He was also appointed to the band of the Royal Chapel, and though this ended abruptly with the overthrow of Charles X in the so-called July Revolution of 1830, in 1832 he was appointed to the chamber music ensemble of Charles’s successor, King Louis-Phillippe. The excellent notices for his solo playing continued. In 1833, after a performance of one of his own compositions, Castil Blaze, the music critic for L’Europe Littéraire wrote “M. Gallay has outdone himself, which says it all. It would be impossible to combine more charm and vigour with more exquisite accuracy. Even the most rebellious and scabrous pitches emerged from M. Gallay’s horn like notes from an organ.”

Although Gallay’s teacher Dauprat is today held in great esteem for his comprehensive Méthode de cor-alto et cor-basse, it seems that by the early 1840s all was not well in the Conservatoire horn department. Someone, writing anonymously in La France Musicale on 10th April 1842, expressed his “astonishment” that Gallay was not yet a professor at the Paris Conservatoire, as “the horn school is completely neglected” and that “Gallay alone could restore its old reputation.” Six months later, the 61-year old Dauprat had retired, and on 25th November, La tribune dramatique announced that “M. Gallay has just been named professor of the horn at the Conservatoire.”

Pierre-Joseph Meifred had been in post as professor of valve horn since 1833, though it seems that the Conservatoire authorities regarded valve horn playing as something completely different from hand horn playing and there does not seem to have been any crossover of students between the two classes. Gallay could now, at least, stamp his own authority on the Conservatoire’s hand horn class; while Dauprat’s students only sporadically won first prizes (the prizes were awarded by a committee, and not by the individual professors), 1843, 1845, and 1864 (the year Gallay died) were the only years when a first prize was not awarded during his tenure.

His Méthode pour le cor appeared in 1845, and although a slim volume in comparison with the tutors of Domnich and Dauprat, it makes some interesting points, not least in that by contrast to his predecessors, he advocated a more open hand position, recommending that players should maximise the variety of tone colour while avoiding uneven volume, by blowing less hard on open notes and harder on stopped ones. The Méthode also includes a chart showing different hand positions required to produce all notes through the range of the instrument and detailed descriptions of his preferred mouthpieces: his “model no. 1: for high horn players had an internal diameter of 16.5mm, his “model no. 2” for low players 18.5 mm. He recommended a rim width of 2.5mm, a total length of 72mm and a diameter at the “tail” of the mouthpiece of 7mm.

Gallay was a “first horn player,” a term he preferred to Dauprat’s “cor alto,” though he tended to use only the middle register for solo performances. His preference for horns with a relatively small bell throat influenced French design long after his death.

Gallay’s compositions include caprices and studies for solo horn, numerous fantasies for horn and piano, duets, trios and a Grand Quartet, Op. 26 for horns, each crooked in a different key. Although the fantasies use the era’s characteristic theme and variation form, they are musically more significant than most, and the Préludes mesurés et non mesurés retain their value both musically and as study material.

Among his most distinguished students were Jean Garigue, who played at both the Opéra-Comique and at the Paris Opéra, Pierre van Haute, who played principal horn in Manchester’s Hallé Orchestra, and Jean Mohr, who succeeded Gallay as professor at the Conservatoire. In June 1843 he married Julie Elêonore d’Hebercourt in Paris’s Basilica of Notre Dame des Victoires, a woman 21 years his junior who ran an antiques shop at Place de la Bourse, no.6, and in 1854 they had a daughter, Pauline Marie Thérèse. Gallay was made a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 1845.

After his appointment to the Conservatoire, Galley played at the Société des concerts aux Conservatoire and with the King’s chamber music ensemble until at least 1844, but rarely elsewhere, and he seems to have suffered poor health; towards the end of his life he obtained permission to teach from his home at Rue Chabannais no. 14, as he could no longer get to the Conservatoire easily. Within days of his death in Paris, Mohr was announced as his successor.


By John Humphries (with thanks to Anneke Scott for her input.)

Franz Friedrich Paersch (1857-1921)

The German Franz Friedrich Paersch spent most of his career playing in Manchester and, with his London-based compatriot, Adolf Borsdorf, was one of the pre-eminent horn players in England of the day.

Franz Paersch, the son of an inn keeper and farmer, first showed musical talent singing principal tenor in the choir of his local church. He then studied the horn with Friedrich Gumpert at the Leipzig Conservatory and undertook military service. In 1879, he obtained an engagement as principal horn in the orchestra at the Buxton Pavilion in Derbyshire, a fairly lowly position, but his talent was already apparent and although he probably spent the winter back in Germany, he had returned to England by 10th May 1880 to play first horn in the season of concerts given by Hans Richter in London’s St. James’s Hall. He then returned to Buxton where his “masterly” playing was welcomed enthusiastically when he featured as a soloist with the orchestra there. On 22nd March 1881, his playing was commended for its “rare perfection” after a London concert conducted by Charles Lamoureux, and he made his solo debut in the capital the following June at a series of Promenade Concerts given at Hengler’s Circus, Argyll Street.

The death of Pierre Van Haute in 1882 left Charles Hallé, the Manchester-based conductor, looking for a replacement first horn. It is said that he first heard Paersch’s playing when the Buxton Orchestra played in Manchester, and by October 1882, he had appointed him as his principal horn, a post he would hold until January 1917. Paersch was joining an established section: Alexander Preatoni, Thomas Reynolds and Callisto Beltrami had played together for several years and with Paersch as their leader, they would form an ever-present team until Reynolds and Beltrami retired in 1900. Playing for Hallé’s orchestra was far from a full-time position and many of the orchestra’s players, including Paersch, also played for the Liverpool Philharmonic Society’s concerts and there, in 1905, he was singled out for praise by Sibelius, who had conducted him in a performance of Finlandia. He also played in London at the Covent Garden Grand Opera Season from 1883 until 1914 and continued to perform at the concerts conducted by Hans Richter. Paersch also played in less high-profile orchestral concerts in the north of England and served for many years as first horn at the Birmingham Festival, sharing the role on occasion with Adolf Borsdorf. Towards the end of his career, he was also in demand as soloist in the Quoniam from Bach’s Mass in B minor.

Paersch was a frequent performer in chamber music and featured occasionally as a soloist, though the range of his repertoire was quite narrow. He gave numerous performances of Beethoven’s Horn Sonata, and occasionally played the “Andante from the Mozart horn concerto” (probably K417) with piano accompaniment and Mozart’s Romance (the second movement from the Concerto in E-flat K447). With orchestra, he performed Emil Titl’s once-popular Serenade for flute and horn and in chamber music he gave countless performances of Beethoven’s and Hummel’s Septets, and Schubert’s Octet, but his speciality was Brahms’s Horn Trio, which he played in public on at least 20 occasions.

His first known performance of the Brahms took place at London’s St. James’s Hall, on 8th June 1888 when he played it with Charles Hallé at the piano, and Hallé’s wife, Mme Norman-Neruda on violin. In February 1891, he played it with the great violinist Joseph Joachim and the pianist Fanny Davies, but a review of a performance in Leeds in 1894, with pianist Leonard Borwick and the violinist C. Rawdon Briggs gives us one of the best descriptions of Paersch’s playing:

Ever since this eminent artist became a member of Sir Charles Hallé’s Band, his remarkable fine horn playing has been a special feature of their performances. It is not going too far to say that there is no other horn playing now before the public whose playing is more refined, or so free from flaws. The horn is the most human of instruments and, on the humanem est errare principle, slips are more excusable in the horn-player than almost any executive musician. But Mr Paersch has passed scatheless through such ordeals as Beethoven’s Septet and the Adagio of the Choral Symphony, and his faultless playing had the advantage of being more in evidence than usual in Brahms’s music. His perfect intonation and refined tone blended most charmingly with the other instruments, and it is difficult to imagine a more finished performance than yesterday’s.

After the turn of the century, Paersch continued to play in the orchestra and elsewhere, though his appearances were perhaps less frequent than they had been in the 1890s and his last known performance in chamber music took place in Liverpool in February 1914. Paersch continued to play first horn in the Hallé until his third horn, the Belgian Ray Meert replaced him in January 1917. After that, his name disappeared from the orchestra’s programmes, though the precise date of his retirement is not known as he never joined the orchestra’s Pension and Sickness scheme. Despite his German origins, he played on a French instrument by Raoux, and when that wore out, on an instrument modelled on Raoux’s horns by William Brown of Kennington, London.

As the obituary which appeared in the Musical Times quoted Hans Richter’s description of Paersch as “the greatest of horn players,” the question of why he remained committed to provincial Manchester, rather than moving to London, must be asked. The most likely answers were financial and family. He could get to London when he needed to, and his work in Manchester was handsomely rewarded: Hallé was well aware that his playing was out of the ordinary and in his early years with the orchestra, Paersch was paid £6 per week at a time when the principal cello received £5 and rank and file string players received £2 10s. In 1892, when financial constraints obliged the conductor to save money, and the rank and file players’ pay was cut to £1 per concert, Paersch received £3 per engagement. At around the same time, Paersch and many of the other leading figures in the Manchester area were appointed to teach at the Royal Manchester College of Music where the going rate for teaching was 7/6d per hour though Paersch received 10/6d.

Paersch’s reasons for staying in Manchester were also almost certainly influenced by his marriage to Manchester-girl Clara Elliott in 1893. It seems most likely that he met her through Willem Grosse, the Hallé’s principal clarinet, who was a lodger in her family’s home, and Paersch and his wife soon set up their own home at nearby 45 Bishop Street, remaining there until Franz’s death. Together, they had two daughters and three sons including Otto, who joined his father in the Hallé and then played the horn with the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra.

John Humphries

Aubrey Brain (1893-1955)

aubrey.brainAubrey Harold Brain was the son of A.E. Brain, Senior, brother of Alfred Brain, Junior, and father of Dennis Brain – all distinguished horn players. Another brother, Arthur, also played horn, but abandoned music to become a police officer.

Aubrey’s first instrument was the violin, but he soon switched to horn. He studied horn with his father, violin with Adela Sutcliffe and Eugene Mieir, and in 1911 entered the Royal College of Music to study horn  with Friedrich Adolph Borsdorf. He played in the North London Orchestral Society during his College years and was appointed principal horn of the New Symphony Orchestra in 1911. He went on the London Symphony Orchestra's tour of the US under Arthur Nikish in 1912; his father was unable to go on the tour because of his contract with Covent Garden. After returning from the tour, Aubrey joined his father and brother in a memorial concert for the Titanic.

Aubrey became principal horn of Sir Thomas Beecham's opera company orchestra in 1913. It was during a tour with this company that he met Marion Beeley, a contralto for whom Sir Edward Elgar wrote "Hail, Immortal Ind!" in his opera The Crown of India. They were married in 1914.

Aubrey’s early career was shadowed by the success of his older brother, Alfred, who dominated the scene until he left for the United States in 1922, and of his teacher, Borsdorf, until Borsdorf was forced to resign because of anti-German feeling at the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

Both Aubrey and Alfred joined the armed services in 1914. Unlike Alfred, Aubrey saw no action, but played horn in the band of the Welsh Guards until 1920.

Aubrey was appointed first horn of the Royal Philharmonic Society in 1922 and co-principal of the London Symphony (with Thomas Busby) in 1923. He succeeded his teacher Borsdorf in 1923 as professor of horn at the Royal Academy of Music (Borsdorf had taught at both the College and the Academy), where his son Dennis was one of his students. His other son, Leonard, was an oboist.

In his teaching, Aubrey followed Oscar Franz's treatise Grosse theoretisch-praktische Waldhorn-Schule (1880). He demonstrated technique, phrasing, concertos, etc. in lessons. His breath control was legendary. He fought to preserve the "English" style of horn playing, preferring the lighter sound of the French horns to the "German" sound that was gaining popularity. He played a Raoux hand horn made by Labbaye c. 1865, to which English-made valves had been added. He would never permit the use of large-bore German horns in the BBC Symphony even while Beecham insisted on German horns for the London Philharmonic (and paid for them himself). Aubrey had perfect pitch and almost infallible accuracy, so he was successful on the narrow-bore instrument where others had difficulties.

Aubrey joined the BBC’s Wireless Symphony Orchestra when it was formed in 1927 and became principal horn of the BBC Symphony Orchestra when it made its debut in 1930; he remained with the BBC until illness caused his premature retirement in 1943.

Dame Ethel Smyth wrote her Concerto for Violin, Horn and Orchestra with Aubrey Brain in mind. He and Jelly d'Arányi premiered the work under Sir Henry Wood in 1927, and he played it in Berlin with Marjorie Hayward. York Bowen dedicated his Horn Sonata to Aubrey. Aubrey was often a soloist, and made a number of recordings; his recording of the Mozart K417 was the first horn concerto ever recorded. He played second horn to his son on a few occasions.

After his death, the Aubrey Brain Memorial Trust was established to promote a wind scholarship. The Dennis Brain Wind Ensemble played a memorial concert on their tenth anniversary in 1956 to raise funds for the trust.

Raoux Family

Raoux narrow bore natural and piston horns were sought after by horn players in the 19th and early 20th century as being the best and were played by both Aubrey Brain and his son Dennis. The Raoux family members who manufactured horns were:

François (1695-1749)
Brothers Pierre (1723-after 1789) and Joseph (1725-1787)
Lucien-Joseph (1752-1823)
Marcel-Auguste (1795-1871)

raoux lj
Lucien-Joseph Raoux (1752-1823)

The Raoux story begins in 1663 when Louis Raoux moved to Nancy in the Lorraine region of France. Louis and his son François were chaudronniers; i.e., coppersmiths and pot and pan makers, the most highly skilled of which were organized in guilds in major cities and made high value objects, including timpani and trumpets. François became a master chaudronnier and was later described as Warden of His Royal Highness, the Duke of Lorraine’s Hunt and, after a move to Versailles, as Horn Maker to the King’s (Louis XV of France) Hunt, a position he held until his death.

Two of François’s sons followed him in the business. Pierre remained in Nancy, listed as “merchant-maker of cors-de-chasse” and also was among the artisans who made a fountain in Nancy in 1756. Joseph moved to Paris and joined the Guild of Luthiers, Organ Builders, and Musical Instrument Makers in 1754. Before this, the cor-de-chasse was not considered to be a musical instrument as such, but, like trumpets and timpani, classified as “instruments of war and the hunt.”

Both guilds manufactured horns from 1759, an important development as it reflected the growing interest in the horn as an orchestral instrument in France. These orchestral horns were triple-wound (introduced around 1814), following earlier designs of single-wound trompe (favored by the Marquis de Dampierre) and double-wound trompe Dauphine. The Raoux atelier developed two ranges of instrument: trompes-de-chasse for the hunt and cors-de-chasse for the orchestra.

Joseph seems to have made mainly hunting horns despite his entry into the Luthier’s Guild. He was the exclusive supplier of trompe-de-chasse to the king. His son, Lucien-Joseph, apprenticed to his father, left to work with a former shop workman and competitor, Jean-François Corméry, but later returned to work with his father, possibly concentrating on orchestral horns while his father took care of hunting horns.

Raoux cor solo for Dauprat
Raoux cor solo for Dauprat

Lucien-Joseph developed a new form of cor d’invention in 1781, the cor solo. He made a beautiful example for an award to Louis-François Dauprat, winner of the first Premier Prix for horn at the Paris Conservatoire in 1797. Over the years, he made horns for Giovanni Punto, Domnich, Duvernoy, Kenn, and Lebrun. His workshop included a lathe.

Marcel-Auguste worked with his father and was a horn player as well as maker. Among the changes in industry and manufacturing at this time was the introduction of valves, arriving from Germany with trumpets in 1826. Following a revolution in 1830, royal patents were cancelled, competition increased, Adolph Sax won a competition for military band instruments, and the Raoux business went into decline. After years of litigation, Marcel-Auguste was forced in 1857 to sell the company’s assets to Jacques-Christophe Labbaye, the horn-playing son of a maker.

In 1878, François Millereau, who started his own shop in 1861, bought Marcel-Auguste’s patterns and the rights to the Raoux name from Labbaye, who continued to work in his employ. Millereau was succeeded by his son-in-law, Herman Schoenaers. The firm went bankrupt in 1931 and was bought by H. Selmer, who continue to use the Raoux name until around 1938.

Marcel-Auguste Raoux had a son, Auguste-Ernest (1826-1889), who became a government inspector; Auguste-Ernest’s only child, a daughter, died in 1930, the end of this Raoux family.


Chris Larkin’s article, from which this summary is drawn, was published in the Spring and Autumn 2018 issues of The Horn Player, the journal of the British Horn Society.

Henri Kling (1842-1918)

klingBeyond duties as solo hornist and educator, Henri Kling was a composer, conductor, organist, and writer whose publications still occupy considerable shelf space in our libraries. His reputation however has diminished to the point that few know who he was or what we owe him, and the current online edition of the prestigious Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart has deleted his entry entirely.

Henri Adrien Louis Kling was born in Paris in 1842 to French native Claudette and Ludwig Christoph Kling, who hailed from the southwest German Grand Duchy of Baden. The Klings’ Paris sojourn presumably did not provide adequate employment for Ludwig, an Hautboist (military musician). In 1844 the family left Paris for Ludwig’s hometown of Carlsruhe, where he found employment in the wind bands associated with the local military garrison. Soon after the move, Henri’s mother died. Ludwig remarried, but he was a problematic father, and a devastating fire and political and military upheaval made for a difficult childhood for Henri.

Henri blossomed as musician in his teens, applying himself to violin, piano, and organ and being influenced by Eduard Devrient (manager of the court theater) and Carlsruhe Music Director Josef Strauss. The horn section of the Carlsruhe Court Orchestra enjoyed a fine reputation, and Henri studied with members of the section, including solo hornist Jacob Dorn. Students of orchestra members had free access to performances, which comprised more than two dozen operas in one season. Members of the section also gave advice on instruments; for Henri an initial cor solo (natural horn) was followed by a clockspring rotary-valve F horn built by Friedrich Wilhelm Schuster, one of the earliest makers of instruments with valves.

Henri left Carlsruhe in 1861, after the death of his father, settling in Geneva, Switzerland. He soon won the solo horn post in the Geneva Theater Orchestra, married in 1865, and had three children. His Méthode pour le Cor appeared in manuscript in 1865; it was printed in 1879 by Breitkopf & Härtel and a second, expanded edition was published in 1895 and remains in print today. Kling was elected Professor of Musical Theory and Horn Playing at the Geneva Conservatoire in 1866 and remained at the post for more than fifty years.

Geneva’s Grand Théâtre was opened in 1879, providing a venue for many opera and symphony concerts with Kling as solo horn with a brilliant reputation. At the same time, he began to develop as a conductor and was also famous for his teaching and adjudicator of band contests. Over his lifetime, he composed more than 550 pieces with opus numbers and many more without, including a concerto and sonata for horn as well as shorter solos, etudes, and ensemble works. His compositions were published by established publishers in Germany, Switzerland, France, England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and the US.

After two decades as solo hornist in Geneva, Kling resigned from the orchestra to devote himself to composition, writing, and teaching. He considered teaching at the Geneva Conservatoire his primary responsibility. He taught both hand horn and modern valve horn and stressed the importance of the hand in the bell. Among his many solo horn pieces, etudes, arrangements, and editions, Kling was the first to provide piano transcriptions for the Mozart concerti and the Weber Concertino. Compositions were dedicated to colleagues Alphonse Stenebruggen in Strasbourg, Henri Dubois in Brussels, and Friedrich Gumpert in Leipzig. Articles and books included topics such as the intersection of music and literature, contributions of women in music, local music history, and methods for composition, orchestration, conducting, and transposition.

World War I meant a blockade of Switzerland with attendant shortages and the personal tragedy of the war between his mother’s France and his father’s Germany. Kling’s fifty years at the Conservatoire was celebrated in 1916. He still hiked every Sunday morning more than 10 kilometers round trip to play the organ, donating his time and talents without pay. Kling died in Geneva at the age of 76 in May 1918, not living to see the end of the war.


Summary by Marilyn Bone Kloss of William Melton’s “Henri Kling: A European Musician." The complete article was first published in La Revue du Corniste, the journal of the Association Française du Cor, and then in The Horn Call, in the February, May, and October 2018 issues.

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