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A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Conservatoire de Musique

CONSERVATOIRE DE MUSIQUE. A free school of music, established in Paris by the Convention Nationale, Aug. 3, 1795. Its first suggestion was due to a horn-player named Rodolphe, and the plan which he submitted to the minister Amelot in 1775 was carried into effect on Jan. 3, 1784, by Baron Breteuil, of Louis XVI's household, acting on the advice of Gossec. This Ecole royale de Chant, under Gossec's direction, was opened on April 1, 1784, in the Hotel des Menus-Plaisirs du Roi, then used by the Académie for its rehearsals. The first public concert was given April 18, 1786, and on the addition of a class for dramatic declamation in the following June it adopted the name of the Ecole royale de Chant et de Déclamation. The municipality engaged a band under Sarrette in 1790, and instituted on June 9, 1792, the Ecole gratuite de Musique de la Garde Nationale Parisienne, which did good service under Sarrette's skilful direction, and finally took the name of Institut National de Musique, Nov. 8, 1793. But the independent existence of both these schools came to an end on the formation, by government, of the Conservatoire de Musique Aug. 3, 1795, in which they were incorporated. Sarrette was shortly afterwards appointed president of the institution, and in 1797 his charge extended to 125 professors and 600 pupils of both sexes, as well as to the printing-office and warehouse established at 15 Faubourg Poissonnière, where the 'Méthodes du Conservatoire,' prepared under the supervision of Catel, Méhul, Rode, Kreutzer, and other eminent professors, were published. The organisation of the Conservatoire was modified by Bonaparte in March 1800, after which the staff stood as follows:—A Director—Sarrette; five Inspectors of Tuition—Gossec, Méhul, Lesueur, Cherubini, and Monsigny; thirty first-class Professors—Louis Adam, Berton, Blasius, Catel, Devienne, Dugazon, Duvernoy, Garat, Gaviniés, Hugot, Kreutzer, Persuis, Plantade, Rode, Rodolphe, Sallentin, etc.; forty second-class Professors—Adrien, Baillot, Boieldieu, Domnich, Eler, Jadin, etc. The Conservatoire was again re-organised Oct. 15, 1812, by the famous Décret de Moscow, under which eighteen pupils, nine of each sex, destined for the Théâtre Français, received an annual allowance of 1100 francs, on the same footing with the Pensionnaires—eighteen vocal students, twelve male and six female. This Pensionnat had been established in 1806; but the men alone lived at the Conservatoire.

On Dec. 28, 1814, Sarrette was abruptly dismissed from the post he had filled with so much zeal and talent, and though reinstated on May 26, 1815, was compelled to retire finally on the 17th of the following November. The studies were interrupted for the time, and the school remained closed until April 1816, when it reopened under its former title of Ecole royale de Musique, with Perne as Inspector-general. Cherubini succeeded him April 1, 1822, and remained until Feb. 8, 1842, when he was replaced by Auber, who directed the Conservatoire until his death, May 12, 1871; M. Ambroise Thomas, the present director, was appointed on the 6th of the following July.

Before speaking of the Conservatoire of our own day, its financial condition, staff, and musical importance, we must enumerate some of the most remarkable acts which marked its successive administrations.

The budget originally amounted to 240,000 francs, but this in 1802 was reduced to 100,000, a fact indicative of the grave money difficulties with which Sarrette had to contend through all his years of office, in addition to the systematic opposition of both artists and authorities. By the publication of the 'Méthode du Conservatoire,' however, to which each professor gave his adherence, he succeeded in uniting the various parties of the educational department on a common basis. Amongst the savants of the institution who assisted in this work were Ginguené, Lacépède, and Prony. Under Sarrette the pupils were stimulated by public practisings; to him is also due the building of the old library, begun in 1801 , and the inauguration of the theatre in the Rue Bergère, 1812. In the same year he obtained an increase of 26,800 francs for the expenses of the Pensionnat; and the institution of the 'Prix de Rome' in 1803, which secured to the holders the advantage of residing in Italy at the expense of government, was his doing.

Under Perue's administration an 'Ecole primaire de Chant' was formed, April 23, 1817, in connection with the Conservatoire, and directed by Choront. The inspectorship of the Ecole de Musique at Lille was given to Plantade. In 1810 it adopted the title of 'Conservatoire secondaire de Paris,' in which it was followed by the Ecole at Douai, no longer in existence. The formation of special classes for lyrical declamation and the study of opera parts was also due to Perne.

Cherubini's strictness of rule and his profound knowledge made his direction very favourable for the progress of the Conservatoire. The men's pensionnat was re-organised under him, and the number of public practices, which all prize-holders were forced to attend, increased in 1823 from six to twelve. By his means the opera pitch, universally allowed to be too high, was lowered in 1826, and the Ecole de Musique founded at Toulouse in 1821 was attached to the Conservatoire, as that of Lille had previously been. He opened new instrumental classes, and gave much encouragement to the productions of the 'Société des Concerts du Conservatoire.' By his means the library acquired the right to one of the two copies of every piece of music or book upon music which authors and composers are compelled to deposit with the Ministre de l'Intérieur (March 29, 1834). In 1841, through Cherubini's instrumentality, the Ecoles of Marseilles and Metz became 'Succursales du Conservatoire'; in short, during his long administration he neglected no means of raising the tone of the studies of the Central Conservatoire, and extending its influence. The following were among his principal coadjutors:—Habeneck and Paer, inspectors of tuition; Lesueur, Berton, Reicha, Fétis, Halevy, Carafa, composition; Lainé, Lays, Garat, Plantade, Ponchard, Banderali, Bordogni, Panseron, Mme. Damoreau, singing: instrumental classes—Benoist, the organ; Louis Adam and Zimmerman, piano; Baillot, Kreutzer, Habeneck, violin; Baudiot, Norblin, Vaslin, violoncello; Guillou, Tulou, flute; Vogt, oboe; Lefèvre, Klosé, clarinet; Delcambre, Gebauer, bassoon; Dauprat, Melfred, horn; Dauverné, trumpet; Dieppo, trombone; Naderman, Prumier, harp; Adolphe Nourrit, the opera; Michelot, Samson, Provost and Beauvallet, professors of tragedy and comedy.

Amongst the professors appointed by Auber we may mention Adolphe Adam, Ambroise Thomas, Reber, composition; MM. Elwart, Bazin, harmony; Battaille, Duprez, Faure, Garcia, Révial, Masset, singing; Madame Farrenc, Henri Herz, Marmontel, Le Couppey, piano; Alard, Girard, Massart, Ch. Dancia, violin; Franchomme and Chevillard, violoncello. Classes for wind instruments—Tulou, Dorus, flute; Verroust, oboe; Willent, Cokken, bassoon; Gallay, Meifred, horn; Forestier, Arban, cornet; Mlle. Brohan, MM. Régnier, Monrose, Bressant, professors of comedy. Auber also instituted lectures on the history and literature of music, to which he appointed Samson in 1855. The débuts under Auber's management were most brilliant, and he drew public attention to the Conservatoire by reviving the public practices. The façade of the establishment in the Faubourg Poissonnière was re-built in 1845, and in 1864 the building was considerably enlarged, and those in the Rue du Conservatoire inaugurated, including the hall and offices of the theatre, the museum, and library. The associate classes of military pupils, formed on the suppression of the Gymnase militaire in 1856, made these enlargements indispensable.

But notwithstanding the growing importance of the Conservatoire under Auber a strict and impartial direction, the last years of his life were embittered by the revival of the office of 'Administrateur' in the person of Lassabathie, and the appointment of a commission in 1870 to re-organise the studies—a step in which some members foresaw the ruin of the school. In 1859, at the beginning of this troubled period, the reform of the pitch took place which fixed the A at 870 vibrations. Lassabathie at the same time published his 'Histoire du Conservatoire impérial de Musique et de Déclamation' (Paris, 1860), a hasty selection of documents, but containing ample details as to the professorial staff.

Since the nomination of M. Ambroise Thomas, the present director, the office cf 'Administrateur' and the pensionnat have been suppressed, and Mr. Emile Réty has been appointed Secretary-General. Lectures on the general history of music have been instituted; M. Barbereau, the original lecturer, has been succeeded by M. Eugéne Gautier; an orchestral class directed by M. Deldevez, and compulsory vocal classes for reading at sight have been founded, and the solfeggio teaching has been completely reformed. The following professors have been appointed:—MM. Theo. Dubois, Guiraud, harmony; MM. Croeti, Bussine, Boulanger, Potier, Mme. Viardot, who has lately resigned, and been succeeded by M. Barbot, singing; M. Charles Colin, oboe; M. Jancourt, bassoon; M. Delisse, trombone; M. Maury, cornet-à-piston. M. Ambroise Thomas has endeavoured to improve the tuition in all its branches, to raise the salaries of the professors, and increase the general budget, which has risen to 210,000 francs, and is expected soon to reach 240,000 francs—a sum amply sufficient for the expenses of the Institution with its staff of 8 titularies, 77 professors, and 10 employés.

The tuition at present is divided as follows:—16 solfeggio classes under 4 masters—in 12 of which the lessons are individual, in the remaining 4 in class; 8 singing classes under 8 masters; a class for vocal harmony, and another for the study of part-writing, each with its professor. For lyrical declamation there is 1 class for the opera and 2 classes for the opera-comique. The 31 instrumental classes are as follows:—6 for violin; 2 for cello; 1 for double-bass, for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, cornet, trombone, harp, chamber music, organ, improvisation, and orchestral composition. There are also 10 classes for piano, 4 for men and 6 for women.

For the study of harmony there are 6 classes. Also three for composition, counterpoint, and fugue (under Reber, Massé, and Bazin, all members of the Institut de France). To these classes must be added those for the general history of music, grammar, prosody, and orthophony, 3 classes for dramatic declamation, 1 for stage deportment, and 1 for fencing.

The classes are held 3 times a week, each one lasting 2 hours. The regulation number of pupils is either 8, 10, or 12, according to the class, but a few candidates are also admitted as 'auditeurs.' Among the professors who have charge of the classes just enumerated, we find such names as Massé, Franchomme, Chevillard, René Baillot, Deldevez, Reber, Bazin, Régnier, Bressant, and many of the most celebrated artists. The academic year begins on the first Monday in October, and closes at the end of July.

The names of those seeking admission to the Conservatoire must be sent in to the committee of management at the beginning of October, and an examination before the Committee of Tuition must be successfully passed. The youngest pupils only are admitted into the preparatory solfeggio and piano classes; in the higher classes, for vocal music and declamation, the age is limited to 22. The pupils have to pass two examinations in each academic year, and take part in one or more public practices; they are also admitted to the July competitions according to their ability. The competitions in singing, opera, opera-comique, tragedy, comedy, and instrumental music, are held publicly in the large concert-room. The distribution of prizes follows, under the presidency of the Minister of Public Education and Fine Arts.

This important institution provides musical and dramatic instruction for upwards of 600 pupils and 'auditeurs,' who, besides their regular studies, have the advantage of an extensive library and a museum of musical instruments.

The Library, which dates from the foundation of the school itself, is open to the public daily from 10 to 4. The first librarian, Eler, was followed by Langlé (1796–1807), the Abbé Roze (1807–1820), Perne (1820–1822), Fétis (1827–1831), Bottée de Toulmon (1831–1850), Berlioz (as conservateur 1839–1850, and as librarian 1852–1869), Félicien David (1869–1876). Since 1876 M. Weckerlin has acted aa librarian.

The Library contains over 30,000 works, and the number is increased every year by means of a special grant. It also possesses a considerable number of manuscripts and autographs, to which those of the Prix de Rome were added in 1871, through the efforts of the writer. This collection contains the autographs of all the prize cantatas since the foundation of the Prix de Rome in 1803. Amongst the other important collections are those of Eler, composed of works of the 16th and 17th centuries put into score; of Bottée de Toulmon, comprising 85 volumes of MS. copies of the chefs-d'œuvre of the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries from Munich, Vienna, and Rome, including all Palestrina's masses. Unfortunately, most of these compositions are written in 'proportional notation,' and are still in separate parts. The departments of engraved opera scores and of vocal and instrumental methodes are very complete. In 1872 the library was further enriched by Schœlcher's collection, containing every edition of Handel's works and a vast array of Handel-literature. The number of dramas is 6,000, and increasing daily, and the department of works on the art and history of music contains many thousand French and foreign volumes. Amongst these are some extremely rare works, 'El Melopeo' by Cerone; treatises by Agricola, Luscinius, Prætorius, Mersenne; several editions of Gafori; 'Il Transilvano' by Diruta; original editions of most of the old clavecinists; 'L'Orchésographie' of Thoinot Arbeau; the 'Ballet Comique de la Reine'; the 'Flores musice' of 1488; old missals and treatises on plain-chant; besides other very rare and valuable books and méthodes.

The Museum—of recent date, having been formally inaugurated on Nov. 20, 1864—is open to the public on Mondays and Thursdays from 12 to 4. At that time it merely contained the 230 articles which the government had purchased from Clapisson in 1861, and 123 musical instruments transferred from the Garde Meubles and other state institutions, or presented by private donors. On the appointment of the present conservateur, M. Gustave Chouquet, Sept. 30, 1871, the number of objects did not exceed 380, but it now possesses 700 instruments and objects of art of the greatest interest. A full historical catalogue has been published by M. Chouquet, entitled 'Le Musée du Conservatoire national de Musique' (Paris, F. Didot, 1875; 8vo.). This magnificent collection is the largest and most complete in Europe, and the space allotted to it must strike every one as inadequate.

The Conservatoire itself suffers from want of room. In the Faubourg Poissonnière, No. 15, are the offices of the administration, the entrance to the small theatre, where not only the examinations, but the classes for choral singing and dramatic declamation, lessons on the organ, and lectures on the history of music are held. Two smaller theatres serve for solfeggio and opera classes. In the large theatre, which contains an organ of 32 feet, the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire has held its concerts since its creation; it also serves for the public practices, the competitions, and the distribution of prizes. It was restored and decorated in the Pompeian style in 1864; and contains only a thousand seats. The educational management of the Conservatoire is in the hands of a central committee, with two sub-committees, for the superintendence of the musical and dramatic studies respectively. The committees for the admission of pupils and the examination of the classes are named by the director.

At the present date (1878) there are five provincial Ecoles de Musique, branches of the Conservatoire, viz. Lille, Toulouse, Dijon, Nantes, and Lyons (founded April 2, 1874).

In 1871 M. Henri Reber succeeded M. Ambroise Thomas as inspector of these provincial schools.

[ G. C. ]