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The French School of Violin Playing between Revolution and Reaction: A Comparison of the Treatises of 1803 and 1834 by Pierre Baillot

  • Douglas Macnicol (a1)

Abstract

Pierre Baillot (1771–1842) was a central figure in the development of the early nineteenth-century French School of violin playing. This school was itself the source of the twentieth-century Russian and American schools, and all the great players of the modern era can trace their lineage back to Baillot and his colleagues. The French School was the first to systematize violin teaching within an institutional framework with normative aspirations. Its history is bound up with that of the Paris Conservatoire, established in 1795. Work by French scholars of the Conservatoire and its teaching has tended to assert a continuity of ideals and aesthetics across time, even an essential Frenchness, and work by English-language scholars has been more concerned with the influence of the School on developments in playing styles and composition than on the evolution of attitudes to music teaching. This analysis of the language of the two founding pedagogical texts reveals a contested cultural landscape, and explores how a revolutionary institution with lofty principles could be overtaken by cultural change in a few short decades. It finishes by questioning the traditional elision of the French and Franco-Belgian schools, and suggests that Brussels, rather than constituting a mere branch of the Paris school, rescued it from premature irrelevance.

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1 See, for example, Laetitia Chassain, ‘Le Conservatoire et la notion d’“école française”’ and Lodéon, André, ‘La longue marche des conservatoires’, in Le Conservatoire de Paris: deux cents ans de pédagogie, 1795–1995, ed. Bongrain, Anne and Poirier, Alain (Paris: Buchet/Chastel, 1999): 1528 and 403–8.

2 First published as 40 Études ou Caprices in 1796, later as 42.

3 24 caprices en formes d’études. Uncertain when these were written, but Clive Brown and Jonathan Schwartz in Grove date them to circa 1815: Clive Brown and Boris Schwartz, ‘Rode, (Jacques) Pierre (Joseph)’, in Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online, www.oxfordmusic.com.

4 Baillot, Pierre, Méthode de violon par Mm. Baillot, Rode et Kreutzer (Paris, 1803). I shall generally refer to this as the Méthode. The translations are my own. I have retained the spelling of the original French, but have adopted modern spacing in association with punctuation. For Baillot's key role in drafting this document see, for example, François-Sappey, Brigitte, ‘Pierre Marie François de Sales Baillot (1771–1842) par lui-même: étude du sociologie musicale’, Recherches sur la musique française classique 18 (1978): 143.

5 Baillot, Pierre, L'Art du violon: nouvelle méthode (Paris, 1834). Again, the translations are my own, but I have also drawn on Louise Goldberg's translation in Baillot, Pierre, The Art of the Violin (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1991). A further note: some writers such as Louise Goldberg give the date of publication as 1835, but both Grove and Fétis give it as 1834.

6 Spohr, Louis, Violinschule (Vienna: Haslinger, 1833; reprint: Munich/Salzburg, 2000).

7 Anne Penesco, ‘Pierre Baillot et l’école franco-belge de violon’, in Le Conservatoire de Paris: deux cents ans de pédagogie, 1795–1995, ed. Bongrain and Poirier, 91. My translation.

8 See, for example, Livesey, James, Making Democracy in the French Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001).

9 Gessele, Cynthia M., ‘The Conservatoire de Musique and National Music Education in France, 1795–1801’, in Music and the French Revolution, ed. Boyd, Malcolm (Cambridge University Press, 1992): 191210, esp. 200. See also Chassain, ‘Le Conservatoire’, 15. Gessele emphasizes the second and fourth purposes listed and Chassain the first and third.

10 Baillot, L'Art du violon, 2.

11 For example, Boyden, David, The History of Violin Playing from its Origins to 1761 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965); Stowell, Robin, Violin Technique and Performance Practice in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985); Schwartz, Boris, French Instrumental Music Between the Revolutions (1789–1830) (New York, 1987) and ‘Beethoven and the French Violin School’, The Music Quarterly 44 (1958): 431–44; Brown, Clive, Classical and Romantic Performing Practice 1750–1900 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999). Boyden and Stowell are particularly strong on instrument developments and playing techniques, Schwartz on compositional styles, and Brown covers all aspects thoroughly.

12 White, Chappell, From Vivaldi to Viotti: A History of the Early Classical Violin Concerto (Philadelphia: Gordon and Breach, 1992).

13 ‘la noble émulation’, Baillot, Méthode, 3.

14 White, From Vivaldi to Viotti, 342–4.

15 Airdrie Kalyn Robinson, ‘Plein de feu, plein d'audace, plein de change’: Examining the Role of the Méthode de violon in the Establishment of the French Violin School (MM thesis, University of Lethbridge, 2014).

16 Robinson, ‘Plein de feu, plein d'audace, plein de change’, 4.

17 We have memoirs of former Baillot students such as Charles Dancla and Eugène Sauzay (the latter available only in François-Sappey's edition): Dancla, Charles, Notes et Souvenirs (Paris: Delamotte, 1893) and Sauzay, Eugène and François-Sappey, Brigitte, ‘La vie musicale à Paris à travers les Mémoires d'Eugène Sauzay (1809–1901)’, Revue de Musicologie 60 (1974): 159210. Berlioz's memoirs are memorable and revealing on many fronts: Berlioz, Hector, Mémoires (Paris: Garnier-Flammarion, 1969) (originally published Paris, 1869).

18 Schueneman, Bruce, The French Violin School: Viotti, Rode, Kreutzer, Baillot, and their Contemporaries, ed. Studwell, William E (Kingsville, TX: Lyre of Orpheus Press, 2002).

19 ‘The Musical Philosophy of the French School’, in Schueneman, The French Violin School, 4–7.

20 Schueneman, The French Violin School, 4–5.

21 See Agnew, Vanessa, Enlightenment Orpheus: The Power of Music in Other Worlds (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008): 6 and 172.

22 Schueneman, The French Violin School, 6.

23 French musicologists seem to regard the period 1790–1830 as ‘classical’ and the period 1830–1870 as ‘romantic’. See, for example, the Flammarion series which includes: La Musique en France à l’époque romantique (1830–1870), ed. Elisabeth Bernard and Joseph-Marc Bailbé (Paris: Flammarion, 1991).

24 Schueneman, The French Violin School, 6.

25 The title of Delafon-Bernard, Élizabeth, ‘Habeneck et la Société des concerts du Conservatoire: un destin exemplaire’ in Le Conservatoire de Paris: Des menus-plaisirs à la cité de la musique, 1795–1995, ed. Bongrain, Anne (Paris: Buchet-Chastel, 1996): 97–116 is illustrative of this tendency.

26 See, for example, Chassain-Dolliou, Laetitia, Le Conservatoire de Paris, ou les voies de la création (Paris, 1995); Bongrain and Poirier, eds, Le Conservatoire de Paris: deux cents ans de pédagogie; Anne Bongrain ed., Le Conservatoire de Paris: Des menus-plaisirs à la cité de la musique; Hondré, Emmanuel, , ed, Le Conservatoire de musique de Paris: Regards sur une institution et son histoire (Paris: Gallimard, 1996). I have yet to find a reference in these French sources to Spohr's account of his visit to Paris in 1820, even though it is valuable perspective from a sympathetic outsider. See below under ‘Nationalism’ and Louis Spohr's Autobiography, translated from the German (London, 1865; reprinted New York: Da Capo, 1969): vol. II, 128–30.

27 See, for example, François-Sappey ‘Pierre Marie François de Sales Baillot (1771–1842) par lui-même’ and Penesco, ‘Pierre Baillot et l’école franco-belge de violon’.

28 See, for example, Chassain, ‘Le Conservatoire’.

29 Penesco, ‘Pierre Baillot et l’école franco-belge de violon’, and ‘Le violon en France au temps de Baillot et de Paganini’, in La Musique en France à l’époque romantique, 199–229.

30 Gessele, ‘The Conservatoire de Musique and National Music Education in France’.

31 Rubinoff, Kailan, ‘Toward a Revolutionary Model of Music Pedagogy: The Paris Conservatoire, Hugot and Wunderlich's Méthode de flûte, and the Disciplining of the Musician’, Journal of Musicology 34/4 (2017): 473514.

32 Rubinoff, ‘Toward a Revolutionary Model of Music Pedagogy’, 506.

33 For the exact figures, see Chassain-Dolliou, Le Conservatoire de Paris, ou les voies de la création, 18.

34 See, for example, Sauzay's description of lessons in Baillot's class at the Conservatoire: Sauzay and François-Sappey, ‘La vie musicale à Paris’, 166–7. See also Dancla on how Baillot often accompanied his students on his own violin: Dancla, Notes et Souvenirs, 57. None of this suggests a military style of teaching on Baillot's part.

35 See, for example, Azouvi, François, L'Institution de la raison: la révolution culturelle des idéologues (Paris: Libraire Philosophique J. Vrin, 1992).

36 Livesey, Making Democracy.

37 Livesey, Making Democracy, 230.

38 Anik Devriès-Lesure, ‘Cherubini directeur du Conservatoire de musique et de déclamation’, in Conservatoire de Paris: Des menus-plaisirs à la cité de la musique, ed. Bongrain, 39–98.

39 Baillot, Méthode, 1.

40 Baillot, L'Art du violon, 5.

41 Baillot, L'Art du violon, 271.

42 See, for example, Roger Norrington's preface to Brown, Classical and Romantic Performing Practice: ‘before 1800 there simply was no historical repertoire at all … As a repertoire began to develop from the time of Beethoven's symphonies’.

43 See DeNora, Tia, Beethoven and the Construction of Genius: Musical Politics in Vienna, 1792–1803 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995). Baillot and his colleagues seem to have contributed to the spread of the canon first established in Vienna. For the role of the exercices publiques in promoting the music of Mozart and Beethoven in particular, as well as instrumental music in general, see Jean Mongrédien, ‘Les prémiers exercices publics d’élèves d'après la presse contemporaine (1800–1815)’, in Conservatoire de Paris: Des menus-plaisirs à la cité de la musique, ed. Bongrain, 153–7.

44 This is what Boris Schwartz calls the ‘re-creative artist’, see Schwartz, French Instrumental Music Between the Revolutions, 203. Schwartz here is writing of Baillot; many have made this point about Spohr, see, for example, Brown, Classical and Romantic Performance Practice, 272.

45 See, for example, Penesco, ‘Le violon en France au temps de Baillot et de Paganini’, 216.

46 Cartier, Jean-Baptiste, L'art du violon, ou Collection choisi dans les sonates des écoles italienne, française et allemande (Paris, 1798).

47 ‘Extrait des régistres des délibérations de l'administration du Conservatoire de Musique, Séance du 13 Floréal, an 6 de la République Française’, Cartier, L'art du violon, page preceding page 1.

48 Cartier, L'art du violon, 1.

49 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Lettre sur la Musique Française in Collection complète des œuvres, Genève, 1781–1789, online edition at www.rousseauonline.ch, version from 7 October 2012.

50 ‘Le genie crée, mais le goût choisit’ (genius creates, but taste chooses): entry for ‘goût’, in Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, Dictionnaire de Musique (Paris, 1768): 236.

51 See 1803, p. 161, and 1834, p. 265.

52 ‘Le temps seul nous apprend la juste valeur des choses nouvelles’: Baillot, L'Art du violon, 7.

53 Baillot, L'Art du violon, 6.

54 As an example, the ultimately futile effort to impose the Revolutionary calendar actually intensified under the Directory and was not abandoned until 1804. See Backo, Bronislaw, ‘le calendrier republicain’, in Nora, Pierre, ed., Les Lieux de Mémoire, Vol 1: La République (Paris: Gallimard, 1984): 3784.

55 Baillot, Méthode, page prior to 1.

56 Chassain, ‘Le Conservatoire’, 16.

57 François-Sappey, ‘Pierre Marie François de Sales Baillot (1771–1842) par lui-même’, 128.

58 François-Sappey, ‘Pierre Marie François de Sales Baillot (1771–1842) par lui-même’, esp. 134–50.

59 Brigitte François-Sappey, ‘“Le salon des réfusés”’ in Le Conservatoire de Paris: deux cents ans de pédagogie, ed. Bongrain and Poirier, 31.

60 See, for example, Schwartz, French Instrumental Music Between the Revolutions, chap. 4. Clive Brown asserts that it is even more influenced by the style of Franz Clement, the work's dedicatee; see the preface to his edition of Clement's D Major Violin Concerto of 1805 (Madison: A-R Editions, 2005): ix–x.

61 Schwartz, French Instrumental Music Between the Revolutions, chap. 1 and 2. Die Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung (Breitkopf and Härtel: Leipzig, 1798–1848) is an important source.

62 Mendelssohn as quoted by Chassain, ‘Le Conservatoire’, 22; my translation from her French.

63 Chassain, ‘Le Conservatoire’, 19. ‘Autarchic’ has more than one meaning. Here the translation from the French could also be ‘the ideal of national self-sufficiency’.

64 Berlioz, Mémoires, vol. 1, 137–9.

65 A much-quoted journal review praised the purity and accuracy of his playing but went on to recommend ‘that he remain a while in Paris in order to perfect his taste so that he can return to Germany and educate his countrymen’. See, for example, Louis Spohr's Autobiography, vol. II, 123.

66 François-Sappey, ‘Pierre Marie François de Sales Baillot (1771–1842) par lui-même’, 186–91. See also the passage of Berlioz's Mémoires cited above.

67 Baillot, Méthode, 3.

68 Cartier, L'art du violon, Preface, esp. 2. His main sources are Geminiani for the Italian school, Leopold Mozart for the German school, and de Tarrade and L'abbé ‘fils’ for the French.

69 See, for example, Louis Spohr's Autobiography, 120.

70 Penesco, ‘Le violon en France au temps de Baillot et de Paganini’, 201–3.

71 Penesco, ‘Pierre Baillot et l’école franco-belge de violon’, 92–3.

72 Louis Spohr's Autobiography, 128–30.

73 Schwartz, French Instrumental Music Between the Revolutions, 215.

74 Schwartz, French Instrumental Music Between the Revolutions, 216.

75 Henri Vanhulst, ‘Le Conservatoire royal de musique de Bruxelles: ses origines et le directorat de François-Joseph Fétis (1833–1871)’, in Le Conservatoire de Paris: Des menus-plaisirs à la cité de la musique, ed. Bongrain, 208.

76 There is correspondence that testifies to Baillot's admiration of Paganini's qualities as a performer in spite of his discomfort with Paganini's style, see François-Sappey, ‘Pierre Marie François de Sales Baillot (1771–1842) par lui-même’, 185.

77 Baillot, L'Art du violon, 6.

78 For example: ‘la musique tenant à nos sensations les plus intimes, participe à tout de ce qu'elles ont de vague et d'indéfinissable’ (since music relates to our most intimate feelings, it is part of all their vagueness and indefinability), L'Art du violon, 7.

79 Baillot, L'Art du violon, 252.

80 Baillot, L'Art du violon, 92.

81 Rousseau, Dictionnaire, entry for ‘génie’, 230.

82 See François-Sappey, ‘Pierre Marie François de Sales Baillot (1771–1842) par lui-même’. All of these qualities come through very clearly through the letters held by Baillot's descendants as quoted by François-Sappey and through Baillot's actions. Witness for example the story of his attempt to resign his appointment at the Conservatoire in 1799 on Rode's return from absence, 141–2.

83 See in particular Penesco, ‘Pierre Baillot et l’école franco-belge de violon’.

84 Baillot, L'Art du violon, 6–10.

85 Penesco, ‘Pierre Baillot et l’école franco-belge de violon’, 94.

86 Baillot, L'Art du violon, 7.

87 Baillot, L'Art du violon, 8.

88 Because of the interchange which developed between them, it is customary to treat the violin schools of Paris and Brussels schools as a single ‘Franco-Belgian school’; but see the Conclusion below.

89 Penesco, ‘Pierre Baillot et l’école franco-belge de violon’, 93.

90 ‘Gardons-nous donc de rester jamais dans l’étroit sentier de la routine’, Baillot, L'Art du violon, 7.

91 Baillot, L'Art du violon, 8.

92 ‘Talens précoces’, under ‘Manière de travailler’, in Baillot, L'Art du violon, 242.

93 Anne Rousselin-Lacombe, ‘Piano et pianistes’, in La Musique en France à l’époque romantique, 137.

94 Berlioz, Mémoires, vol. 2, 31–35.

95 ‘Le violon et le piano partagent aujourd'hui l'empire de la musique instrumentale’, Baillot, L'Art du violon, 8.

96 Rousselin-Lacombe, ‘Piano et pianistes’, 125–66.

97 See, for example, Louis Spohr's Autobiography, 113.

98 Louis Spohr's Autobiography, 282–3.

99 Baillot, L'Art du violon, 7.

100 Entry for ‘goût’, Rousseau, Dictionnaire, 235–6.

101 Baillot, L'Art du violon, 8.

102 Baillot, L'Art du violon, 262. It may be useful to note that by the word ‘accens’, Baillot does not mean the current English usage of ‘accent’, i.e. the strong start to a note, but the means by which an expression or a character is realized.

103 Baillot, L'Art du violon, 9.

104 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, Philosophy of Law, in Loewenberg, Jacob, ed, Hegel: Selections (New York, 1929): 461.

105 Paul David, Manoug Parikian and Michelle Garnier-Panafieu, ‘Baillot, Pierre’ in Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online, www.oxfordmusic.com.

106 Schwartz, French Instrumental Music Between the Revolutions, 171.

107 White, From Vivaldi to Viotti, 348.

108 Alexander Ringer, ‘The Rise of Urban Musical Life’ in The Early Romantic Era, ed. Alexander Ringer (Basingstoke, 1990): 8.

109 The dedication to L'Art du violon, is characteristic: ‘j'ai voulu vous en offrir la dédicace comme un souvenir de nos communs travaux et de nos plaisirs les plus purs’ (I wanted to offer you the dedication in memory of our collective labours and our purest of pleasures): Baillot, L'Art du violon, 1.

110 De Staël, Germaine, De l'Allemagne (Paris: Flammarion, 1968; first published 1813): 166.

111 François-Sappey, ‘Pierre Marie François de Sales Baillot (1771–1842) par lui-même’, 136–7.

112 Sauzay and François-Sappey, ‘La vie musicale à Paris’, 187.

113 Baillot, L'Art du violon, 6–7. In this case, I have corrected various printing errors, such as ‘ame’, ‘un issue’, etc.

114 Baillot, L'Art du violonIbid, 260–61.

115 See, for example, Penesco, ‘Pierre Baillot et l’école franco-belge de violon’, 92.

116 Louis Spohr's Autobiography, 129.

117 Louis Spohr's Autobiography, 16.

118 ‘Pour se former un bon style, il faut commencer par se nourrir des auteurs anciens’, Baillot, L'Art du violon, 7.

119 Schwartz, French Instrumental Music Between the Revolutions, 44.

120 See, for example, Penesco, ‘Pierre Baillot et l’école franco-belge de violon’, 97.

121 ‘The Author to his Pupils. My Friends. It was in trying, with you, to discover the secrets of the violin that I succeeded in establishing, in broad outline, the principles of this new method. I take such pleasure in thinking of the part you have played in this book that I wanted to offer you its dedication in memory of our collective labours and our purest of pleasures. May this faithful reflection of the sublime art we cultivate long serve as testimony to the ties of friendship, which, in joining me to my pupils, have contributed so greatly to the charm of my life’.

122 See, for example, Schwartz, French Instrumental Music Between the Revolutions, 221.

123 Penesco, ‘Pierre Baillot et l’école franco-belge de violon’, 97–8.

124 Boris Schwartz, ‘Bériot, Charles-Auguste de’, in Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online, www.oxfordmusic.com.

125 Chassain, ‘Le Conservatoire’, 23–4.

126 ‘le plus souvent, l'art perd d'un côté ce qu'il gagne de l'autre’, Baillot, L'Art du Violon, 6.

The French School of Violin Playing between Revolution and Reaction: A Comparison of the Treatises of 1803 and 1834 by Pierre Baillot

  • Douglas Macnicol (a1)

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