Plaisir d’Amour was very popular and widely known in France in the 19th century. Today, most people probably know the piece in Elvis Presley’s version (Can’t help falling in love). The romance has its origins in the 18th century. Jean-Paul-Égide Martini wrote it in 1784, at that time it was entitled Romance du Chevrier. For the text, he used a romance from the novel Célestine, nouvelle espagnole from the collection Les six nouvelles de M. de Florian by Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian.
Various arrangements of the song were written in the 19th century. In 1829, a few years before Tulou, Berbiguier wrote flute variations on this song (Fantaisie avec Variations op. 91). One year after Tulou, Berlioz wrote a version for baritone and orchestra.
The composers chose different indications for their works. Martini marked it Romance. doloroso, Berbiguier chose Andante lento /dolce, Tulou molto lento, and Berlioz wrote Adagio. Tulou probably copied the term from the songbook Échos de France, recueil des plus célèbres airs, romance, duos etc., published by Durand & Fils in 1853 (p. 88, picture).
With his indication, Tulou probably chose a relatively slow execution. The slow tempo benefits the first variation, which he wants in the same tempo. Before the theme with variations in F major, Tulou sets two introductory parts, beginning with a recitative and followed by an Allegro moderato. Both introductions are wonderfully suited to freer rubato playing. The theme is followed by three variations in different characters, a graceful first variation followed by a staccato variation and a third poco animato variation with virtuoso passages. The finale is a polonaise in D major. In the middle of this finale, Tulou briefly flashes Spanish colours. Does he know the origin of the romance? The key of D major brings ease and light into play, and the piece ends in this positive atmosphere.
Alfred-Jean-Baptiste Lemaire‘s life has been the most extraordinary of all students in Tulou’s class. He did not become a flute player, instead he was sent far away to Iran where he re-organized the military music, founded a conservatory for music, financed the Iranian pavillon at the 1889 world exhibiton in Paris and composed the first Iranian anthem. His life has been researched thoroughly by Pascal Marion whose article on Lemaire you find here. I cannot add a lot to his detailled research except Lemaire’s first biography, published on 27 July 1885 in La France. It is written in rather nationalist colours but nevertheless informative:
“Who could ever have dreamed of our military artists being promoted in the same way as a former deputy chief of the guard, now a major general in the Persian army?
Here is the curious odyssey of this character: Born in 1842 in Aire-sur-la-Lys (Nord), Lemaire (Alfred-Jean-Baptiste), entered the Paris Conservatoire in 1855, from which he graduated in 1863 as a laureate for flute and harmony.
He was deputy chief of music in the voltigeurs de la garde, when Marshal Niel, Minister of War, offered him a mission in Persia, where the Shah had set out to reorganise his military orchestras. The young sous-chef hastened to accept and left for the land of the Thousand and One Nights, where he still is.
On arriving in Tehran, Lemaire found the music of His Iranian Majesty in the most pitiful state. An Italian sailor, a fairly good cook and somewhat of a lout, had seen fit to brazenly abuse his sovereign’s harmonic incompetence to usurp the lucrative position of superintendent of fine arts. But the pot-spoon was the only instrument he ever managed to manipulate properly.
There came a time when the imperial orchestra became so cacophonous that the prince’s hard ears were themselves astonished; the Shah deftly had the European residents, who had long been bursting with laughter in their uniforms, questioned, and he soon gained a lamentable conviction.
Such was the artistic situation in Iran when Lemaire arrived there, his mind resolute and his heart throbbing with hope. One can guess that an artist fresh out of the Paris Conservatory and twice a French trooper was not long in finding his feet. In a few years of hard work and effort, M.Lemaire restored, or rather instituted from top to bottom, the musical education, he organized the imperial orchestra and he reformed all the music of the Persian army, which is now no worse than elsewhere.
The Shah, appreciating his services, showered him with favours and rades. M. Lemaire, who has lived in Teheran for seventeen years, is now a major general in charge of the superior direction of the Conservatory and the military music of the Persian Empire, in full possession of the confidence of Nasser-ed-Din, and at the head of a respectable fortune.
It should be added that he rendered innumerable and unforgettable services to the Europeans whom the hazards of life led to him through the deserts of Asia Minor. Moreover, he was a patriot in introducing the teaching of our language into the curriculum of his schools, and he thus effectively worked for the development of French influence in the East.
We must hope that one of these days he will be able to add to his titles that of legionnaire. Gambetta wanted all missionaries, religious or lay, to be supported and encouraged:
“Whatever their habit,” he said in his powerful voice, “all these valiant men are the travellers’ clerks of the Fatherland.”
Henry Thorpe was born in Landour (oriental India) on 15 August 1845. In the 19th century, Landour was a British military base, and is now owned by the Indian military. It can be assumed that Henry’s father was a member of the British military or was a missonary. So how did such a pupil end up in the Paris flute class? Since there is no information about his parents and his early life, we can only speculate. It is possible that his family had connections to France, perhaps Henry had a French mother. We have to assume that he knew the French language, as there are no reports of language difficulties. In March 1857, at the age of 12, Henry began his studies at the Paris Conservatoire. 1857 is a pivotal year for the British Army, it went down in history as the year of the Indian Rebellion. Whether the coming unrest in this year was the reason for the Thorpe family’s departure is not known. What is known is that Henry must have an exceptional talent for the flute, as Tulou speaks enthusiastically about his new pupil:
“has great musical intelligence; gives great expectations: he has made great progress in the short time he has been in my class; (…) gives me the most brilliant expectations, very good musical organisation“ (June, December 1857).
Only five months after beginning his studies, he is almost thirteen years old, Henry takes part in the concours and receives a second accessit. Tulou’s enthusiasm continued the following year:
“a lot of future; a lot of facility, a beautiful tone, extremely distinguished pupil, will, I hope, get a justly deserved first prize (1858), bright hopes (1859)”.
Despite all the high expectations, Henry wins a second prize. It was to be another three years before he would take part in a concours again. In 1859 Tulou retired and Dorus took over the flute class. It is likely that Henry is now taught on the Boehm flute. In 1861 he finally wins a first prize. The press speaks very highly of him and his new teacher Dorus.
„This class has completely recovered since M. Tulou left the Conservatoire, and the flute students have finally come out of the rut in which the other wind instrument classes are always buried. Among the seven competitors, presented by M. Dorus, we noticed especially Messrs Thorpe and Génin, who very ably performed the piece composed especially for the occasion by M. Henri Altès, M. Dorus’ colleague at the Opéra. Messrs Thorpe and Génin are the only students, of all those crowned in this session, who truly deserved their first prize.“ (La Causerie: journal des café et des spectacles, 18 August 1861).
Henry remains at the Conservatoire and enrolls in harmony. In 1865 he receives an accessit for this. By now he is 21 years old and begins to earn a living as a musician. There is little information about the following years. A concert report in the newspaper La Plage: feuille trouvillaise of 9 September 1866 praises his beautiful flute playing:
“A fantasy by Tulou on Marco Spada was brilliantly performed on the flute by Mr. Thorpe. This young artist has great qualities; his playing shines above all in rapidity, clarity and elegance. Mr. Thorpe’s success was complete.”
For the next 11 years, things went quiet around Thorpe. Presumably, in the 1870s, he enters the service of Baron Paul von Derwies (1826-1881), a heavily wealthy art-loving entrepreneur. Von Derwies plays the piano himself and builds his winter residence Valrose in Nice in the 1860s (today the neo-Gothic castle belongs to the Université Côte-d’Azur). In 1872, the Wagner fan forms an orchestra based on the Bayreuth model, initially with 35 musicians. Thorpe may have been there from the beginning.
In 1877 Thorpe plays a concert in the concert series Concerts populaires in Marseille. The newspaper L’Abeille reports on 24 November:
“Mr. Thorpe, in a very pretty pastorale for flute, was able to highlight the great qualities that distinguish him: a suave and pearly style of playing, and a certainty of passage work that is always clear and brilliant. Bravo to the artist, who was greatly applauded by the audience.”
In the following years, Thorpe could be seen in concerts of various associations, such as the Société des concerts populaires, Société des concerts classique or the Concerts de l’Association artistique. From about 1884 he plays the flute in the city orchestra (Orchestre Municipale) of Marseille. Thorpe plays solos in orchestral works such as the Arlésienne Suite by Georges Bizet or Orphée by Gluck and also appears as a soloist. His repertoire includes works by Briccialdi (Fantaisie), Boehm (Grand air varié), Demersseman (Air varié, Solo sur une mélodie de Chopin), Reicherck (Mélancholie – grand air variété), Popp (Ave Maria, Chanson de Bohème) or Damaré (Le Rossignol de l’Opéra).
Only a few concert reviews report on his playing. In most cases, the reviews are positive. On 29 January 1885, Le Mémorial des Pyrenées wrote an interesting report:
“Mr. Thorpe once more displayed and appreciated his talent on the flute. The instrument did not seem to be up to the soloist’s standard, and this is indeed regrettable; this is probably because the programme had made it a rhyme to struggle (lutte) by spelling it with two t’s. [This play on words is probably aimed at the two words lutter (to struggle) and luter (to lute). Probably Thorpe had tried to repair his flute during the concert]. In any case, Mr. Thorpe “struggled victoriously, and the applause proved it.
It is doubtful that Thorpe earned much in his life and could regularly buy a new instrument. So it was probably getting on in years and let him down in this concert.
Like his colleagues Demersseman (concours 1845) and Duvergès (concours 1856), Thorpe did not live long and died around 1887, aged 42 at the most.
The flute in this video is a flûte perfectionnée, made in Nonon’s workshop. Tulou announced his plan to perfect the flute as early as 1840 during the procès verbaux that took place to answer the question whether the Boehm flute should be taught in the Conservatoire. With this move he was able to convince the commission not to accept the Boehm flute at the Conservatoire for the time being. However, it should take ten years until the flûte perfectionnée came onto the market. Why? After the trial, Tulou was in a very comfortable situation. He won the trial. Victor Coche gave a very bad picture of himself and his model of the Boehm flute made by Buffet jeune, and Vincent Dorus, a rising star in the Paris flute world, adapted the conical Boehm flute (model 1832) to the ideal sound of Tulou. So for the time being there was no reason to continue to perfect the flute. In 1847 a new type of flute, the cylindrical Boehm flute, appeared that could become a lot more dangerous for Tulou. Unlike ten years ago, the Boehm flute in Paris followed just one standard model (in 1840 the commission criticized that there was no standard Boehm model). Tulou’s former criticism that the construction of the Boehm flute was not yet fully developed did not apply here. Furthermore, Dorus was now named in the same breath as Tulou, and if a Dorus was playing the new model, what’s to stop other flute players from doing the same? Tulou may have observed the situation for some time before stepping in and developing his own perfected flute. In 1851, he was already 65 years old, he published his “long-awaited” flute method and presented his new flute at the same time.
Jacques Nonon has been the foreman of Tulou’s workshop for more than 20 years when in 1853 he decided to leave and open his own workshop. (I recommend to read the article by René Pierre on flutes by Tulou and Nonon in his blog. He has done fabulous research on that matter!)
Nonon not only copied Tulou’s flûte perfectionnée but also tried to optimise the key system. In 1854, he submitted a patent for several improvements to the flute, and expanded it in 1855. The innovations include a double key for the low C# (it served to raise the low D), trill keys for C-D and D-E, mounted on an axle, and F and F# keys also mounted on an axle. In addition, he invented a mechanism that allowed the key and the lever to be placed on the same side. This invention was used for the long trill keys (C-D, D-E). None of the flutes known today features all the innovations. Apart from the F and F# keys mounted on an axle, none of the other inventions seem to have become established.
The flute used in this video, from the collection of René Pierre, is the only flûte perfectionnée known to date that has Nonon’s patented trill keys. For the flute player, the new mechanism does not change much, because it has no particular influence on the fingering or the tone. In terms of tone, the flûtes perfectionnées are very different from their predecessors. They have a much fuller tone, especially in the lower octave.