1838 – Tulou, 4e Grand Solo


In 1838, the competition of the wind instruments receives little attention in the Parisian newspapers. In contrast to the detailed reports on the competitions for singers, pianists and string instruments, for wind instruments only the names of the laureates are mentioned: Alexis Donjon and Louis-Antoine Brunot share the first prize, Jean-Alphonse Mathieu receives a second prize.

Alexis Donjon, born on April 15, 1822 in Lyon, was 16 years old when he won the first price in the 1838 concours. He won a second price for solfège in 1836 as well as a second price for flute. I found only little information about his further career. In 1839 and 1840 he played the Grand Solo by Tulou in a few concerts in Paris and Lyon. Around 1840 he must have returned to Lyon. In 1843 he was employed at the Grand Théâtre in Lyon, just as his father François who was also a flute player. Alexis‘ son Jean-Baptiste-Marie, born in 1839 and today known for his flute compositions, played the flute as well. Alexis died in 1855.

Louis-Antoine Brunot, born on the 16th November 1820 in Lyon, was 16 years old when he won the first price at the 1838 concours. A year later he won the first price. According to Pontécoulant (1840) Brunot abandoned the Boehm flute after having studied it. He adopted it, however, in the early 1850s. Brunot played in the Orchestre du Palais-Royal, and from 1850 on he was first flute at the Opéra Comique. He also played in the Concerts populaire de M. Pasdeloup and in the Cirque d’Hiver. Brunot published a few compositions for flute, of which only a handful is known today: two fantasies about airs of Webers’ opera Oberon (op. 6,19), a fantaisie originale op. 7, he also arranged airs from Oberon for flute. There is a manuscript of an Adagio in the National Library of France (bnf).
In the 1850s he was at the height of his career. In addition to his orchestral work, he often appeared as a soloist. He played, for example, a duo by Léon Magnier with Louis Dorus, flute quartets by Léon Kreutzer with Simon, Élie, Petition (they all most probably played the Boehm flute), trios by Haydn and duets with singers. In Dorus, Brunot found an equal flute partner, as the author of the Menestrel reports on March 6, 1854: “Never had purity of embouchure, taste, expression, agility, overall precision, smoothness in sound emission, reached this degree of perfection: a thunder of applause broke out at the end of this duet, and the two artists were recalled with enthusiasm.”
The performances of his fantaisie on Oberon, which he repeatedly played in concerts, received many positive concert reviews. L’Écho Rochelais wrote on September 6, 1856: “(The) phenomenon of perfection was achieved by M. Brunot on the flute. To appear alone after [oboe player] Triébert and [bassoon player] Jancourt, to struggle with the deep impressions they had produced, to divert to oneself the current of enthusiasm they had aroused, this was certainly a bold undertaking full of perils. Well! M. Brunot was able to accomplish it, and he won a success equal to that of his rivals, where any other than him would have broken on a reef. Mr Brunot is also a very pleasant enchanter! Armed with his Boehm flute, which is to the old flute what the piano of today is to the piano of thirty years ago, he seduces you, he moves you by the limpidity, the purity and the expression of his singing, he lulls you nobly into the undulations of a vaporous, ethereal melody; he dazzles you, he astonishes you by a fascinating agility of fingering. And then, what suppleness of articulation! What roundness and accuracy of tone in all registers! What sharpness in the double tongue without which it becomes impossible to execute the rapid lines in detached notes! With Brunot, all the native imperfections of the instrument disappear, all the difficulties are smoothed out, overcome. In a variation which delighted the audience and which – a rare thing, an exceptional joy – was enthusiastically requested again, the eminent flute player played both the song with a cadence and a trill, to which two cadences and two trills in the octave were added. Explain this prodigious feat to anyone who can.”
The newspaper L’Aube reports on February 6, 1859: “We remember the words of a famous man who asked what is more boring than a flute, and replied that there are two flutes. We like to think, for the man’s sake, that he must have suffered a great deal from some shrill, false or cold flute to articulate such a proposition. But if he had heard the masters of the instrument, if he had, as we did last Friday, heard M. Brunot make his flute sing, sigh, execute with it the most brilliant organ points, observe the most delicate nuances in the harmonic phrase, go up and down his chromatic scales with a desperate neatness of execution, oh, then the blasphemy would have remained in his throat. He would have said to M. Brunot with us and with Virgil: “Pan, himself, the God of the flute, if he challenged you in front of the whole of Arcadia, Pan, himself, in front of the whole of Arcadia, would confess defeat. “Tulou, the modern Pan, would not have disowned our artist in his Variations and in the fantasy on Oberon. The latter piece, in particular, seems to us to have been composed and executed with a masterly hand. M. Brunot’s talent has reconciled many people with the flute.”
Two years later Brunot played the fantasy on a festival in La Rochelle, and the Messager des théâtres et des arts reports on September 9: “The welcome given to the flute player Brunot was all the more sympathetic as he is a child of the Wester regions [?]. He played his fantasy on Oberon’s motifs to great effect. Brunot is correct, classical; he has a good style, which was very well noticed in the ensemble pieces, where the flute parts are so important.”
The fantasy, however, did not meet everyone’s taste, as we read in La Presse théâtrale on December 15 of the same year: “M. Brunot will not blame me if I like his fantasy on Oberon’s motifs much less. This composition certainly has much to commend it; but I have the weakness of preferring to all the fantasies of the world, to all the variations of the virtuosos, the very motives that inspired them. I like Weber better than M. Brunot: it is a matter of taste! However, M. Brunot is a skilful flute player, whom the audience rightly applauded warmly and recalled. The Cirque, once again, proved that it was not favourable to all instruments: the low notes of the flute do not reach the ear, and the fine nuances are completely lost in this vast expanse.”
Nevertheless did Brunot convince his audience with his tasteful: “This artist has drawn from his instrument sounds of inexpressible sweetness; for him, melody has real charms, and he leaves to others the supposedly great difficulties that those who devote themselves to this instrument enjoy. The audience and the orchestra greeted the performer with long and sympathetic bravos.” (Messager 6.3.1864)
From the late 1860s on he appeared less an less in the national press. He continued playing in the orchestra of the Opéra Comique until his death in 1885.

Jean-Alphonse Mathieu, born on May 10, 1820 in Avignon, was 18 years old when he won the second price in the 1838 concours. Mathieu did not leave many traces. In 1847 he played a concert in Lyon. The Courrier de Lyon notes: “One of the most pleasant surprises of the evening was the fantaisie-caprice, for flute and piano, composed and performed by M. Mathieu. We already knew this artist, and the audience often applauded him as a distinguished flautist. The fantasia-caprice to which we allude has, moreover, shown him to be a skilful and learned composer. In this work, one of the most important and complete ever written for this instrument, M. Mathieu has used some of the sweetest melodies of Félicien Davis’ Symphony ‘Le Désert’ [a peculiar work and worth it to listen to!]. But the introduction and conclusion belong entirely to our compatriot, who has combined the merit of melodic originality with the talent of the arranger. Moreover, in this composition, where the most brilliant part is reserved for the flute, the piano accompaniment is of almost equal importance. To add that this piece was performed by M. Mathieu and by M. Joseph Luigini, is to say that it was rendered with all the charm and perfection of which it is susceptible.” Unfortunately, I did not find a copy of the fantasia-caprice. In 1853 Mathieu played a concert in Vichy. A critic wrote: “The flute solo, composed and played by M. Mathieu, was full of melody and was listened to in silent ecstasy”. In 1867 his name appears in a concert in Grenoble. Mathieu died in 1890 in Nimes.
Mathieu must have composed several works as the fantasy on the Desert symphony is his op. 6. Emil Prill mentions in his catalogue a Grand Solo op. 2, and the National Library of France lists a Grande Valse du Czar par Sigismond Artschkof, (impromptu de concert) variée pour la flûte and La Fauvette captive, caprice-valse, pour flûte avec acc. de piano, op. 19.

In this video I play a flute by the Berlin workshop Grießling & Schlott. I included it in the project because it is a fine example of how ideas and designs originating in France cross borders. On this flute, we find several indications of the influence of French key design.
The curved G-sharp key is typical for French flutes, even though it probably originated in Great Britain, as Cahusac was already making such keys in the 18th century.

The pillar mounting of the keys is also typically French. It has been used in France since the beginning of the 19th century, while most German flute makers stuck to the wooden blocks.
Another feature is the C-foot. A C-foot is needed for the 4th Grand Solo as it contains the only low C sharp of all concours works! This very special key design probably originated from François Laurent, famous for his exclusive crystal glass flutes. The first beginnings of this design can be found as early as around 1815. The Dutch flute player Louis Drouët, who was living in Paris at the time, adopted the idea for his flutes, which he had made in London from 1817 to 1819. A few years later, the design is found on Berlin flutes.

left: C-foot by Drouët (DCM 0347 © Washington Library of Congress, right: Grießling & Schlott)

In addition to the special arrangement of the shanks and keys, the curved shape of the flaps with their high pads is also striking. These “elastic pads” also made a journey through Europe. It began around 1809 in Paris with the clarinettist Iwan Müller. He developed new pads for his new clarinet in the form of a woolen filled ball or purse made of leather, whose upper edge was folded and tightly sewn. These pads had the advantage of making little noise and closing very well. Drouët seemed to have liked these pads, for they are found on most of his flutes. In 1818, the Clementi workshop in London also adopted these pads for their flutes. Finally, around 1822, they ended up at Grießling & Schlott in Berlin.
Two other features suggest a French model: The D-E trill key has two tone holes. When this key is opened, the C trill key opens as well. This system is often found on flutes from the Godfroy workshop.

Grießling & Schlott D-E trill key, C-trill key and bent G# key

Finally, in addition to the usual keys, the Grießling & Schlott has a relatively rare F# key. An F# key makes us immediately think of Tulou who is known for this key. However, the key design is different, as it is operated with the little finger of the left hand and is connected to the long F key. This also opens when the F-sharp key is pressed. F-sharp keys already appeared in England in the early 19th century, so they were not invented by Tulou. The arrangement and design of the key by Grießling & Schlott is very similar to the design of some Godfroy flutes. The F# key touch of both flute models has a roller so that it can be used more easily.

Grießling & Schlott F# key with a roller

It is very likely that Grießling & Schlott took one of these flutes as a model.
The high number of keys is very untypical for French instruments, but nevertheless there have been some enthusiasts. Despite all the similarities, the sound of the Grießling & Schlott is quite German, that is, not so fine in the two lower octaves and not radiant in the third octave. On the contrary, it has a warm tone, a full depth and a fine high register, which seemed to correspond more to the German sound ideal of the time.

The piano is a 1854 Pleyel.