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France. - Wind instruments - Expo Paris 1867

France. - Wind instruments at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1867

It is with good reason that the shiny shop windows and the instrumental panoplies of our manufacturers attract passers-by to the Exhibition: they sparkle, they shine, they provoke the eye and give impressionable eardrums something to dream about___ But is this enough for your ambition, valiant inventors, and, in the secret of your consciences, do you not feel somewhat humiliated to remember how a musician, in the past, needed only a simple lyre to build a city with solid walls! - A lost recipe, and that is a pity!

You have to find that again, gentlemen, and, however beautiful your successes are today, you can count on many more... not perhaps with the building contractors, but, for sure, in the camp of the bourgeois women, who would only ask to do without their good offices.

What on earth could he have played on the rubble of the time that would have made it so docile? and if, to obtain such results, all he needed were a few strings stretched over a tortoise shell, what would he have done with the help of the saxophones and sarrusophones of 1867, or with the magnificent reinforcement of the Érard pianos, which were out of competition!... Decidedly, it must have been in himself that this singular virtue resided, more than in the artifices of the manufacturer who had supplied him with his instrument. He was undoubtedly no less useful to his contemporaries than the generous healer, Zouave Jacob, also a musician, and playing his "baritone" part correctly, when he is not applying his faculties to treatments of a completely different nature...

Mystery here, mystery there! - It is less difficult, after all, to analyse the exhibition of our modern manufacturers.

Look: yes, really, these are the tubes with the powerful voices that suddenly exclaim as you pass and whose clear, energetic accent makes your heart leap in the middle of a boulevard on a fine day. Their enormous resonance needs the open air: enclosed, they threaten to split the wall to escape outside, and, if there were no good agreement between them, you would remain deafened by their frolics. Fortunately, harmony is in their habits; harmony is their true element: see how their pavilions are presented in good order and, silently, already form a first harmony for the eye!

The engraving opposite gives an idea of a considerable manufacture, that of the Gautrot house, on which we are given information which it is possible to use only partially here. This company is considered to be the most important commercially of all musical instrument manufacturers. Its vast workshops in Paris and Château-Thierry employ nearly six hundred workers. With the help of steam engines, it produces all kinds of instruments, in wood, copper and strings, from the most ordinary to the most sophisticated. They are there, before your eyes, and form a body.

Here are the great tenants with their lordly appearance: they seem to be aware of their dignity: the one who stands in the centre would not be easy to dislodge from this position of honour: around him, people are pressing in, closing ranks with a proud and determined air. - To the right and left are the Chambers, no doubt, and, in impeccable dress, the assembled deliberators. They wait, they listen: no one interrupts.... It is true that they often have the satisfaction of speaking all at once...

See, in the middle of the frames, the noisy percussion instruments resigning themselves to silence. The discreet stringed instruments they sit next to do not have to suffer from their fearful proximity. - Don't these poor violins still have, above their modest rooms, the bass drums and the drums of various sizes, arranged in piles like artillery projectiles? What were they looking for in the midst of all these threats of unleashed sounds? Let us hope that they will be forgiven, and that the brass giants will not abuse their lungs against the clarinets that we see on various points, modestly standing. - At least they are used to such rough caresses. - Alas, the dear clarinets, they put on a brave face; but they cannot conceal the fact that, if we love them, we also fear them! Their study requires a lot of work; those who cultivate them in private are becoming rarer every day: they are the soul of harmony music, however! Everyone knows that the family of wind instruments could not do without their beautiful, supple and brilliant timbre, like that of the violins, which in the middle of the night are replaced by mass for mass. "Without clarinets there is no salvation for civil harmony societies" as M. Th. de Lajarte says very well in an excellent brochure (Etude pratique) that he has just published on civil brass bands. << It is therefore necessary, adds our judicious colleague,' to take one's side, and to get used to this unfortunate thought: In a more or less short period of time, when the last martyrs of the clarinet will have finished their life of self-sacrifice and suffering, the last harmony bands will have lived in their turn." - Let us hope that M. de Lajarte may have been mistaken in the extreme consequences he foresees (he is already only too close to being right!...) and let us return to our showcases.

The most recent inventions, exhibited in the one we have before us, are the sarrusophones and the equitonic instruments.

Both would deserve a special description, which would take us beyond our scope.

One fact, however, is to the credit of the sarrusophone. In a comparative experiment, in the presence of the conductors of the Austrian and Prussian bands, so justly applauded in Paris last month, the German contrabassoons were compared to the sarrusophone-contrabass, played by Mr. Émile Coyon. It seems that the qualities of the sarrusophone have made an impression on the director general of the King of Prussia's Guard, Mr. Wieprecht, and that this experienced conductor intends to further enrich his orchestras with the sound of these instruments, several of which he is said to have requested from Mr. Gautrot.

An enlightened supporter of the sarrusophone and equitone instruments wrote the following, remarks that are piquant enough to be reproduced:
"Our French military orchestras would only benefit if each conductor were allowed full freedom to organise his band as he saw fit, instead of subjecting it to a uniform regulation which gives these orchestras a rather monotonous colour due to the uniformity of the timbres that compose them. Prussian and Austrian music, finding progress to be made by the use of the sarrusophone-bass, do not hesitate to adopt it, whereas French music is not allowed to introduce it into their instrumental composition, despite the services it could render them; and why? Quite simply because it is not regulation!

"Another thing: Any instrument, even if it is regulation, before it can be acquired by a French regiment, is subject to a particular marking. The most elementary logic would lead you to suppose that this stamping is a control of the value of the instrument, as a tuning, as a sound, as a good manufacture. This is not the case, and the hallmarking commission is not obliged to deal with these problems. Provided that, like the conscript, the instrument passing under the tape measure has the desired size and thickness, the sacramental sentence is pronounced for both the one and the other: - "Good for service". "The Review Board, it is assured, recognizes itself all that this system has of little rationality, because it must address to the Minister of War a report tending to change the existing state of things. "This will be a spiritual act, and one can only congratulate him on it.

The reader does not expect us to enter into many technical explanations: he would not even allow it, even if we were capable of it; but perhaps he will not be upset to find here the complete composition of a great French military music, the details of which will remind him of those well-stamped voices which he likes to hear in our squares or in a parade, when woodwinds and brass sing joyfully at the same time... We could do no better, it seems to us, than to take as our type this beautiful cohort of artists, who have brilliantly upheld our musical honour in the solemn struggle with the most distinguished military musicians of the very musical Germany. (Here and to all of them, justice has been summarily done, in due course, by a competent pen. )

It is already clear that we are talking about the music of the Garde de Paris, which has just stood tall and firm alongside the elite sent by Austria and Prussia.

In total fifty-six musicians.

Such is the constitution of this elite phalanx: once again, bravo for Mr. Paulus and for the music of the Garde de Paris. We know that, in the competition, it was particularly noticed by the foreign members of the jury, who cited it as half of their compatriots.

No one will deny that we are at the very heart of our subject.

These beautiful sonorous instruments, so valiantly held by our army virtuosos, were visible to everyone at the Exhibition. Mr. Sax provided the greatest number of them. The orchestras of our regiments, those of our amateurs, are supplied for the most part by the workshops of Mr. Sax or Mr. Gautrot. -The showcase of the latter, which was before our eyes just now for the little description we have sketched, is very beautiful, as we can see, and represents to perfection a house that is well established in its business. This does not
This does not prevent M. Adolphe Sax from having exhibited his own, monumental and magnificently furnished; nor does it prevent various colleagues of these gentlemen from having composed trophies full of taste with excellent specimens, without any doubt.

All of them have their merits, which we happily acknowledge.

It is known that Mr Adolphe Sax, artist and inventor, was awarded the grand prize for instrument making by the competent jury. This says it all.... and it would suffice, to justify this considerable honour, to invent saxophones, and the more recent invention of trumpets and trombones with 6 valves and independent tubes, a whole precious family which gives us back the excellent sonorities of the classical trumpet, with a complete chromatic range which was not in the nature of this noble instrument so regrettably abandoned.

On another day we hope to give a look at the foreign exhibitors of the same class: they should not be despised either, those who provided their singing weapons to the richly stamped music that Germany, Holland and Belgium had sent to compete in Paris with ours.

©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée