Before Farkas: The Dufrasne (Mercier) Routine, Part II

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As I noted in Part I, a new publication of the Dufrasne Routine was recently put out in The Complete Hornist series. In the acknowledgements editor Thomas Bacon notes that his source was “an old photocopy of a handwritten copy done by Bill Mercier, another student of Dufrasne,” also stating that this was a “complete practice routine” used daily by Dufrasne “at the peak of his performing career.”

Having both publications in hand the first step is a simple comparison of content. They are musically identical and laid out nearly the same way. The main difference is that the Bacon edition has added meter and bar lines to those exercises that lacked meter and bar lines. The markings as to performance suggestions are nearly the same. One that is quite different actually is number 2 which was quoted in the part I in the original edition and also is excerpted below from the new edition. This shows also the comparison of the notation in the original publication and in the later publication.

It would seem that the source cited and used by Bacon is in fact the guts of Tonal Flexibility Studies for French Horn by William Mercier, which must have come to him in the form of a Xerox copy. The published version has the visual look of a handwritten copy and it was obviously done by William Mercier who was cited as the source. It would seem also that Bacon must not have had access to the copyright or dedication pages of the source version to know it had been published. But Bacon could also have used a different handwritten version by Mercier, perhaps an earlier draft, that corresponds closely to the published version as his source; clearly as excerpted in the musical examples found in these two articles the instructions on the exercises are slightly different and the published Mercier version lacks bar lines in some exercises.

Now that we have these details sorted out in front of us then the question would be who the actual author is. In the Mercier version on the dedication page it states that the book is dedicated to Louis Dufrasne “Whose studies comprise a large part of this book.” So while it may largely be materials used by Dufrasne, I am not sure we can say it is actually his routine knowing now that it is actually a version of a Dufrasne routine by William Mercier. Dufrasne inspired, yes; by Dufrasne, not really.

I think of it this way. Let us say that a few years after I pass on one of my former students tries to put together an “Ericson Routine.” I honestly would not have the slightest idea what they might come up with. At times I have used pretty set routines but at present I warm up somewhat differently every day. The “Ericson Routine” could be full of exercises I do now or once did often, but which ones? It might end up being a routine I really like but in the end it would be up to that later editor, not me, to decide what was published as the Ericson Routine.

That all being said it is still an interesting routine, nicely printed and easily available. Those interested should purchase the Bacon version. It is great to see an historic and rare resource such as this back in print from 1948, it is an especially interesting relic of  American horn pedagogy from the time before the Farkas book.

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