1853 – Tulou, Fantaisie sur Marco Spada Op. 101


In 1853, the Revue Musicale has only little to report about the flute students of the concours: “Teacher, M. Tulou. 1st prize, MM. Alvès and Devalois; 2nd prize, M. Laflorence. There were only three competitors in this class, and the three prizes were given unanimously.”

Martin-Édouard Alvès, born on the 1st April 1834 in Paris, was 19 years old when he won the first price at the 1853 concours. Alvès was a model pupil. He entered the flute class in the autumn of 1849 at the age of 15 and quickly made great progress. In the following three years, Tulou noted only positive things: „good worker – has made great progress in a short time; for the short time he has been in my class, he has made great progress, I have high hopes for him (1850), works hard, and the progress he has made in the short time he has been in my class, gives me hope that he will soon be a very good student; has made great progress since 6 months (1851), has accuracy in the class, works consistently – has made significant progress (1852), is zealous and works with courage – he has made a lot of progress since last year. In June 1853, shortly before the concours, Alvès was forced to cut back. Tulou noted: „has made much progress; but a chest ailment prevents him from working as hard as he would like. He is a good student“ Alvès was not the only one plagued by the disease; his classmate Laflorance was also struck by chest pains. Despite his health problems Alvès won a first price. He later played in the Orchestre Théâtre Lyrique.

Eugène-Jean Devalois, born on 10 June 1826 in Paris, was 27 years old when he won the first price at the 1853. He is the oldest documented student of Tulou’s class who finished their studies. His studies have not been without problems. He was already 19 years old when he began his studies at the Conservatoire. Tulou did not take him into his class quite voluntarily as we can read in his report from 2 December 1845. He notes: „is too old to give any hope, and above all is too little of a musician. I have kept him in the class only to satisfy the desire of the Director [Auber] and to be agreeable to the [Louis-Auguste-Michel Félicité Le Tellier?] Marquis de Louvois.“

The Marquis de Louvois was no stranger to the art world (he died in 1844, so it is strange that Tulou still felt obliged to him, or was this obligation to his nephew?). He organised concerts in his house and was a member of the “commission spéciale des théâtres royeaux” as well as of the committee of the “association des artistes-musiciens”, an association that supported poor musicians. Auber was also a member of the committee, Tulou was one of the vice-directors. Moreover, he was a loyal royalist, so it probably seemed impossible to refuse such a request.

Tulou’s concerns did not change significantly over the years, as the following reports show: „low in all; bad musician. Fair sound quality; but very difficult fingers (1846), bad musician – heavy fingers, no facility in execution – little hope (1847), little progress despite his zeal to work, goes to great lengths, without result (1848), poor musician and not very good at playing the flute, still the same – weak, his progress is still slow despite his good will (1849), despite his efforts, his progress is not very noticeable, its progress is not very significant (1850), he is a student who follows the lessons of the Conservatory with accuracy. He works hard, but his progress is slow. (1851)“

In summer 1851 Devalois finally won a second price. This seems to have given him a boost, because the following year Tulou noted: „Zealous student; has made some progress this year (1852)“ In 1853, the time had finally come and Devalois was allowed to take part in the concours. Tulou wrote in the report: „follows my class with zeal – makes good progress“, but later also „zealous student; but his progress is not very noticeable (1853)“. Against all odds, Devalois received a first prize. He fought his way through and completed his studies, not everyone succeeded in this.

His career after graduation is hardly documented. Devalois no longer appears in the press. According to Constant Pierre he later played in the Orchestre du Théâtre Lyrique.

Jean-Baptiste Laflorance, born on the 4th August 1836 in Bordeaux, was 17 years old when he won the second price in the 1853. He played in the Orchestre de l’Opéra Comique, the Concerts Danbé, in the Société des Concerts, and, from September 1876, in the Opéra.


The flute played in the video was made by the Triébert workshop in Paris around the mid-19th century. It has several trill keys which make the instrument quite heavy for the left hand. None of the concours works for the simple system flute has a trill that would require one of these extra trill keys.


1840 – Tulou, 6e Grand Solo

On 16 August 1840 Henri Blanchard reports in the Revue musicale: ” Mr. Rémusat and Brunet, pupils of M. Tulou, shared the first prize for flute, and Mr. Moreau conquered the second; these three gentlemen copied the master’s style quite well, and even read quite easily at first sight a rather easy piece in 6/8.”

Louis-Marie-Sébastian Brunet, born on 21 August 1818 in Landerneau (Finistère), was 22 years old when he won the first price at the 1840 concours. He was one of the oldest students in Tulou’s class who finished their studies. Brunet made his career in military bands. He became Chef de musique of the 42th infantery and lead the 3d Grenadiers de la Garde. There are only very few references in French newspapers. In 1853 a Brunet plays the piccolo in a concert in Lille. The Revue Musicale reports on 24 July: „The variation for the two small flutes, performed by Messrs Brunet and Magnier, was as successful as the size of the virtuosos was small. If you imagine two little gnomes chasing each other, avoiding each other in the air, making a thousand hooks and a thousand turns, you will not yet have an idea of this prodigious speed.“ On 30 October 1859 Brunot appears in the Revue Musicale as leader of the 3d Grenadiers, and in 1865 the same paper announces his composition Grande Fantaisie pour grande harmonie. Three years earlier a Madame Alexandre Bataille dedicates a piano piece Souvenir de Saint-Cloud to him. At least one of Brunets works appeared in the Journal de la Renaissance des musique militaires, a collection of works for military bands. In 1877 Brunet was appointed Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur. He got 250 Francs per semester until his death on 17 May 1895.

Bernard-Martin Rémusat, born on 4 February 1822, was 18 years old when he won the first price at the 1840 concours. He is a younger brother of Jean Rémusat who won the first price for flute in 1832. Unlike his brother no information can be found about the further career of Bernard-Martin.

Joseph-Félix-Aimé Moreau, born on 24 March 1823 in Dijon, was 17 years old when he won the second price in the 1840 concours. One year later he won the first price. Many Moreaus have studied in Paris, however, their family circumstances are not known. I didn’t find any information about his further career.

Despite the reserved enthusiasm, Blanchard provides us with interesting information about the repertoire of the Concours. Students usually played two works: one they were allowed to prepare, another they had to play at sight. In this way, different skills were tested that a trained musician had to master. According to Blanchard, the unknown work was in 6/8 time. Since Tulou’s 6me Grand Solo does not contain this time signature, it must have been a different piece. This means, that the Grands Solo was the prepared work.

The 6me Grand Solo is in A major, an unusual key for Tulou’s repertoire. This is anything but a coincidence and has an interesting background.

At the beginning of the year, the famous hearings (procès verbeaux) take place in which the following question has to be answered: Is it appropriate to establish a special class for the Boehm flute at the Conservatoire? This question had been suggested by Victor Coche, who was already teaching the Boehm flute in his preparatory class at the Conservatoire, as he mentions in a letter in France musicale. The hearing goes through four stages, of which minutes have been preserved (Michèle Tellier, reproduces them in full in her excellent dissertation on Tulou). They paint a somewhat more objective picture than Pontécoulant does in his well-known report in the Revue musicale.

31 December 1839: A jury (professors of composition, harmony, singing, oboe and horn) discuss the above question. Several members appreciate the advantages of the new flute and feel that one should not stand in the way of the artistic development process. Another member feels that the question should be answered negatively, as he doubts that the salaries of the other professors would then be increased with a newly created class. Moreover, others might get the idea of demanding an extra class for their instruments as well. The jury concludes to hear Tulou at the next meeting.

7 January 1840: Tulou is of the opinion that the Boehm flute has by no means as many advantages as its advocates claim. He gives numerous music examples that were more difficult to play on the Boehm flute. Also, in his opinion, the tone is not as good. Furthermore, he argues that those who play the new flute, i.e. Coche, Dorus and Camus, would modify the instrument so that the others could not play it. Since the mechanism is not yet fully developed, the flute cannot be judged. The jury then decides by seven votes to two that further musicians must be heard. Among them are Dorus, Coche, Camus as well as Coninx and Frisch (“Frich”), who have given up the Boehm flute again. A week later Coninx, Frisch, Coche and Dorus attend the hearing.

14 January 1840: Louis-Joseph Coninx (ca. 36 years old) reports that he had tried out the new flute for two weeks (!), but that the tone seemed to him too faulty, the first octave too hard and the flute too unbalanced in its entirety. In addition, the mechanism seemed difficult to him, as it often prevented the finger action. Besides, he could also play everything on the old flute. Robert Frisch (ca. 35) is of the opinion that the old flute is better in tune. The tone of the Boehm flute is faulty and not as pleasant as that of the old one. He is also able to play all the works composed for the new flute on the old flute, which is why he challenges the supporters of the Boehm flute to play passages that he could play on the old flute without difficulty. Now Coche (33) presents his Boehm flute, which he modified slightly together with Buffet. He explains why he prefers it and plays passages that he finds unplayable on the old flute. Then the jury shows him a flute by Dorus. Coche recognises that the mouth hole and some keys and springs are different. Then Dorus appears. He too explains the changes he has made, plays some passages at the jury’s request and, like the students in the concours, is also asked to play a piece at sight, which he did with the best will. Then he is asked to play some passages on the old flute, which he also did. Camus didoesd not present himself to the jury. After all the demonstrations, the jury realises that the tone of the old flute is purer and more pleasant. They are left with the question of whether the compositions for the Boehm flute can also be played on the old flute and want to examine Coche’s claim in a final hearing.

18 January 1840: Coche presents nine passages. Tulou, Coninx and Frisch play them with quite (this word was added later) ease and prove that their instrument can stand up to the demands. The commission then decides the hearing is over. The jury recognises that all the Boehm flutes presented to them differed from each other, that is, they did not form a unit either in mechanism or tone. And since they learn from Tulou that he himself is engaged in renewing the flute, without rejecting the new system, and that he will shortly make his flûte perfectionnée available for a thorough examination, they decide, in the interest of art, to await the result promised by such an excellent artist as Tulou. The director asks Coche’s question again: Is it appropriate to establish a special class for the Boehm flute at the Conservatoire? The result is unanimous: all nine members decide to postpone the clarification of the question.

Whether there was a thorough examination of his new flûte perfectionnée is not known.

Pontécoulant gives a far more emotional account of the trial. He describes Coche as an egocentric, almost narcissistic person, Dorus as an intimidated young man completely devoted to Tulou. Both would have prevented the introduction of the Boehm flute because of their personalities. As the protocols show, this is not entirely true.

But what is it about the key of A major? In the same article, Pontécoulant describes the disadvantages of the Boehm flute:

It is claimed that Boëhm’s flute is more in tune, more sonorous and easier: these are three points that Mr Tulou formally denies, and here is how. Firstly, he assumes that a wind instrument cannot be in tune, strictly speaking, and that it is up to the performer not to play out of tune, which, of course, is very difficult on the flute, because of the mobility of the embouchure; and yet it is this same mobility that gives the means of immediately rectifying defective notes; but for this to happen one must have, as they say, the right ear. There is only one way to play in tune on the flute, and that is to have two scales, which is not the case on Boëhm’s flute, that is to say, to have enough altered notes to be able to adjust the sensitive notes that come up.

As one writes for the flute most often in the keys of D and G, the F sharp and B natural have been raised in order to get the leading notes in tune; but as there are no other fingerings to put these two notes back in their proper places, what happens to this momentary correctness when a G flat or a C flat is needed? M. Tulou also claims that one would play much more out of tune than on the old flute if one performed a piece in A major; moreover, the tonality of A major on Boëhm’s flute is of a shrill tonality, and as it no longer has any relation to the tonalities of C, F, or flats, it results in an inequality that hurts the ear when one modulates.“

It almost seems as if the 6me Grand Solo in A major, with a middle section in C major, is a proof of his theory, a sign to the Boehm flutists that he has won the case.

For this recording, the flute no° 3084 by Clair Godfroy aîné was used. The piano is a 1829 Pleyel.

1835 – Tulou, 2d Grand Solo

In his report about the 1835 concours Fétis writes in the Revue Musicale on 23 August: „Mr. Tulou has done wonders this year; four of his students have received distinctions. Two prizes and two accessits were given in his class. It is unfortunate that the same superiority was not found in all the wind instrument classes.“

Jean-Michel Forestier, born on 9 August 1812 in Udine, Italy, was 23 years old when he won the first price at the 1835 concours. He was one of the oldest students in Tulou’s class who finished their studies. He later played flute in the Théâtre Italien and was conductor of the Orchestre de la Garde Impériale. Only little is known about his concert career.  In 1853 he became member of the Association des Artistes Musiciens, a society that supported musicians. Forestier had five children. Two of his daughters, Fanny and Jeanne, had both a relationship with the comedian Firmin Léautaud, known for his numerous affairs and regular ‚guest’ in the Parisian press. Jeanne and Firmin are the parents of the writer and theater critic Paul Léautaud.

Jacques Joseph Henricet, born on 21 February 1815 in Bourg, was 20 years old when he won the second price at the 1835 concours. A year later he won the first price. He continued private studies with Eugène Walckiers who dedicated his op. 70, published in 1838, to him. Henricet was later employed to the 8. Légion Garde Nationale. In the late 1840s he moved to Napoléon-Vendée (today La Roche-sur-Yon), a small town in western France, nearby his hometown Bourg, were he worked as music teacher. In 1851 he founded the cercle musical, a concert series for distinguished amateurs and professional musicians. His son, a pianist, lived there as well. Jacques’ brother Nicolas, who studied the French horn at the Conservatoire and played first horn at the Opéra comique, joined them some years later. 

Louis-Antoine Brunot, born on the 16th November 1820 in Lyon, was 14 years old when he got the first Accessit at the 1835 concours. Two years later he won the second price, and in 1838 he finally got the first price. According to Pontécoulant (1840) Brunot abandoned the Boehm flute after having studied it. He might have adopted it later (in 1856 he played a solo by Boehm „perfectly“ – a hint?). 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 Pasdeloup. 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 and arranged airs from Oberon for flute. There is a manuscript of an Adagio in the National Library of France (bnf). Although he appeared in the press from time to time, nothing was written about his playing, except the fact that he was an excellent flute player. 

Paul-Mérédic Constans, born on 20th April 1821 in Versailles, was 14 years old when he got the first Accessit at the 1835 concours. One year later he won the second, and in 1837 the first price. I didn’t find any information about his further career.

The five-keyed flute used in that video was made by Clair Godfroy aîné (no° 1737) around 1832. Its third octave is extremely light and very comfortable to play. This, however, comes with a price. The flute has a very weak low octave, and its intonation is quite difficult. Alternative fingerings do not always help, sometimes none of Tulou’s fingerings work. For example, he gives three fingerings for the F# third octave: XXO/XOO as the usual one, XOO/XOO/o and XOX/XOO as leading notes. On many French flutes the usual F# is low, but here the fingering is extremely low, just as the other fingerings are extremely high. As I wanted to stick to the historical fingerings I had to correct the intonation with the embouchure instead which was not always comfortable but possible. Other notes could not be corrected with alternative fingerings such as D2 (extremely high), E2 and A2 (very high), or F#1 and F#2 (very low), so I constantly had to turn the flute in and out. After two weeks of practicing (next to five other original flutes) I got used to it, and very much enjoyed playing the instrument.

The piano is a 1829 Pleyel.

1832 – Tulou, 1er Grand Solo

In his report about the 1832 concours Fétis writes in the Revue Musicale on 11 August: „The flute competition has rarely been so brilliant; four students, all very young, or to say still children, did great honour to Mr Tulou, their teacher, in this competition. These students are Mr Rémusat and Alkan, who shared the first prize, and Bisetzky and Bannières [sic], who also shared the second prize. Mr Rémusat has an embouchure of the finest quality and a brilliant, full-bodied execution. There is a great deal of clarity of execution in Mr Alkan’s playing, but his sound quality is less beautiful than that of Mr Rémusat. Mr Bisetzky appears to us to have well deserved the second prize which was awarded to him; but it seems to us that it is rather an injustice to make him share it with Mr Bannières, whose playing is less clear and whose tone is less powerful.“

Jean Rémusat, born on 11 April 1815 in Bordeaux, was 17 years old when he won the first price at the 1832 concours. His life was quite colorful. He played one year in the Opéra (1/1/1847 – 1/2/1848), was engaged at the theatre of the Queen in London, moved back to Paris in 1853 and played at the Théâtre Lyrique, before he went again to London where he became director of an opera company in 1859, the same post at the opera of her majesty. In 1860 he played concerts in Bordeaux and Paris. In Bordeaux he became flute player and chef d’orchestre at the theatre. In 1863 he founded a series of popular classical music. Than he moved to Shanghai where organized concerts as well. He published around 80 works. He must have been an outstanding flutist as he is counted as one of Tulou’s best students.

Ernest Alkan, born on 11 July 1816 in Paris, was 16 years old when he won the first price at the 1832 concours. A year before he won the second price. Ernest was born into a musical family, all his siblings studied music, among them his brother, pianist and composer Charles-Valentin Alkan, the most famous family member. Ernest later played in the Orchestre du Gymnase.

Joseph-Bertrand Bagnières, born on the 19 June 1814 in Paris, was 18 years old when he won the second price at the 1832 concours. He later played in the Orchestre de la Porte Saint Martin and the Variétés.

Antoine-François-Élie Bisetzki, born on  5 July 1817 in Saint-Germain, was 18 years old when he won a second price at the 1832 concours. A year later he won the first price. He played in the Variétés, but must have stopped playing the flute at some point, as he became employee of the railway service chemin de fer du Nord. Antoine-François-Élie might be a son of Antoine Joseph Bisetzki who studied the flute with Hugot & Wunderlich. He became répétiteur de flûte at the Concervatoire, composed quite many flute pieces and augmented one of the many editions of Devienne’s flute methods. It was published in around 1822.

In 1840, all four flute players appear in an article about the famous competition between Tulou and Coche (simple system flute versus Boehm flute). Bagnières and Bisetzki have refused to adopt the Boehm flute. Rémusat and Alkan abandoned the Boehm flute after having studied it.

The four-keyed flute used in that video was made by Clair Godfroy aîné (no° 1097) around 1830. The piano is a 1829 Pleyel.