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J. Rémusat, Le Flûtiste Romancier: Romances Variées en forme de Fantaisies


TOM MOORE

Introduction

The repertoire of the great composers and performers for the flute in France during the first half-century of the Conservatoire (1800-1850) remains almost unknown and largely inaccessible, if not entirely lost. Almost none of it has been republished in modern editions since the nineteenth century, although some is now beginning to be digitized thanks to programs such as Gallica, at the National Library of France, and due to this lack of editions, it is similarly unavailable on recordings. It is musically rewarding and technically challenging, and its oblivion is not due to questions of quality, but rather to laziness on the parts of both performing flutist and music historians. One of the major figures in this period was Jean Rémusat (1815-1880), who, remarkably, closed his career in China after emigrating to Shanghai from Paris. A previous article discussed the surviving biographical information, and provided Rémusat with a tentative works list[i].

©photo Michael Lynn

©photo Michael Lynn

This study will look at the context and sources for one of his collections published without opus number, Le Flûtiste Romancier: Romances Variées en forme de Fantaisies. The work is held in the National Library of France, and there is another copy in the personal collection of the author. This set of six fantasies, published in 1859, are rated “6”, on a scale of 9 by the publisher, Alphonse Leduc, where 1-2-3 are easy, 4-5-6 are “moyenne force” and 7-8-9 are difficult. In comparison, the Gariboldi exercises, L’Indispensable, op. 48 and the same author’s Art de Préluder are given the same rating (6). The fantaisies are reasonably extended in length (four have three pages, one four, and one, two), and tend to avoid any descent below D (many French flutes of the time did not have a C-foot). On only two occasions, a lower note is used, and on both of these, the score provides an upper alternative.

The title of the collection highlights the musical sources that the composer draws on to create his set of fantasies. Although our modern perspective tends to privilege “abstract” or “original” instrumental music, with the pinnacle of this genre represented by the sonatas, string quartets and symphonies of Beethoven. Much of the instrumental music of the first half of the nineteenth century was based on pre-existing material, whether as set of variations on familiar melodies, or as more loosely-structured works usually known as fantasies or potpourris. Usually the melodies were taken from popular operas, or in the case of composers active in England, popular folk songs from England, Scotland and Ireland. The romances referenced in the title here were French romances – a genre of song dating back to the Spanish romance, a song narrating a story, hence the use of the term to denote what in English we call a novel, as well. By far most French songs in the earlier part of the nineteenth century were romances, though later it begins to give way to the mélodie.

©photo Michael Lynn

©photo Michael Lynn

It was relatively uncommon for a composer to create an entire set of instrumental works based on romances, though individual romances make their appearance in such sets (for example, the set of twenty pieces comprising Gariboldi’s Decameron, dating from the same year as the collection under consideration here – 1859 – adapts two such works by Aristide De Latour, though none of the three by De Latour used by Rémusat). It is interesting to note that a similar publication appeared in 1860, entitled Le Violoniste Romancier, a “selection of romances varied in the form of fantasies for violin solo” by Ernest Depas, drawing on romances by De Latour, Leduc, and Cheret. Victor Bretonnière had published an earlier volume for flute with a title identical to that of Rémusat’s work, his op. 25, dedicated entirely to romances by Cheret, published circa 1843.

In Rémusat’s collection, all of the fantaisies begin with an introduction, usually long, and generally in a moderate tempo, although in the case of the fifth fantaisie this is reduced to a freely-elaborated dominant chord. This fifth fantaisie is also the only place where we find a section specifically marked “variation”, let alone a succession of such.

A list showing the pre-existing material used, with composer and title

No. 1 in D/G
Masini, Petite fleur des bois.

No. 2 in D/G
Lambert, Ma Céline
A. Leduc, Rossignols et Fauvettes

No. 3 in C
A. Leduc, Oh! La menteuse
A. Leduc, Corvette mes amours
A. Leduc, Belle Juive

Deuxième suite:

No. 4 in A/D
A. Delatour, La fille de la vallée
A. Thys, Follette

No. 5 in C/G
A. Leduc, Priez pour elle
D. Schilizzi, Simplicité, Romance

No. 6 in D minor /F major
A. Delatour, Fleur d’Orient
A. Delatour, Les doux projets
A. Leduc, A.L. 2212-2213
(1859)

Almost all of the composers and their songs are completely forgotten today, with the exception of Leduc, whose publishing company is still active.

*  *  *

Though François Masini (1804-1863) is not in modern reference works, he is to be found in the later editions of the Biographie Universelle…(1880)[ii], which has the following to say:

“MASINI (Franco), Italian composer who spent most of his life in France, wrote hundreds of romances and mélodies notable for their elegant and amiable grace, and tender and expressive sentiment, which gave them a very real success. For quite some time, Masini published an album every year, as did A. de Latour, Clapisson, Frédéric Bérat, Mmes. Victoria Arago, Loïsa Puget, etc., and his distinguished compositions were sought out by amateurs and were sung at all the salons. However, fortune did not smile on Masini, and when, in 1863, a serious chest infection threatened his life, the French government had to come to his aid, and Marshal Vaillant, then minister of Fine-Arts, had him admitted into the municipal hospital known as the Hospice Dubois. It was there that Masini died, on August 20, 1863. He was born in Florence on July 16, 1804.”

Petite fleur des bois is referred to as a chansonette in the three different publications of the score that I have located (by Lemoine, Leduc and Schott), and the poetry is by Mme. Désirée Pacault (1798-1881), a bookseller, journalist as well as poet, and who is known to have been active in women’s lodges in Masonry. Petite fleur des bois was set as a caprice for piano by A. Leduc (op. 174), and as a bagatelle for piano by Jacques Louis Battmann, op. 373.

PETITE FLEUR DES BOIS.
ROMANCE DE F. Masini.

Petite fleur des bois 

Toujours, toujours cachée, 

Longtemps je t’ai cherchée 

Dans les près, dans les bois, 

Pour te dire une fois 

Ce mot, ce mot suprême: 

Oh! je t’aime, je t’aime, 

Petite fleur des bois. (bis.)

Ta naïve beauté, 

N’offre rien de frivole, 

De ta blanche corole, 

Tombe la volupté. 

Aussi chaste et divine, 

Où ma lèvre s’incline, 

Sans trouver ces douleurs 

Qui font verser des pleurs. (bis.) 
   
Petite fleur, etc.

Tout forme nos liens; 

Dans un rayon de flamme 

Je te verse mon âme, 

Tes plaisirs sont les miens. 

J’aime l’oiseau qui chante 

L’aube rafraîchissante, 

La mouche aux ailes d’or 

Reprenant son essor. 
   
Petite fleur, etc.
Celle qui sait charmer 

Porte un nom qu’on adore; 

Le tien, elle l’honore, 

Comment ne pas l’aimer. 

Te chercher dans l’absence 

T’apporter ma souffrance, 

Te dire sois à moi 

Et m’enivrer de toi. 
   
Petite fleur, etc.
[iii]

 

TRANSLATION

Little sylvan flower, 

Always, always hidden
Long have I sought you
In the fields, in the woods,
To tell you once
This word, this word supreme:
Oh! I love you, I love you,
Little sylvan flower. (bis.)

Your innocent beauty
Is not at all frivolous,
From your white blossom
Falls voluptuousness.
So chaste and divine,
Where my lips bend to kiss
Without finding the sorrows
That cause tears to fall. (bis.) 
   
Little sylvan flower, etc.

All forms our bonds; 

In a ray of flame
I pour out my soul to you,
Your pleasures are mine. 

I love the bird who announces
The refreshing dawn,
The fly with golden wings 

Once more taking flight.
Little sylvan flower, etc.

She who knows how to charm 

Bears a name that we adore;
She honors thine, 

How not to love her. 

To seek you in your absence
To bring you my suffering,
To say to you, be mine,
And become inebriated with you. 
   
Little sylvan flower, etc.

 *  *  *

Little is known about Georges Lambert (d. July 6, 1852). The Biographie Universelle…(1880) notes “French musician, died about twenty years ago, is only known because of the liberality he bestowed on musicians by creating a prize which the Académie française and the Académie des beaux-arts were charged by him to award each year. This prize…is intended for a man of letters, or a musician, or for the widow of an honorable musician, as a public mark of esteem. I was unable to find any other information regarding the life or career of this generous man….” His funeral was reported in the Revue et Gazette Musicale.

Ma Céline dates back at least to 1818, when the text was published in L’Echo des Bardes, with a dedication to Mlle. Clary Billcocq[iv]. The poet was Charles Hubert Millevoye, 1782-1816. The source I have found for the poetry gives a date of 1810. Other instrumental settings include a version for flute and piano included in the late set of ten fantasies by Tulou (1864), as well as for flute solo in Miramont’s Heures de Loisir.

De ma Céline amant modeste,
Si je n’ai reçu qu’un aveu,
Il vaut à lui seul tout le reste;
Amour sincère vit de peu. (bis.)
J’ai captivé plus d’une belle,
Mais mon cœur, ah! croyez-moi bien,
Les donnerait toutes pour celle
Qui ne m’a jamais donné rien. (bis.)
Quoique Céline soit charmante,
Je ne suis heureux qu’à demi,
Quoiqu’elle ait le cœur d’une amante,
Je n’ai que les droits d’un ami. (bis.)
Mais en vain son âme rebelle
Refuse un plus tendre lien
Je donnerais mes jours pour celle
Qui ne m’a jamais donné rien. (bis.)
C’est ainsi que sous la ramée
Chantait un soir le troubadour,
Non loin de là sa bien-aimée
Entendit ces accents d’amour. (bis.)
Or, il obtint de celte belle
Un prix qu’il méritait si bien;
11 eut un doux baiser de celle
Dont il n’avait eu jamais rien. (bis.)

 

TRANSLATION

If, modest love, from my Céline
I have only received one confession of love
This is worth all the rest;
Sincere love requires but little. (bis.)
I have captivated more than one beauty,
But, my heart, oh, believe me,
Would give them all up for her
Who has never given me anything. (bis.)
Although Céline is charming,
I am only partly happy,
Though she may have the heart of a lover,
I have only the rights of a friend. (bis.)
But in vain her rebellious soul
Refuses a tenderer bond.
I would give my days for her
Who has never given me anything. (bis.)
It is thus that under the branches
The troubadour sang one night
Not far from there his well-beloved
Heard these words of love. (bis.)
Now, he received from this beauty
A prize so well-deserved;
He had a sweet kiss from her,
From whom he had never had anything. (bis.)

 *  *  *

Alphonse Leduc (1804-1868) is now known only because of his activities as a music publisher, but was a virtuoso instrumentalist and prolific composer. From the Biographie Universelle…(1880)[v]:

“pianist, composer, teacher and publisher of music, born in Nantes March 9, 1804, died in Paris, June 17, 1868. Grandson of a violinist, and son of a distinguished bassoonist, with whom he began the study of   solfège, bassoon and harmony; later he studied the guitar and flute, and became a veritable virtuoso on those two instruments. There are reports of a concert he gave at 23, in which he performed, with equal success an air varié for the bassoon, grand variations for the flute, and a fantasy for the guitar. Having arrived in Paris, he entered the Conservatoire, won a second prize in bassoon in 1825, and also took harmony lessons with Reicha. Returning to Nantes at the end of 1826, the studied the piano with Rhein, and then devoted himself to composition. Over a few years he has offered to the public a countless quantity of all sorts of works, of which the total is not fewer than thirteen-hundred, including, among others, a piano method, 9 books of etudes, 328 morceaux for piano two or four hands, 184 quadrilles, 153 waltzes and polkas, 295 morceaux de danse for four hands, 94 romances and mélodies for 1, 2 or 3 voices, 13 oeuvres for bassoon, 52 œuvres for guitar, 38 œuvres for flute, 26 œuvres for organ, etc. In 1841, Leduc founded in Paris a music publishing business, which he supplied with a large number of his own works, and quickly prospered……”

Rémusat uses no fewer than five different romances from Leduc – one in no. 2, three in no. 3, and one in no. 5.

Rossignols et Fauvettes (used in no. 2) begins “Le jour vient”, and the text is by Louis-Ernest Crevel de Charlemagne (1806-1882). I have not been able to find the entire text as yet.

©photo Michael Lynn

©photo Michael Lynn

No. 3 uses Oh! La menteuse, Corvette mes amours and Belle Juive. Oh! La menteuse was advertised in 1854 in the Journal des demoiselles, its likely publication date. The author of the text (a bluette) was Hippolyte-Louis Guérin de Litteau, 1797-1861; the poem was published in his posthumous poetry in 1863.

A. Leduc, Oh! La menteuse

O LA MENTEUSE!

Berthe, lui dit un soir sa mère,
Marcel pour toi s’est proposé;
Et j’ai promis… car c’est, ma chère,
Un garçon sage et bien posé. –
— Comment! répondit Berthe avec un air surpris
J’ignorais que… de moi… nul encor fut épris…

Mais, bondissant d’ivresse heureuse ,
Le petit cœur disait tout bas : O la menteuse!
Le petit cœur disait tout bas : N’y croyez pas!

Le lendemain, la jeune fille _
Vit arriver avec l’époux,
Le blanc bouquet, l’anneau qui brille ,
Puis les rubans, puis les bijoux…
C’est trop, murmurait-elle en cachant son plaisir,
La toilette est si peu, si-peu dans mon désir!
Mais, bondissant d’ivresse heureuse….

Vint l’heure enfin pour la charmante
De l’engager, et tout entier,
Ce cœur, qui d’une mère aimante
Se séparait sans l’oublier…
Berthe , alors, à l’autel, interdite un moment,
Bien bas articula le terrible serment!

Mais, bondissant d’ivresse heureuse,
Le petit cœur disait tout bas : O la menteuse!
Et vous, vous dont on fuit les bras, N’y croyez pas! [vi]

 

TRANSLATION

“Berthe,” her mother said to her one evening,
“Marcel has asked for your hand in marriage;
And I agreed… for he is, my dear,
A sage and well-placed young man.”
— “What!” answered Berthe, surprised,
“I didn’t know… that I… that anyone was interested…
But, bursting with happiness,
Her little heart whispered: Oh, she’s lying!
Her little heart whispered: Don’t believe it!

The next day, the young woman
Saw her groom arrive with
The white bouquet, the shining ring,
Then the ribbons, then the jewelry…
It is too much, she murmured, hiding her pleasure,
The toilette is so little, so little in my desire!
But, bursting with happiness….

Finally the hour came for the charming girl
To engage, and entirely,
Her heart, which separated from a loving mother
Without forgetting her…
Berthe, then, at the altar, interdite un moment,
Quietly whispers the awful vow!
But, bursting with happiness,
Her little heart whispered: Oh, she’s lying!
And you, whose arms she flees, don’t believe it!

Corvette mes amours seems to be the poem known as Le baptême de ma corvette by Francis Tourte (1816-1891), who was a poet and librettist. Born Louis-François Tourte, he was the son of the musician by the same name (1786-1855) and grandson of the famous bow-maker, Nicolas-Pierre Tourte (1700-1764). He provided the librettos for more than a dozen operettas, mostly between 1859 and 1876. The Leduc setting would thus date to the very beginning of Tourte’s activities for the Parisian stage.

Gloire à toi, ma corvette! apparais sur la rive 

Vigilante et parée avec tes matelots;
Car tu vas, aux regards de la foule attentive,
Livrer ta voile aux airs et ta carène aux flots.
Tonnez canons, battez tambours, 
     
Pour célébrer ce jour de fête, 
     
Le baptême de ma corvette, 
     
De ma corvette, mes amours. 

Tonnez, tonnez canons, battez, battez tambours!

Ta marraine est, dit-on, fille du capitaine,
Ton parrain est un brave, un marin de renom; 

Sois toujours noble et fière ainsi que ta marraine 

Ange qui te protége et te donne son nom!
Tonnez canons, battez tambours….

L’évêque dans ta cale, en signe d’abondance, 

Sèmera le blé mûr, le symbole sacré;
a voix invoquera pour toi la Providence, 

Et la main du vieillard bénira ton beaupré.
Tonnez canons, battez tambours….
      

 

TRANSLATION

Glory to you, ma corvette! You appear on the shore
Vigilant, adorned with your mariners;
For you go, in the eyes of the attentive throng,
To spread your canvas to the winds,
And to deliver your hull to the waves.
Thunder, cannons, sound, drums,       
To celebrate this festival day,       
The baptism of my corvette,
Of my corvette, my loves. 

Thunder, thunder, cannons, sound, sound, drums!

Your godmother is, they say, a captain’s daughter,
Your godfather is a brave and renowned mariner;
Be always noble and proud, like your guardian
Angel who protects you and gives you her name!
Thunder, cannons, sound, drums….

The bishop at your dock, as a sign of abundance,
Has sown the ripe wheat, the holy symbol;
His voice has invoked Providence for you, 

And the old man’s hand has blessed your bowsprit.
Thunder, cannons, sound, drums….
      

The romance cited here as Belle Juive is not to be found under that title; most likely it is the “romance dramatique” titled Nidja La Juive, with words by Léon Cosson, music by Alphonse Leduc, and published by Leduc[vii] in 1849.

Nidja La Juive

Belle juive, aux yeux blues, ange plutôt que femme,
Toi, que seule et mon Dieu, j’adore tous les jours ;
Idole de mon cœur, doux rêve de mon âme,
Adieu, je pars, adieu, je pars et pour toujours !…

Je pars en maudissant le sort qui nous divise, 

En regrettant ce part où la tuer m’a jaté; 

Je pars, et vais bien loin inscrire pour devise:
Ces mots sur mon drapeau! victoire! victoire et liberté! 


Pourquoi donc à mes yeux, perle resplendissante, 

Fis-tu briller l’éclat de ta pure blancheur? 

Pourquoi les doux accents de ta voix frémissante 

Ont-ils troublé, ont-ils troublé mon pauvre cœur?
Je pars en maudissant, etc. 

Que ne puis-je, ô Nidja ! te consacrer ma vie,
N’exister que pour toi, m’attacher à tes pas: 

Trahir, sans déshonneur, le serment qui me lie,
D’aller mourir, d’aller mourir dans les combats! 
 
Je pars en maudissant, etc.[viii]

 

TRANSLATION

Fair blue-eyed Jewess, angel, rather than woman,
Whom, with God, I adore every day;
Idol of my heart, sweet dream of my soul,
Adieu, I depart, adieu, I depart forever!…

I depart while cursing the fate that divides us, 

Regretting this departing where killing her has cast me;
I depart, and go far to inscribe as motto
These words on my banner! Victory! Victory and liberty!

Why then, o gleaming pearl, did you cause
The brilliance of your pure whiteness to gleam in my eyes? 
Why did the sweet accents of your trembling voice
Trouble, trouble my poor heart?
I depart while cursing, etc. 


Oh, Nidja, if I might devote my life to you,
Only exist for your, follow your footsteps:
Betray, without dishonor, the oath that binds me,
To go to die, to go to die in combat!
I depart while cursing, etc.

A. Leduc, Priez pour elle

This mélodie appears immediately after Nidja in the listing of vocal music in the 1849 Bibliographie de la France, listing C. de Charlemagne as the poet. This is Louis-Ernest Crevel de Charlemagne, 1807-1882, poet and translator. I have not found a source for the text. Leduc also produced two instrumental works based on the mélodie – the Fantaisie élégante pour piano et violon conecrtano sur deux romances, d’ Alphonse Leduc. Priez pour elle ! Le Rossignol et la fauvette par N. Louis et Alphonse Leduc and Priez pour elle, fantaisie élégante pour piano, Op. 172.

*  *  *

A. Delatour, La fille de la vallée
A. Delatour, Fleur d’Orient
A. Delatour, Les doux projets

There are few sources regarding the biography of composer Aristide de Latour. The Revue et gazette musicale de Paris noted his passing with a paragraph published in vol. 22 (1855), p. 94. “Music has lost another of its most distinguished artists, Aristide de Latour, author of mélodies, nocturnes, duos, romances and choruses, of which many achieved popularity. Poet and musician, he was born in Brittany and Bretagne et avait d’abord pris du service. He published his first album in 1838, and he career ended at the age of 47. Among his numerous productions, one may cite: Picciola, Daniel, Yvonne et ma vie, l’orientale, Retour et absence, la Hautbois and Perdus en mer.”

La fille de la vallée was advertised in 1845[ix]. The poetry for Fleur d’Orient is by Mélanie Waldor, whose sole published volume of poems (she was also a prolific novelist) dates to 1833. Les doux projets has lyrics by another poetess, Laure Jourdain.

*  *  *

 

A. Thys, Follette

Though Alphonse Thys (1807-1879) seems to have been a bit of a prodigy (the entry for his op. 1, a polonaise for piano, in the Bibliographie de la France in 1822 gives the unusual information “âgé de 14 ans”), and though he was winner of the Prix de Rome in 1833 (Berlioz won in 1830, Ambroise Thomas in 1832, and Gounod in 1839) the composer is unknown today. The Biographie Universelle (1880) has an unusually uninformative entry, though it notes that he was one of the founders of the Société des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs de musique (SACEM, the organization representing the intellectual property rights of composers in France until this day) and was several times elected president of that body. He wrote and published dozens and dozens of songs from the 1830s until the time of his death.

Follette dates to the early 1840s (if not earlier) with instrumental works using it as a basis by Duvernoy (op. 131, Fantaisie sur Follette d’A. Thys pour piano, advertised in 1844) and Rosellen (op. 57, Rondo-valse sur Follette. Chansonnette de A. Thys, advertised in 1843). Thys was the father of Pauline Thys-Sébault, also a composer.

*  *  *

D. Schilizzi, Simplicité, Romance

The Schilizzi were a prominent and wealth Greek-English banking family. Demetrius Stefanovich Schilizzi (1839-1893) and Paul Stefanovich Schilizzi (1842-1879) were partners in Schilizzi and Co., Merchants, London, Manchester, and Calcutta, and later in Schilizzi Brothers, Austin Friars, London. The sonata op. 22 for flute and piano of Jules Demersseman (1833-1866) is dedicated to Paul Stefanovich Schilizzi, “his student and friend”. D.S. Schilizzi has very few surviving published works, including a Fantaisie élégante pour la flûte, published in Paris by Legouix, 1861, and Hélène, polka-mazurka, published by E. Girod, 1858. I have not found a score or lyrics for his romance Simplicité, but interestingly the second number in Demersseman’s op. 28 bis, marked Simplicité, Romance uses the same melody quoted here, which must be from the composition by Schilizzi.

It is to be hoped that this overview of the sources for a single collection of music for unaccompanied flute by an undeservedly forgotten major performer and composer of music for the flute will begin to lift the veil of oblivion from the immense, rewarding, and complex cultural life around the instrument as it was cultivated in the period of its greatest flourishing to date, the first half of the 19th century (1800-1850). Not only the rest of Rémusat’s music remains to be discovered, but almost all of that of his better-known contemporaries, such as Tulou, the professor of flute at the Paris Conservatoire for decades. The author welcomes communications from those who may have questions or personal knowledge of important sources from this period.

*  *  *

[i] “An Introduction and Bibliography: Jean Rémusat”, FQ Plus [online publication of the National Flute Association], October 2015, https://www.nfaonline.org/Publications/FQ-Plus/Jean-Remusat.aspx
[ii] Biographie Universelle des Musiciens et Bibliographie Générale de la Musique, Supplément et Complément, Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1880, p. 178.
[iii] Lusignan, Alphonse, Recueil de chansons canadiennes et franc̜aises: Devisé en deux parties …, Montréal : J. Lovell, 1859, p. 101.
[iv] L’Echo des bardes, ou Chansonnier Dédié aux Demoiselles, Paris: Le Fuel, s.d., pages are unnumbered.

[v] Biographie Universelle des Musiciens et Bibliographie Générale de la Musique, Supplément et Complément, Tome Second, Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1880, p. 91.
[vi] Guérin de Litteau, Hippolyte, Poésies posthumes de Hippolyte Guérin de Litteau Paris: Libraire Centrale, 1863, p. 160.
[vii] Bibliographie de la France, ou, Journal général de l’imprimerie …, Volume 1849, p. 648.
[viii] Album lyrique: Choix de romances et chansonettes nouvelles [1860], Paris: L. Viellot, p. 3-4
[ix] Le Moniteur de la Mode. Journal du grand monde. Modes, Litterature …, Volume 5 (1845), p. 229