Hélène-Jean-Joseph Miramont, was born in Masdazil (Le Mas d’Azil / Ariège in the Pyrenees) on October 25, 1823. Seen from Paris, his birthplace is at the other end of the country, on the border with Spain. It is not known how Miramont came to Paris to study at the Conservatoire. Nothing is known about his period of study either. Apparently he already received a first prize in his first concours. This is astonishing in that he was only 15 years old. This circumstance speaks for great talent, for only a few students received a first prize immediately, among them Demersseman (then 12) and Taffanel (15). Nevertheless, little is known of his further career. He played in the Orchestre théâtre Montansier and in the concerts Pasdeloup. Miramont must have gone to Lyon in one of the following years and accepted a position in the orchestra there. However, this move must not have brought him anything good, because in 1851 L’Émancipation published an article in which he describes his predicament:
„Last Sunday’s performance was disturbed by an artistic mischief. Mr. Miramon had less macabre and more reasonable ways of asserting his rights, which we do not wish to appreciate at this time. Here is his justification. N. Tachoires
Dear Editor, In Sunday’s performance, the stage manager came to announce that the audience had missed me and I am not ungrateful enough for that. The audience has so far shown me too much benevolence, its applause is precious to me and I can never do too much to deserve it. I am only sorry that I did not foresee that the absence of a single flute could disturb the performance; I ask the audience to forgive me, and I beg them to read the letter I wrote to M. Mériel, our conductor, on the day of the performance. I think that through the mocking form of this letter, he will understand the state of exasperation in which we are almost all.
To Mr Mériel, conductor.
Dear Sir, I have a stomach damaged by the unhealthy and insufficient food to which the lack of payment has condemned me for so long. I do not want to alarm the maternal solicitude of the director by letting him know that he is putting me on the verge of dying of hunger; however, that is my situation. So I want to postpone this unpleasant moment as long as possible, and for this reason I am conserving my strength and taking a little rest. I have the honour to greet you. A victim of Article 11, Miramont”
Article 11 of the newly, in 1848, created French constitution said: “All property is inviolable. Nevertheless, the State may require the sacrifice of property for a legally established public purpose, and in return for fair and prior compensation.”
We can only speculate what happened to Miramont as a result of this article. Was he dispossessed?
In 1861, he plays one of his own compositions in a concert in Vichy. The critic praises his musical abilities, but does not think much of the composition:
“But about Mr. Miramon, who excels in rendering the most serious difficulties on his instrument, and whose flute leaves and gives way only to the purest sound, without any mixture of breath, I wondered why this artist would prefer to tackle a piece that is only pure marquetry. He calls it fantasy-caprice; my God! I can see that this composition has more to do with warbling than with art or idea; I will pass condemnation on the absence of singing, although this is really the touchstone as well as the pitfall of any good performer. But why this hustle and bustle, these intersecting atoms in music that go on without ever joining? This, it is said, is the merit and the seat of the winning difficulty: difficulty, I agree; but I do not know that music has anything in common with the tour de force of Léonard or Blondin. It charms, that is its role; poetry and music are sisters, and when I see the latter stretching all its muscles to deafen and tire the eardrum, I feel about as much pleasure as when I hear the endless poetic tirade that begins like this: Sarrazin, mon voisin etc. etc. (July 7, 1861 La Gazette)
In December of the same year he performed together with Demersseman.
Charles-Oscar (Carlos) Allard was born in Tournai/ Belgium on July 6, 1823. He must also have been an exceptionally good student, for he too received a first prize at his first concours in 1839 at the age of 16. Allard was the son of the violinist and later director of the Conservatoire Jean-Delphin Allard. After his studies, Charles went out into the world. He first moves to Madrid. There are contradictory sources about his time in Spain. On the one hand, it is claimed that he was a professor in Barcelona, others write that he joined the entourage of the politician and diplomat (Juan Gonzáles) de la Pezuela in Madrid and acted as the highest-ranking musician of the Infantry Regiment No. 2 of the Iberian Peninsula. In this position he leaves Europe in the spring of 1848 and embarks on a long journey to the Caribbean. In Puerto Rico he offers his services as a flute teacher in the small town of Ponce. From now on he is called Carlos. For the next few years it is quiet around him. Two of his sons are born in 1851 and 1852. Both will later study trombone in Paris. His daughter Maria Los Angeles is born in 1857. In the same year, Carlos appears in the illustrious company of the American pianist Jean Moreau Gottschalk, who at the time is on a concert tour of America with the fourteen-year-old Adelina Patti and her family. Adelina Patti was about to return to Europe at the beginning of 1858, and plays a farewell concert in Puerto Rico together with Gottschalk and Allard, for which Gottschalk composed a Chant des oiseaux for this trio instrumentation. Unfortunately, the score of this work is lost. After the Patti family left the country, Gottschalk and Allard toured South America together for over a year, where they performed together in many concerts despite many impassable events. I have not found much information about the concert programmes. Apart from a grand solo by Tulou (probably the one of his Concours), he certainly played his own compositions, perhaps also works by Gottschalk.
In 1859, Allard returned to Ponce and resumed his activity as a music teacher. In the 1860s, he finally returned to France with his family, where he became director of municipal music (chef de la musique municipale) in Saint-Germain-en-Lay, west of Paris, in 1866 and founded a harmony orchestra. With this harmony orchestra he performed regularly during the concert season in the music pavilion on the Île du Lac, the so-called Kiosque. The concerts often end with fireworks, and free childcare is also provided in the form of a Punch and Judy show not far from the Kiosque. Allard not only conducts but also regularly performs solo pieces on the flute and piccolo. His repertoire includes Variations on Norma, La Traviata, Demersseman’s Fantaisie sur une Mélodie de Chopin, Solo sur des motifs de la Juive, Polka des Forêts (“imitation and very picturesque and successful reproduction of all the noises that arise under the shade of the woods, from the song of the nightingale, the quail and the cuckoo, to the shots of the hunter and the poacher” (14. 7.1866 L’industriel)), and the polka La Grive and Perle de Venise for one and two piccoli respectively. He received various awards with his orchestra.
A typical concert looked like this:
1. Allegro militaire … Steenebrugen.
2. Fantaisie sur la Fille du Régiment, Soli par MM. Bedejus et Allard fils. … Donizetti.
3. Fantaisie sur Faust, Soli par MM. Bedejus, Poisot et Rebouche … Gounod.
4. L’oiseau de Paradis, polka Exécuté sur le nouvel instrument l’Ocarina, par l’Auteur. … Carlos Allard.
5. Italiana, grande fantaisie (redemandée), Soli par MM. Clauss, Bédéjus, Poisot, Allard fils et Rebuché … Baudonck.
6. Polka de Concert pour deux pistons, Exécuté par les jeunes Bédéjus et Lucas. … Renard.
Allard was dependent on donations for the realisation of the concerts. He regularly published costs and donations in the local newspaper L’Industriel de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. His name appears almost weekly in this newspaper during the concert season. Concert programmes are announced and concerts reviewed. Unfortunately, the newspaper writer is not particularly detailed in his descriptions. His reviews often do not go far beyond the usual praise. The following two reviews are an exception to this:
„To speak of a flute solo played by Mr. Carlos Allard is to say that he must have carried off the audience; this is what happened to our eminent artist performing on his instrument, a solo by Tulou, his master.“ (L’industriel 7.12.1872)
“Mr. Carlos Allard brings his flute to his lips and suddenly there is a deep silence in the crowd, the listeners suspend their breath for fear of losing a single one of those sweet notes, those pearls that are flowing in a hurry, fleeting, from his instrument, which was inert and silent a minute ago and which now seems to be animated by a divine breath. The effect is prodigious, the applause resounds with frenzy, the enthusiasm is at its height, the public is transported, and our musicians contemplate with joy and pride this conductor who gives them such sweet and honourable satisfaction.” (June 19, 1875 L’Industriel)
Judging by the descriptions, it is quite possible that Allard played the flute.
Allard did not only perform in Saint-Germain, but could also be heard from time to time in Paris, as on 16.4.1875 in the Salle Pleyel, where he played his Norma Fantasy.
In Saint-Germain Allard taught solfège and various wind instruments three evenings a week, rehearsals with the harmony orchestra took place on Tuesdays and Fridays. As a teacher, he probably demanded a lot from his pupils, as can be read in the 1895 obituary:
“If he was severe and even a little rough in his lessons. He was an artist to the core, and did not understand that music was treated with a casualness that could harm the progress of the society he was directing; but, also, how attached he was to those who responded to his care. He was no longer simply a teacher, but he made himself the father, the friend of his pupil, and if all those who owe him today what they know about music had followed his convoy, the crowd would have been much larger still. But, alas! So many defections! And how many proved that gratitude was too heavy a burden for some shoulders.” (30 November 1895, L’Industriel de Saint-Germain-en-Laye).
In 1882, he had to leave his post as music director because he got into a dispute with the mayor. The latter took offence at the fact that Allard was Belgian. A foreigner conducting the local orchestra with success could not be tolerated! It must not have been easy for Allard, who had founded the harmony orchestra himself 16 years earlier. But it was all to no avail. Allard took his best musicians with him and founded a new orchestra, the Harmonie du Commerce.
In 1891, Allard was appointed Chef de la Société Philharmonique de Saint-Germain and elected director and president of the association. He not only conducted it but also played the flute in the orchestra. He would hold these posts for four years until he died in 1895 at the age of 72 after a short illness. Many friends, pupils and colleagues attend his funeral, among them Paul Taffanel.
Jean-Théodore Pilliard was born in Troyes in 1819. He was 20 years old when he won the second price. He became Chef de musique du 3e régiment d’infanterie de marine.
The five-keyed flute played in this recording was made by the Godfroy aîné workshop. It has the serial number 4004 and was made around 1836. The flute could be called typical French as it owns Eigenschaften that are found in many French flutes of that period: a soft low and shining high octave which plays easily until C4, it is very easy to play fast staccato passages throughout the range. It has a D-foot, and keys for Bb, G#, F (no long F), D# and for the C-trill. Fork fingerings work very well, therefore keys have to be applied almost exclusively for Bb, G#, F of the low octave and the B-C-trill (the F-key should of course be used for the F#s key-fingerings). The Godfroy workshop produced hundreds of instruments per year, however, their flutes are very individual and need an individual approach. Some fingerings work better on the one than on the other, sometimes registers are either fuller or lighter, some are better in tune than the others. Of course, one has to keep in mind that every surviving flute has an individual biography. Some have been played more or held in better conditions than the others, nevertheless all have been made by hand, thus an individuality of each instrument is a logical conclusion.
The piano is a 1854 Pleyel.