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Jean Delphin Alard: Les maîtres classiques du violon - George Kennaway

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A collection of 56 violin works edited by Alard.

Jean Delphin Alard: Les maîtres classiques du violon 

Jean Delphin Alard’s (1815—1888) collection of solo violin pieces, Les maîtres classiques du violon (hereafter Lmc), published in 56 parts in the period 1862—1883, took much longer to be completely published than David’s comparable collection, the Hohe Schule (1867-1872). The latter's title pages clearly show that that collection was planned from the outset (for works and composers in common, see Overlap of David's Hohe Schule and Alard's Les maîtres classiques - George Kennaway). Only with the completion of Alard’s second series, by Schott, did theMaîtres classiques cover page include a list of all the works included. Earlier items in Lmc were published by Edmond Gérard with plate numbers that included the number of the individual item in the series: thus, for example, number 1, Corelli’s ‘Follia’ sonata, has the plate number C.M.9521 (no.1). A similar system was used with the songs in the series edited by Pauline Viardot-Garcia, L'école classique du chant, where. for example, plate no. 9033 corresponds to song no. 33 - the success of this collection was given as a justification for publishing Lmc(see the Preface to Alard's Les maîtres classiques du violon). [Note on Gérard's Alard plate numbers] Gérard appears to have published the first issue of the whole series, and later title pages clarify that this was to be the first of four such series, published at regular intervals—the title page of no. 5, Stamitz’s Divertimento No. 1, offers 'Publication complète divisée en 4 séries | Chaque série composée de 50 morceaux paraîtra d’année en année'. 

The front matter of each issue included not only the publisher’s preface (Preface to Alard's Les maîtres classiques du violon) but a short biographical note about the composer and a brief summary of performance details, the ‘Observations générales (see below for English translation)’. Gérard’s versions give this in French only; Schott gives French and German versions (and Schott does not include the publisher’s preface). These remarks are identical for each piece in the collection, and reinforce the claim made on the title page: ‘Collection de morceaux choisis […] avec le style, le phrasé, l’expression, les doigtés, et les coups d’archet propres à l’interprétation traditionnelle de ces œuvres’. However, in some cases the biographical material also includes performance advice for the specific work. This is often expressed in general terms and rarely includes specific technical advice. Thus, in the case of Tartini's 'Devil's Trill' sonata (Lmc no. 3), Alard advises: 

Le Larghetto affetuoso doit se jouer avec expression et simplicité. Le Tempo giusto avec largeur et noblesse; le détaché assez allongé, onctueux et sans sécheresses. Dans le dernier morceau les suites de trilles demandent à être bien accentuées. [The larghetto affetuoso should be played with expression and simplicity. The tempo giusto with breadth and nobility; the détaché quite extended, smooth and without dryness. In the last movement the series of trills needs to be well accented.] 

Complete list of Alard's performance notes 

The original scheme for four series of fifty works each was not realised, but in the end a total of 56 works were published. The first ten numbers appeared in 1862, and the next ten the following year. This rate of production was not sustained – nos. 34-38 were published in 1868, and no. 41 in 1873 (according to accession dates for the copies at the British Library). Gérard’s elaborate title page, bearing the names of violinist-composers inscribed on the pillars at either side, includes the names of composers such as Habeneck and Spohr, but their works never materialised. The plate numbers of the later publications are disrupted: as far as no. 41 they reach 9561, but no. 42 is C. M. 11096. This sequence runs as far as no.47, C.M. 11101. From no. 48 to no. 50, plate numbers run consecutively from 11183-11185. Each series was originally to have been arranged chronologically, and this plan was observed in the earlier publications: 

  • 1-10: Corelli—Beethoven
  • 11-20: Bach—Baillot
  • 21-30: Corelli—Paganini
  • 31-40: Bach—Baillot

However, later issues abandoned this scheme. From no. 41 onwards there is no discernible chronological sequence, so that the series nos. 41-50 begins with Campagnoli, and concludes with Bach and Boccherini, and the last six items (nos. 51-56) begin with Senaillé and end with two sonatas by Handel. 

The series was also published by Schott, with the first few numbers announced in the Hofmeister Monatsbericht in December 1863 entitles  Die klassischen Meister des Violinspiels. It seems that the Schott versions appeared roughly 6 months to a year after the Gérard ones.(Hofmeister does not list any Gérard publications at all). Alard’s collection, therefore, had begun publication in both France and Germany some four years before the first instalments of David’s Hohe Schule appeared in May 1867. The last item, no. 56 (Handel’s violin sonata no. 13), was published by Schott in 1883. Schott later published 10 items from the collection arranged for viola by Heinrich Dessauer, c.1900 (nos. 1, 7, 12, 14, 24, 33, 47, 50, 53, and 55). At least some items from Lmc were published in Italy by Ricordi. No. 30, Paganini’s sonata op. 3 no. 12, was published with an Italian version of Gérard’s title page (minus the series number) and with the text re-engraved. The plate number, 36588, suggests an engraving date of 1864 (in Ricordi’s case, publication could be up to a year later than the date when the work was assigned to an engraver, which was when the plate number was allocated). At some point Schott took over publication, using either Gérard’s plates or engraving their own (or at least replacing the plate numbers). Numbers 51-56 appear to have been published by Schott only; no. 51, a sonata by Senaillé, uses Gérard’s title page but with Schott’s details replacing Gérard's. It is clear that Schott did not normally re-use Gérard’s plates, but engraved their own, for although the musical texts are substantially the same, they differ in many small details of layout and expression markings. A good example is no. 40 in the series, Baillot’s Air russe (GérardSchott). The key explaining bowing markings is positioned differently, the dotted line marking the extent of the passage to be played in the D string differs, the tempo indications use abbreviations in Gérard’s version, a crescendo hairpin in b.3 of variation I has been omitted in Schott, and Gérard’s, strictly speaking superfluous, quarter-note rest at the beginning of the variation has been deliberately removed and the layout of the line adjusted. 

Alard's collection, unlike David's, did not carry any reference to conservatoire use, and ultimately it was David’s collection which was to prove more influential in this way. Pupils of Sainton and Sauret at the Royal Academy of Music learned several pieces from the Hohe Schule, and Auer mentions three of them in his Violin Masterworks and Their Interpretation, probably those which he taught in St. Petersburg. But Lmc was the first such series of edited works to be produced in France or Germany (the annotations are much more extensive than those in Deldevez's Pièces diverses of 1857), and it may well have suggested the idea of a similar, albeit less ambitious and more focused, project to David. 


1. Corelli: La Folia

2. Bach: E major Partita

3. Tartini: Sonata, Le Trille du Diable. 

4. Leclair: Sonata, Le tombeau 

5. Stamitz: Divertimento 1. Duo pour violon seul

6. Viotti: Concerto no. 24

7. Gaviniés: Sonata

8. Mozart: Sonata in B flat major K.378

9. Beethoven: Romance in F op. 50

10. Paganini: Sonata no. 1 op. 2

11. Anon (?Baillot): La romanesca

12. Porpora: Sonata no. 9

13. Tartini: Sonata no. 10

14. Nardini: Sonata no. 1

15. Pugnani: Sonata no. 1

16. Viotti: Concerto no. 22

17. Mozart: Concerto in E flat K.268

18. Beethoven: Sonata in C minor op. 30 no. 2  

19. Kreutzer: La Molinara

20. Baillot: 'Je suis Lindor'

21. Corelli: Sonata op. 5 no. 1

22. Bach: Sonata no. 1

23. Locatelli: Le labyrinthe

24. Leclair: Sonata no. 3

25. Barbella: Sonata no. 2 

26. Chabran: Sonata no. 5

27. Manfredi: Sonata no. 6

28. Mozart: Sonata in G K.379

29. Beethoven: Romance op. 40 

30. Paganini: Sonata no. 12

31. Bach: Sonata no. 4

32. Porpora: Sonata no. 1

33. Francoeur: Sonata no. 4

34. Guillemin: Sonata no. 2

35. Stamitz: Divertimento no. 2

36. Lolli: Sonata op. 9 no. 6

37. Chevalier de St. Georges: Sonata no. 3

38. Campagnoli: 4 Preludes

39. Kreutzer: Concerto no. 13, Letter A

40. Baillot: Air Russe

41. Campagnoli: 2 Fugues op. 10 

42. Blasius: Sonata no. 1

43. Mondonville: Sonata op. 4 no. 5

44. Robineau: Sonata no. 3

45. Dauvergne: Sonata no. 6

46. Ferrari: Sonata no. 2

47. Pagin: Sonata no. 5

48. Stad: Sonata no. 3

49. Bach: Concerto in A minor

50. Boccherini: Cello Sonata no. 3

51. Senaillé: Sonata no. 9

52. Borghi: Sonata op. 5 no. 1

53. Tartini: Sonata no. 2 in F

54. Leclair: Sonata in D

55. Handel: Sonata no. 10 in G minor

56. Handel: Sonata no. 13 in D major