The Tradition of the Paris Conservatoire
School of Oboe Playing
with Special Attention to the Influence of Marcel Tabuteau
Donald L. Hefner, 1984
I. The Conservatoire
- General History
- The Teaching of Oboe
- Principal Virtuosi Associated with the Conservatoire: Georges Gillet
- Methods and Materials. Appendix: Sight Reading Pieces Composed for the Concours, 1827-1919
- The Instruments
II. Influence of the Conservatoire in the United States
- French Oboists in the United States: Marcel Tabuteau
- Teaching at the Curtis Institute
- Fundamentals: “A Beautiful Tone Emission”
- The Ensemble Classes
- Phrasing and Interpretation: Meter, Phrasing, Prose, Images, Notation
Marcel Tabuteau: Pedagogical Concepts and Practices
for Teaching Musical Expressiveness:
An Oral History
Melissa A. Stevens, 1999
Marcel Tabuteau is considered one of America’s foremost oboists and teachers of the twentieth century. His students, and subsequent generations thereof, continue to occupy many major chairs in the symphony orchestras of the United States. Tabuteau’s students agree that he not only revolutionized American oboe playing, but he also had a significant influence on other wind, string and brass players. Marcel Tabuteau’s ideas endure mostly through those he taught. Many of these students are now in their seventies and eighties, thus justifying the importance of recording Tabuteau’s concepts and teaching practices through oral history.
A broad range of Marcel Tabuteau’s students were contacted to see if they had an interest in being interviewed for an oral history about Marcel Tabuteau’s pedagogical concepts and practices. Live interviews were conducted with John de Lancie and John Mack, oboists; Felix Kraus, John Minsker, and Louis Rosenblatt, English hornists; John Krell, flutist; Mason Jones, horn player; Hershel Gordon, cellist; and Abba Bogin, pianist.
Questions were asked regarding specific musical concepts such as the “number system,” as well as how Tabuteau was able to express his ideas so well to so many people.
The interviews that follow are rich in explanation of Tabuteau’s musical concepts including phrasing, “the number system,” inflections, and playing on the wind. Also discussed are his pedagogical practices that gave rise to a whole generation of exceptionally outstanding musicians. Tabuteau’s students referred to him as a fabulous communicator, and a colorful personality whose presence was revered and feared at the same time.
Tabuteau was exceptional in that his pedagogical concepts had a lasting effect on the musicians who studied with him. His teaching was organized in the sense that he had definite and concrete concepts which were taught to all of his students and which all of the interviewees talked about. He did not “spoon feed” these concepts to his students, but rather he expected them to learn by listening and example. Marcel Tabuteau gave the students the tools necessary to play any piece of music with conviction.
Marcel Tabuteau’s Influence on String Playing at the Curtis Institute of Music: a Philosophy of Twentieth-Century Performance Practice
Sarah Maude Wetherbee, 2002
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 210-217)
Appendix 1. Tabuteau-influenced Curtis string students (1942-1956)
Appendix 2. Programs: 1944-53, Radio programs and concert programs by the string and woodwind ensembles directed by Marcel Tabuteau.
The American Oboe Sound: The Impact of Marcel Tabuteau
Marcel Tabuteau and his Art of Phrasing:
Applied to Suite No. 6 for Cello
Eliza Thomason, 2010
Oboist Marcel Tabuteau (1887–1966) is widely regarded as one of the most influential teachers and musicians of the twentieth-century. An especially important contribution made by Tabuteau was his thoughts on musical phrasing. Most often referred to as a number system or note grouping, Tabuteau used numbers to indicate scaling, motion, rhythmic grouping, and phrase groups as elements within a phrase.1 While many facets of Tabuteau’s teaching were specific to the oboe or wind instruments, the number system has useful applications for all instruments. This study will provide instructions on the application of numbers to music for the purposes of scaling, motion, rhythmic grouping, and phrase grouping as Tabuteau taught them, while describing the techniques one may use to perform the numbers on a stringed instrument. A demonstration of the application of Tabuteau’s number system to Suite No. 6 for Cello (Transcribed for Viola) in G Major, by J.S. Bach follows, presenting the number system as a means to create expressive phrasing in this piece and modeling the same possibility for all types of musical compositions.
The American School of Oboe Playing: Robert Bloom, John de Lancie, John Mack, and the Influence of Marcel Tabuteau
by Amy Galbraith, 2011
The American school of oboe playing is a distinct national style that evolved during the twentieth century. It is characterized by a darker tone than other national schools and a phrasing style that emphasizes long, connected lines with nuances in tonal intensity. The style was developed by Marcel Tabuteau, and is distinguished by his modified “long scrape” reed as well as the numerical system he used to teach musical phrasing. Even today, his ideas continue to disseminate, and most American oboists can trace their pedagogical roots back to Tabuteau. Yet despite the school’s evolution from one person, diversity exists. This project researches three of Tabuteau students: Robert Bloom, John de Lancie, and John Mack, chosen for their influence as both performers and as pedagogues, and the focus of the research is on their approach to tone production and musicianship. Because reed making is interconnected with tone production, reed styles are also compared. Research reveals that variations exist within the American school; however from a global perspective, the similarities still suggest a unified style.
The Philadelphia Influence on the Art of Reed Making
Reid G. Messich, 2012
The oboe reed is both a blessing and a curse—the bane and the delight of every oboist. There is nothing greater than the satisfaction of creating an amazing reed that willdo everything an oboist requires. A great reed allows one to play for hours and not become exhausted. It helps produce easier articulation and response from the instrument, as well as a better musical line to help the oboist sound more fluid in his phrasing. A bad reed, however, will cause a lot of stress in the life of an oboist, forcing him to spend countless hours behind a reed desk. Due to the uniqueness of each reed and each oboist, no two players will ever produce an identical tone on the oboe. This is true even if two players use the same oboe with the exact same reed. 1
The whole purpose behind reedmaking is not to create another level of difficulty for the oboist, but to uniquely bring out the best qualities of the oboe and the oboist’s individuality. Reedmaking, while stressful in the early stages of learning, eventually becomes a very personal endeavor for each oboist. The more knowledge that is gained in the reedmaking process, the greater is the drive to perfect it. In reality, there is no such thing as a perfect reed. An oboist’s goal, when making reeds, is to strive for response, correct pitch, stability, and a tone that is unwavering in beauty. The tone should not be so strident and shrill that it lacks depth, yet also not be so dark that the flexibility of the tone is hindered. 2
As the majority of reed making taught today is based on the American style of reed making, few students get the opportunity to learn about reed making from the Philadelphia point of view. There are many guides already published and available for oboists today, but not many refer to the oboe reed through the Philadelphia influence. This paper does not intend to state that the Philadelphia reedmaking process is the only correct way to make a reed. It is intended to enlighten young and professional oboists, and to tweak their interest in experimenting with their own reeds to create an even better product. It is also the goal of this project to present ideas of reed making to both amateur and professional oboists, who have not had the opportunity to study within the aforementioned Philadelphia music schools. It will allow them to take a look at their current reedmaking skills and apply new ideas. One of the most beautiful aspects of reed making is that it is constantly changing. It is my hope that the information provided in this document, some of which is supplied from other oboists influenced by the Philadelphia style, will prove new reedmaking ideas to many oboists. This treatise contains all information I have accumulated in the years of study in Philadelphia and present the knowledge of reedmaking through my eyes. It will follow the process of reed making from raw materials through the finished reed, and discuss each detail that goes into creating the Philadelphia reed. Surveys on reedmaking, from other graduates from the Philadelphia area, are included in this study to serve as reinforcement to the ideals and principles that still hold true in the Philadelphia area today. Reedmaking has always been one of my strongest passions as an oboist and it is my wish to share the knowledge I have obtained throughout my years of study.
1) Leon Goossens and Edwin Roxburgh, Oboe (London: Macdonald and Jane’s, 1977), p. 31.
2) Richard Woodhams, personal lessons, 2000-2004
The Expressive Phrasing Concepts of Marcel Tabuteau
Applied to Concerto in Eb Major for Horn and Orchestra, K. 417
by W.A. Mozart
Joshua Paul Michal, 2014
The purpose of this document is to explore the musical concepts of Marcel Tabuteau, a pioneer of the new American tradition of oboe playing in the early twentieth century, and investigate the potential influence his ideas have on the interpretation and performance preparation of Mozart’s Concerto No. 2 in Eb for Horn and Orchestra, K. 417. This document summarizes the highly successful pedagogical method of Marcel Tabuteau and details how this method, when incorporated into a horn teachers pedagogical method, will benefit their students who are preparing for performances and auditions.
Most notably, Tabuteau created a system of numbers to describe the shape and direction of a phrase in detail. He also had a keen interest in how notes should be grouped to maximize their expressive quality. Above all, he was fascinated by the concept of creating the sensation of forward motion in a musical line. He believed that motion was essential to performing expressively and was dedicated to teaching this art to his students.
Without expression, a musical performance becomes dull and lifeless. Even if the technique is dazzling, the emotion and passion of the music will remain untapped. The expressive quality of the music can be unlocked only through careful preparation and study of the inner workings and underlying harmonies of each phrase. Tabuteau demanded that his students play more than just notes on the page and inspired them to look deeper into how each note is connected. His lifelong quest was to develop a method of fully expressing his musical intent, both verbally in lessons and through his oboe on the concert stage. Through careful and thoughtful utilization of his methods, Tabuteau’s legacy of inspiring musicians will continue to advance the artistry of our musical craft today.
While some recordings of lessons, interviews and master-classes exist; there is very little original material available. The subject of note grouping, which is the foundation of Tabuteau’s musical concepts, is also lacking in source material. By studying the material created by the students of Tabuteau, however, it is possible to piece together a working knowledge of his pedagogical process that was so highly successful, as evidenced by his students holding positions in many of the major symphony orchestras in the United States. This document incorporates Tabuteau’s musical concepts into a method of interpretation for horn players using Mozart’s Concerto No. 2 in Eb for Horn and Orchestra, K. 417 as an example.
La Classe de hautbois au Conservatoire au début du XXe siècle: Marcel Tabuteau et le rayonnement de ‘L’École de Philadelphie’ aux Etats-Unis
Peter Bloom, 2016
[This paper was read by Peter Bloom at the Paris Conservatoire on April 13, 2016 as part of the series ‘Histoire de l’enseignement public de la musique en France au XIXe siècle (1795-1914).’]
Dans cette communication j’ai présenté un exemple très précis de « l’influence » de l’école française de hautbois, illustrée bien évidemment par l’enseignement de hautbois au Conservatoire de Paris, sur le développement d’une école « américaine » de hautbois véritablement fondée, on a l’habitude de le dire, par Marcel Tabuteau, hautboïste exceptionnel qui fera carrière aux États-Unis. Tabuteau aura une influence remarquable sur l’enseignement de la musique aux USA grâce à son poste de professeur au tout nouveau Conservatoire de Philadelphie, le fameux Curtis Institute of Music.
Marcel Tabuteau-Guérineau est né à Compiègne le 2 juillet 1887. Il entre au Conservatoire en novembre 1902 : sa première inscription est datée du 13 novembre 1902 où il est indiqué qu’il entre dans la classe de M. Gillet « par décision de M. Gillet ». Il est bien noté par son maître comme un « élève d’avenir » d’un « tempérament artistique », ayant une « nature exceptionnelle d’hautboïste » et en fin de compte un « très bon élève ». Au concours du printemps 1904 il obtient un premier prix le 30 juillet, à l’âge de 17 ans.
Le maître de Tabuteau, au Conservatoire, est Georges Gillet, lui-même premier prix du Conservatoire en 1869 et professeur au Conservatoire de 1882 à 1919. Les maîtres de Gillet, Félix-Charles Barthélemy et Charles-Joseph Collin, sont tous les deux élèves, au Conservatoire, de Gustave Vogt, celui que l’on peut considérer comme le fondateur de l’école moderne française de hautbois, qui est actif de 1816 à 1853. Pour Tabuteau, Gillet était un génie, le meilleur musicien qu’il ait jamais vu.
En 1905, le chef allemand célèbre Walter Damrosch, alors directeur de l’Orchestre symphonique de New York, vient en France à la recherche d’instrumentistes à vent afin d’améliorer la qualité de son orchestre et de mieux mener sa rivalité avec l’Orchestre symphonique de Boston. À Paris, Damrosch engage tout de suite quatre instrumentistes français, tous premier prix du Conservatoire, dont le bassoniste Auguste Mesnard, le clarinettiste Henri-Léon Leroy, le flutiste Georges Barrère (qui, lui, sera le père de l’école américaine de flûte) et le hautboïste Marcel Tabuteau. En 1908, après deux saisons avec l’orchestre de Walter Damrosch, Tabuteau accède à un poste au Metropolitan Opera où il jouera, pendant six ans, sous la baguette d’Arturo Toscanini et de Gustave Mahler, entre autres. En 1913, il rentre en France au début de la Grande Guerre mais est vite renvoyé à la vie civile à cause de problèmes cardiaques. De nouveau à New York, il sera sollicité, en 1915, par le chef d’orchestre du très célèbre Orchestre de Philadelphie, Leopold Stokowski qui, ayant entendu Tabuteau au Metropolitan Opera, lui offre le poste de premier hautbois solo. En octobre de cette année-là, Tabuteau commence donc sa carrière à Philadelphie, carrière qui durera jusqu’en 1954.
Lorsque Tabuteau arrive aux États-Unis, le conservatoire le plus célèbre est The Institute of Musical Art, établi à New York en 1905, prédécesseur du Juilliard School of Music. Au début des années vingt, un éditeur célèbre, Cyrus Curtis, propriétaire du Saturday Evening Post, motivé par sa fille, Mary Louise Curtis Bok, elle-même pianiste et grande amie de Leopold Stokowski et du pianiste polonais Josef Hofmann, décide de fonder une école de musique au centre de la ville de Philadelphie pour offrir aux meilleurs jeunes musiciens du monde une éducation musicale égale à celle des principaux conservatoires européens, et ceci sans frais de scolarité. Les portes du Curtis Institute s’ouvrent le 1er octobre 1924. Josef Hofmann est professeur de piano ; Carl Flesch, violoniste hongrois qui a fait ses études au Conservatoire de Paris, est professeur de violon ; Louis Bailly, altiste français qui a fait ses études au Conservatoire, est professeur d’alto ; Carlos Salzedo, harpiste français qui fait a ses études au Conservatoire, est professeur de harpe ; Horace Britt, violoncelliste belge qui a fait ses études au Conservatoire, est professeur de violoncelle ; Daniel Bonade, clarinettiste français qui a fait ses études au Conservatoire, est professeur de clarinette ; Leopold Stokowski, qui a fait ses études à Londres mais a étudié brièvement à Paris, dirige l’orchestre estudiantin. Le professeur de français et d’histoire de la musique est l’Alsacien Jean-Baptiste Beck. Et le professeur de hautbois est Marcel Tabuteau.
Parmi les élèves de Tabuteau se trouvent plusieurs générations de hautboïstes de grande importance : Robert Bloom, premier hautbois solo de l’orchestre NBC de New York sous la direction d’Arturo Toscanini ; Harold Gomberg, premier hautbois solo de l’orchestre philharmonique de New York sous la direction, entre autres, de Leonard Bernstein ; Ralph Gomberg, premier hautbois solo de l’orchestre symphonique de Boston sous la direction, entre autres, de Charles Munch ; Marc Lifschey et puis John Mack, tous les deux premiers hautbois solos de l’orchestre de Cleveland sous la direction de Georg Szell ; Alfred Genovese, premier hautbois solo à l’orchestre du Metropolitan Opera de New York sous la direction, entre autres, de James Levine. Et ainsi de suite. Les hautboïstes américains d’aujourd’hui ont pratiquement tous étudié avec un disciple, direct ou indirect, de Marcel Tabuteau.
Tabuteau donne des leçons de hautbois et inculque à ses élèves sa notion de sonorité (focalisée, au niveau bas du ton, sombre et non nasillarde, avec une intensité qui sert de vibrato sans déstabiliser le ton). Et il dispense un enseignement de musique de chambre où il explique comment il procède, méthodiquement, pour créer une phrase en musique. Il attribue à chaque note d’une phrase un chiffre précis, de 1 à 5 ou parfois de 1 et 9 : ce chiffre représente non seulement la nuance de la note mais aussi son intensité. Chaque phrase a un début, une fin et un moment d’intensité culminante. Chaque note de la phrase a donc un sens, une signification. La musique n’est jamais immobile ; elle est toujours en mouvement.
Dans la conférence j’ai présenté des exemples musicaux tirés des enregistrements faits par Marcel Tabuteau et par mon propre maître de hautbois au Curtis Institute of Music, dans les années 1960, Jean de Lancie, l’un des élèves préférés de Tabuteau, son successeur comme premier hautbois solo à l’Orchestre de Philadelphie et directeur du Curtis Institute of Music de 1977 à 1985. Pour Marcel Tabuteau, son maître Georges Gillet était le meilleur musicien qu’il ait jamais connu ; pour John de Lancie, Marcel Tabuteau était le meilleur musicien qu’il ait jamais connu ; pour Peter Bloom, John de Lancie était le meilleur musicien qu’il ait jamais connu – et pour une raison précise : pour John de Lancie, la phrase musicale individuelle était l’aspect de la musique le plus important de tous, car chaque note de la phrase, pour lui, était une question de vie ou de mort. Il avait sans doute hérité cette conception « dramatique » de la musique de son maître, et je me plais à imaginer que cette conception manifeste une idée essentiellement « française ». Tout le monde sait que les Français n’ont pas de pétrole mais qu’ils ont des idées.
Translation by Michael Finkelman:
The Conservatoire Oboe Class at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century: Marcel Tabuteau and the Influence of the ‘Philadelphia School’ in the United States
Peter Bloom, 2016
In this lecture, I have presented a very clearly defined example of the influence of the French oboe school — manifestly illustrated by the teaching of the oboe at the Paris Conservatory — on the development of an “American” oboe school, normally acknowledged to have been founded by Marcel Tabuteau, an exceptional oboist who made his career in the United States. Tabuteau had a remarkable influence on the teaching of music in the U.S., thanks to his post at the [then] quite new conservatory in Philadelphia, the Curtis Institute of Music.
Marcel Tabuteau-Guérineau was born at Compiègne, the second of July, 1887. He entered the Conservatoire in November of 1902, his matriculation first noted the thirteenth of that month, where it is indicated that he was entering the class of Monsieur Gillet via the decision of same. His teacher describes him as “a student with a future” with “an artistic temperament”, and an “exceptional oboistic predisposition”. At the end of his reviews, he dubs Tabuteau “a very good student”, who in the spring 1904 competitions earned a First Prize, conferred July 30, at the age of just 17.
Tabuteau’s teacher at the Conservatoire, Georges Gillet, was himself a First Prize winner at the Conservatory in 1869, and professor at that institution from 1882 to 1919. His teachers, Félix-Charles Barthélemy and Charles-Joseph Colin had both been students at the Conservatoire under Gustave Vogt, who may be considered the founder of the modern French oboe school, and who was active [in Paris] from 1816 to 1853. For Tabuteau, Gillet was a man of genius, the finest musician he ever encountered.
In 1905, the celebrated German-born conductor Walter Damrosch, then director of the New York Symphony Orchestra, came to France in search of wind instrumentalists to improve the quality of his orchestra, thus better to carry on the rivalry between his ensemble and the Boston Symphony. In Paris, Damrosch quickly engaged four French instrumentalists, all First Prize winners from the Paris Conservatory: bassoonist Auguste Mesnard, clarinettist Henry-Léon Leroy, flutist Georges Barrère (who himself would become the father of the American flute school), and oboist Marcel Tabuteau. In 1908, after two seasons in Damrosch’s orchestra, Tabuteau advanced to a post [principal oboe] at the Metropolitan Opera where for six years he played, i.a., under the batons of Arturo Toscanini and Gustav Mahler. In 1913, he returned to France at the outset of the Great War, but was quickly returned to civilian life because of heart problems. Back in New York once again, he was in 1915 requested by the conductor of the very celebrated Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski, to become principal oboist of that organization, Stokowski having heard him in that post in the Met orchestra. Tabuteau thus began his career in Philadelphia in October of that very year — a career which lasted until 1954.
At the time of Tabuteau’s arrival in the U.S., the most celebrated conservatory was the Institute of Musical Art in New York, established 1905, and the predecessor of the Juilliard School of Music. At the beginning of the 1920s, a celebrated publisher, Cyrus Curtis, owner of the Saturday Evening Post, motivated by his daughter Mary-Louise Curtis Bok — herself a pianist and great friend of Stokowski and the Polish pianist Josef Hofmann — determined to found a school of music in downtown Philadelphia in order to offer to the world’s best young musicians a musical education equal to that available in the principal European conservatories, and without tuition fees. The doors of the Curtis Institute opened the first of October 1924 with Josef Hofmann as professor of piano, Hungarian violinist Carl Flesch (who had studied at the Paris Conservatory) as professor of violin, French violist Louis Bailly (also a graduate of the Paris Conservatory) as professor of viola, French harpist Carlos Salzedo (equally a product of the Paris Conservatory) as professor of harp, Belgian cellist Horace Britt (another alumnus of the Paris Conservatory) as professor of his instrument, and French clarinettist Daniel Bonade (still another Paris Conservatory student) as professor of his. Leopold Stokowski who had studied in London, but also briefly in Paris, directed the student orchestra. Professor of French and of music history was the Alsatian Jean-Baptiste Beck, and the professor of oboe was Marcel Tabuteau.
Among Tabuteau’s students are to be found generations of oboists of great importance: Robert Bloom, principal oboe of the NBC Symphony under Toscanini; Harold Gomberg, principal oboe of the New York Philharmonic under the direction, i.a., of Leonard Bernstein; Ralph Gomberg, principal oboe of the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the direction, i.a., of Charles Munch; Marc Lifschey and later John Mack, both principals of the Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of George Szell; Alfred Genovese, principal oboe of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York, and so on. Practically all of the American oboists of today have studied with a disciple, direct or indirect, of Marcel Tabuteau.
Within his oboe lessons, Tabuteau inculcated in his pupils his concept of sonority (focused at the bottom of the tone, dark and non-nasal, with an intensity serving in place of [outright] vibrato without destabilising the sound). In addition, he offered a chamber music pedagogy in which he methodically explained how he proceeded in creating a musical phrase. He assigned a precise number to each note of the phrase from 1 to 5 or sometimes 1 to 9: each number stood not only for the [dynamic] of the note, but also for its intensity. Each phrase had a beginning, an end and a moment of culminating intensity. Each note of the phrase thus had a direction and an importance. Music is never stationary: it is always in motion.
In the lecture, I presented musical examples taken from recordings made by Marcel Tabuteau and by my own oboe teacher at the Curtis Institute of Music in the 1960s, John de Lancie, one of the favorite pupils of Tabuteau, and his successor as principal oboe of the Philadelphia Orchestra, [and eventually] director of the Curtis Institute from 1977 to 1985. To Marcel Tabuteau, his teacher George Gillet was the finest musician he ever knew; for John de Lancie, Marcel Tabuteau was the finest musician he ever knew; for Peter Bloom, John de Lancie was the finest musician he ever knew — and for a specific reason. For John de Lancie, the individual musical phrase was the most important aspect of all in music, as each individual note of the phrase was for him a matter of life or death. He undoubtedly inherited this “dramatic” conception of music from his teacher, and I like to think that this philosophy is the manifestation of an essentially French viewpoint. Everyone knows that while the French may not have oil wells, they do have ideas.
The Development and Continued Evolution of the American Style of Oboe Playing
Rebecka Elizabeth Rose, 2017
Though the American school of oboe playing did not exist roughly a century ago, its popularity and impact, in all of its variations, currently extends throughout and beyond the United States. Marcel Tabuteau, the founding father of the American school, developed a new and unique style during the early part of the twentieth century. This style became a truly hybrid school grounded in the French oboe school, and developed through his playing and teaching at the Curtis Institute of Music into a style that encompasses beauty, expression, and the vibrancy that has come to typify the American school oboist. The scope of this study included exploring available archival resources and interviewing seven current professional American oboists to trace the heritage and development of the American oboe school. The body of quotes from Tabuteau, his students, and their students in conjunction with quotes from interviews with current, American professional oboists allow for an informative perspective into the world of the American oboist. Themes and commonalities can be followed from their inception to their current presentation within the American school providing insight into how the American school of oboe playing continues to evolve.