Good training in singing being, in general, the best course that could be followed by any student who intends to master any instrument… - Louis-Francois Dauprat (1824)
Some readers will have heard of the Meifred Method, in which these Vocalises may be found. Its historical context is discussed in Morley-Pegge’s book The French Horn and in Dr Jeffrey Snedeker’s excellent article on the subject in the 1992 Journal of the Historical Brass Society. This new edition of the Vocalises offers a user-friendly introduction to the historical transition from natural horn to valved horn in Paris.
Meifred’s Méthode pour le cor, first published in 1840 (and available on imslp.org since 2017) is a book of instructions and exercises for playing the valved horn, attempting to incorporate important aspects of the tradition of hand horn playing. As valved instruments were gradually becoming available, some musicians (including Meifred and Berlioz) saw the horn with valves as being its future. Many other musicians preferred the hand horn to the newly invented valved horn, but in this publication, the author sought to show how the valved horn could have just as much nuance and sensitivity as the natural horn, with the advantage of having many improvements in the middle and low register. Meifred acknowledges the compositions (Vocalises) of his Paris Conservatoire colleagues: singing professors Auguste Panseron and Marco Bordogni, whose approach will help students to “learn the art of good phrasing, of appropriate breathing…[and] purify taste”.
This new edition (by Ashworth and Snedeker) offers two significant things not available in the original Method: phrasing and dynamics from Panseron and Bordogni that had been omitted by Meifred, and two separate horn parts - “historical” and “modern”. In the absence of specific valve fingerings and hand-stopping instructions in the original pieces, the “historical” horn part has editorial instruction on how to apply Meifred’s hand stopping philosophy using F horn fingerings and light hand-stopping. The “modern” part contains the phrasing and dynamics. The decision to keep these separate is understandable for reasons of clarity, but a cross reference between the two horn parts is encouraged.
This music has several valuable uses: for intermediate level and recital performances; for horn lessons where the teacher can appreciate the easy piano accompaniments(!); for enjoying some technically approachable singing-style attractive melodies; but perhaps most importantly for learning about a historical way of thinking about how to use the valves in combination with right-hand technique, simultaneously discovering numerous alternative fingerings for a satisfying musical result. The academically-minded may wish to learn more by referring to the original publication, but it is much more convenient to have this nicely type-set new sheet music to hand. As a performer and teacher I recommend it.
Andrew Clark - The Horn Player, BHS, Summer 2021