British wind Music Before 1981

Chapter 3: Revolution - Liberty, Fraternity and Equality

While the Harmonie continued to flourish in the more sheltered courts of the German states and the Hapsburg Empire, in France the Revolution of 1789 was to have far-reaching consequences. As David Whitwell puts it in his excellent book "Band Music of the French Revolution"

On the day the Bastille fell, the word "band" in France meant the eight to twelve member ensemble familiar to military music in England, Austria, Prussia and America of the same period. Little more than a year later there was in Paris a full-time, paid "concert" band of at least 45 members.

Under the Revolution, music moved from the courts and churches into the streets; on July 14th 1790, the anniversary of the Fall of the Bastille was celebrated at the Champ de Mars with a spectacle for an audience of 400,000, for which a Te Deum was commissioned by Gossec, performed if contemporary press is to be believed by 1,200 musicians, including 300 drums, 300 wind instruments and 50 serpents. Despite a row in the press over whether it was appropriate to sing a "Te Deum" at such a peculiarly French festival, the event was an enormous success, so much so that by October the city of Paris had established a paid band, and on June 8th 1792, the General Council created a free music school of the Parisian National Guard with a distinguished staff led by Bernard Sarette; a payroll memorandum of 1793 includes Gossec and a number of distinguished wind players and composers such as Lefevre, Devienne, Blasius, Duverenoy, Gerber, Ozi, Gebauer and Catel.

David Whitwell paints a brilliant picture of the struggles, both political and musical, and perhaps the most striking fact is the extraordinary involvement of many of the leading composers of the day in the development of the young French Republic. Scarcely at any time since the Greek city states, have the arts and politics been so closely interwoven, and the great national fetes with thousands of performers carried the messages of Liberty, Fraternity and Equality. Finally, in 1795 a decree was made to establish a Conservatory of Music, the Paris Conservatoire, to teach six hundred pupils, free, to found a library of music and instruments, to provide musicians daily for the National Guard, and to celebrate the national festivals.

It is unfortunate that so little of this classical band repertoire is known today. Much of it can be obtained through W.I.N.D.S. David Whitwell's own publishing imprint, and a few other works are available in modern editions. 

Year Composer Work Publisher
1790 Gossec Marche Lugubre Leduc
  Catel Symphonie Militaire E C Kerby
1792 Catel Overture in C Presser
1793 Gossec Classic Overture in C Mercury/Presser
1794 Gossec Military Symphony in F Mercury/Presser
  Jadin, Louis Symphonie Shawnee
  Mèhul Overture in F Peer-Southern
  Devienne Overture Friedrich Hofmeister
1795 Jadin, Hyacinthe Overture in F Franco Colombo

David Whitwell, Band Music of the French Revolution, Hans Schneider-Tutzing, 1979
WINDS Box 513, Northridge, California, 91328

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