VILLANELLE by Paul Dukas
INSTRUMENTATION: Horn and Piano
PUBLISHER: 1905, 1906 G. Henle Verlag
LENGTH: 312 measures, approx. 6m15s
CAN BE FOUND ON IMSLP: Yes
YOUTUBE: Dennis Brain
SPOTIFY: Hermann Baumann, French Horn Music
iTUNES: David Griffin, For You
GRADE/DIFFICULTY (1 easy, 6 very difficult): 4
EXTENDED TECHNIQUES: Sans les pistons, Echo Horn, Trills, Hand Stopping (+), Straight Mute
RANGE (horn pitch):
Paul Dukas (1865 – 1935) was a popular French composer, teacher and critic. He is best known for his symphonic tone poem, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and his ballet La Peri. Dukas was considered – or considered himself – to be an admirer of both French conservative and progressive compositional techniques and is often said to be influenced by Beethoven, Berlioz, and Debussy. Dukas later became a professor of composition at the Paris Conservatory from 1913 to 1935 and was also an active music critic, writing many articles to French music journals. He was a staunch perfectionist, known for constantly tearing up his works that did not reach his egregiously high standards, it is our great pleasure to have in our possession a surviving work that has become a standard performance piece in the horn repertoire!
A Villanelle is a 16th and 17th century Italian vocal genre written for three voices and usually performed a capella. This genre is very similar to the Madrigal and generally performed as light heartedly. This composition has three distinct – and different – sections. In the opening of the piece the composer asks the soloist to play the opening passage on the natural horn. Doing so is no longer the normal approach due to the intonation discrepancies today’s audiences are not used to hearing. That is not to say that audiences over 100 years ago were not as discerning, but the instrument was comparatively different to today’s manufacturing standards and consequent tone color familiarities. The piece requires tremendous flexibility, energy, grace, spirit, and endurance in order to fulfill the a three octave sprint to the end! Villanelle is truly a remarkable and heroic French composition, approachable by a student and adored by any seasoned professional.