Review - 10 Vocalises by Auguste Panseron and Marco Bordogni

edited by Bob Ashworth and Jeffrey Snedeker

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 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


A welcome new edition is this collection of vocalizes arranged for horn and piano, originally published as the concluding section) pages 87-111) of the comprehensive Méthode pour le Cor Chromatique, (1840) by Joseph-Émile Meifred (1791-1867). It is unfortunate that only scant materials from this seminal horn method are in print today. Meifred in his original preface (p.86) explains that these works were not only excellent for study on the valved horn but also recommended their performance as Salon pieces.

Each of these vocalises is a breath of musical fresh air. The name of Bordogni is familiar to us today from the editions used as brass (especially low brass) teaching materials, and the melodies found here will fortunately all be new to the listener. The Panseron works are of a similar scope and character. Singly or in groupings of works, these are all fine recital selections, worthy of performance.

This new edition comes with two different horn parts. The primary version, edited by Bob Ashworth, is for modern horn, which also aligns with the piano part. Compared to the original 1840 edition, Ashworth has made many minor (and smart) changes to suit the modern horn, which include articulation changes and dynamics. For the modern purchaser of this collection, these would be your primary performance copy, a charming addition to any horn recital.

Also included with this edition is a historical horn part, edited by Jeffery Snedeker. For artistic reasons, Meifred especially wanted to maintain the use of some right-hand technique in his valved horn playing in order to perform what he referred to as Notes sensibles [sensitive tones], particularly those a half step lower than the tonic or the fifth of a key. To quote from the Méthode, ‘I have advanced … that to want to prohibit all the stopped notes of the horn, replacing them with open sounds, would be to inflict harm on the countenance of the instrument and to make it lose its special character that gives it an indefinable charm.’ In the body of the Méthode he explains his specific technical approach at length, but leaves it to the student to apply the principles to these vocalizes. Snedeker in the historical horn part reverts back to the original Meifred edition musically, and adds to it his realization of the Meifred performance system, with specific fingerings for the two-valve horn (crooked in F) and half stopped notes.

The edition should be performed on a smaller bell, historical horn, where the intimate shades and nuances of color can be more fully realized. These would be effective works for a lecture recital or performance focused on historical horn.

John Ericson, Arizona State University for The Horn Call, IHS, Vol LII, No.2, February 2022


Bob Ashworth, publisher and principal horn with the Orchestra of Opera North, has teamed with Jeffrey Snedeker, Professor of horn at Central Washington University, founding member of the Northwest Horn Society, and past president of the International Horn Society, to create a unique new edition of the Panseron/Bordogni/Meifred vocalises. These vocalises for horn with piano accompaniment are extracted from Joseph Meifred's Méthode pour le Cor Chromatique, ou à Pistons, published in 1840. Ashworth and Snedeker have provided a wonderful tool for the modern horn player both to advance hand technique and to adopt these techniques into modern solo playing in these splendid vocalises.

The nineteenth-century vocalise has long been a staple of brass pedagogy. Many hornists recognize John F. Sawyer's Concone Lyrical Studies for Trumpet and Horn and Johannes Rochut's Melodious Etudes for Trombone as foundational standards of horn study. They are always delightful to play and offer the opportunity to develop style interpretation of melody, expression, flexibility, and technique. Meifred's vocalises are a welcome addition to these studies.

Joseph Meifred (1791-1867) studied horn at the Paris Conservatoire with Louis-François Dauprat, and later taught there until 1864. It was during his time at the Conservatoire that instruction on the new valved horn was included in the curriculum. Meifred's approach to horn playing combined natural hand-horn techniques with the opportunities offered by the addition of valves. Rather than dogmatically adopting one approach over the other, Meifred incorporated them both, retaining the opportunity for timbral nuance afforded by hand technique while taking full advantage of the opportunities provided by the valve (i.e., filling in chromatic gaps in the lower register and avoiding undesirable stopped timbres). Meifred's innovative curricular model of combining old and new horn approaches was discontinued upon his retirement, however, and not reinstated until the 1890s.

Ashworth and Snedeker's edition of the selected vocalises from Meifred's collection are presented in an unusual way. Their edition includes two versions of the horn parts. On is for modern standard valved horn: this by itself is a nice addition to the repertoire, as they are charming works offering opportunity to cultivate musicality and phrasing for the modern hornist, much like the aim of the Concone and Rochut etudes. This version can also be used for natural horn in F. With accompaniment, they are a lovely addition to any recital. Without accompaniment, they are a wonderful opportunity to exercise transposition skills. Certainly the first version alone would be welcome in any horn library: but the second version is, in my opinion, truly special.

Jeffrey Snedeker, a well-known scholar of the horn teaching practices from the Paris Conservatoire during the late eighteenth to early twentieth centuries, has focused on Meifred's career and pedagogy in previous publications. In the second version of the vocalises, Snedeker applies his understanding of Meifred's approach by supplying his own suggested fingerings above the staff and suggested hand technique—half stopped, fully stopped, or fully open—below, to give the hornist the maximum opportunity for color choice and nuance in expression. Valves facilitate an evenness of timbre and avoid the stuffiness of stopped notes in certain tessituras. Rather than abandoning hand-horn technique and the varieties of timbre that come with it all together, this second version offers instruction to employ hand technique for musical expression and added color variety and gives hornists and their audience an opportunity to experience the results of Meifred's innovative and now largely forgotten pedagogy.

This edition, with its two versions, offers more than another set of attractive vocalises for hornists. It also invites us to explore the opportunity that the valve, then newly adopted to brass instruments, provided. We can grasp more fully the voice of creative visionaries like Meifred, who saw the invention of valves not as an end to the hand-horn tradition or as a call to arms to defend that tradition, but rather as an opportunity for greater color choices and expression. This is a message that is applicable to modern times and to all genres of solo literature.

These lyrical and engaging vocalises are sure to be a new standard in every hornist's library and offer a fresh way to approach perhaps all of the instrument's solo literature. In applying the heritage of horn pedagogy to these works, Ashworth and Snedeker enrich the modern horn player with an opportunity to re-imagine a wide variety of modern solo works.

Angela K. Winter, Adams State University for the Historic Brass Society Journal, Volume 33, 2021


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