1. 'Duo d'Amour' from les Noces d'Arlequin (c. 1880)
Francis Thomé (1850-1909)
Les Noces d'Arlequin was one of the great successes of Francis Thomé, a Parisian composer of ballet music. From 1883 onwards the 'Duo d'amour', a lyrical duet between horn and violin from this suite, became a popular repertoire piece in the concerts of the Ostend Kursaal under the lead of Léon Rinskopf (in a version for string orchestra, horn and piano). It was performed dozens of times by the orchestra and its soloists between 1883 and 1914: with Stenebruggen, who was principal horn at the Kursaal summer concerts from 1874 until 1885, and also by the succeeding principal horns; Etienne Polain (principal from 1888 until 1895) and Charles Heylbroeck (from 1896 until 1914). The atmosphere created in this recording is a true example of the somewhat conservative approach towards the horn in the last decades of the nineteenth century. Even if the musical value and intention of the piece is in any respect inferior to the other pieces on the disc, I considered it a perfect and colourful opener of Chant d'Amour.
Some notes on style & performance
At first glance one could state that the horn solo of the 'Duo d'Amour' is clearly a valve horn part and therefore this work provides one of only a few pieces of evidence that Stenebruggen also played the valve horn at some point in his career. This, once again, highlights the difficulty in drawing a clear line between valve horn and and natural horn performers.
On the aspect of style, we focuses on the following considerations:
- dynamics: it is a love duet, so everything very soft, creating an exceptional warm atmosphere. None of the instruments should push the other away, however, the horn (the 'harlequin') clearly leads the dance.
- tempo: as slow as breathing/ of the piece allowed us to. Tempo in this piece was regarded as something organic, rather than as a matter of speed: tempo changes, especially forwarding on the development of the phrase and slowing down at resolutions of chords was imposed. We tried to get a fluent structure in the complete piece.
- for the interpretation of the phrase, we tried to adapt as much as possible the portamento effect as heard in late 19th century singing recordings.
- we limited the use of vibrato in violin and horn and tried mainly to transfer regular vibrato in a more singing tone structure that added colour.

About the Horn:

We recorded this piece on a two-valve Van Cauwelaert Breveté of ca 1880 (collection Jeroen Billiet). We don't have a clear idea as to what type of horn Stenebruggen would have played, but this type of two valve horn was still very common during this period in Belgium and manufacturers such as Mahillon and Van Cauwelaert from Brussels produced these up to WWI . The sound difference with the 3-valve version of the same instrument can clearly be heard when compared with the Mélodie by Van Cromphaut.

more on this horn
VC 2ps 2

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Chants d'Amour...
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Tracks: Read&Listen
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Alphonse Stenebruggen