The Non-measured Preludes of Jacques-François Gallay


One of the most recognized nineteenth-century horn teachers is Jacques-François Gallay (1795-1864). Gallay studied with Louis-François Dauprat (1787-1868) at the Paris Conservatory, entering his studio at the relatively late age of 25. In addition to performing as an operatic and chamber musician, Gallay succeeded Dauprat at the Conservatory, serving on the faculty from 1842 until his death in 1864. He wrote a great method for the natural horn that is little used today (I will be including a number of exercises from this method in several upcoming publications), solo and ensemble works, and quite few etudes. Of those, the Op. 27 Préludes méasurés et non méasurés are perhaps the most widely loved and used today, although I also own and use to an extent the Op. 13, Op. 43, Op. 53, Op 57, and Op. 58 studies as well. Of those, I believe the Thirty Studies, Op. 13 and the Twelve Studies Op. 57 for Second Horn see the most use.

For those unfamiliar with the non-measured preludes, they really are very different than anything else in the horn etude literature. Much is left up to the performer in terms of interpretation. Teachers write music to fill a need; I have heard that these were composed to prepare students for a barrier exam in musicality at the Paris Conservatory, but I don’t know if that is a completely accurate statement, as it did not come up in the recent dissertation on these works. But they are excellent for developing control and musicality.

Which leads us to the link of the day, the recent dissertation on Gallay is online! The History and Pedagogy of Jacques-François Gallay’s Non-Measured Preludes for Horn, Op. 27, Nos. 21-40 was completed by Scott Russell in 2004 for the DA degree at Ball State. [NOTE: The file is a PDF of the complete document]. It is a very interesting project and worth looking over. I particularly found the full text (in the appendix) of his interview with Richard Seraphinoff to be of interest, a number of insights are presented.

In terms of modern editions, the Sansone edition from 1960 (currently published by Southern) is one of the most accurate. Russell notes that it “is basically a [mechanical] reproduction of the Gallet/Colombier edition,” the earliest available, dating to 1933/36 but most likely based on the original printing plates of the first edition. As explained by Richard Seraphinoff in the interview,

… that was the way printing was done in those days. In the Dauprat Method book, his first edition which was what this music was re-printed from [for the new Birdalone edition] was by a company Dauprat owned a share in. It was called Souder & Company, and then they sold the plates to somebody called Schoenenberger. The plates made the rounds again until they were just so worn out they made bad prints. I think the same thing happened with a lot of these etudes ….

If you don’t have enough summer projects going already, becoming familiar with the Gallay non-measured preludes would be a great one. The other thing to note, and many modern hornists find this hard to believe, is that these were written for natural horn! If you are up for an extra challenge, doing these works on natural horn is worth the effort.

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