4. Méditation pour Cor en Fa, Piano et Violon
Jean-Théodore Radoux (1835-1911)

To a great extent the development of the lyrical horn playing style in Belgium during the second half of the 19th century can be related to three horn players of the same generation and schooling; Alphonse Stenebruggen (Liège 1824–Strasbourg 1895), Jean-Toussaint Radoux (Liège 1825–1889) and Louis-Henri Merck (Landau, Bavaria 1831–Brussels 1900). All three studied in the class of Hubert Massart at the Liège Conservatoire, and had important careers as players and teachers.

Jean-Toussaint Radoux succeeded Massart as horn teacher in Liège in 1856. During Radoux's tenure as horn teacher the number of students increased and at one point in time as many as seventeen students were enrolled. Radoux had particular ideas about the training programme and re-introduced the natural horn as part of the training programme in 1863. His brother, Jean-Théodore (Liège, 1835–1911) became director of the Liège Conservatoire 1857.

Meditation was most probably written by Théodore for one of the exams in the horn class of Toussaint Radoux in the 1860s. An exact dating of this piece has not been possible, the first mention of the work appears in the exam lists of the Ghent Conservatoire in 1894 and the orchestral material present in the library of the Liège Conservatoire (54057) is dated as1899. Judging on the style we can suppose that the work has been written much earlier as is confirmed by the archives of the Strasbourg Conservatoire where the piece was probably performed by one of Stenebruggen's students in 1873. As it seems unlikely that the piece would have appeared in Strasbourg immediately after its writing, Stenebruggen must have received it from Radoux upon one of his trips to his homeland.

The original instrumentation calls for a valve horn in F and string quartet, which, as will be explored below, confirms the idea that the work was intended to be played at an exam. Given the prominent violin solos in the original, the work was arranged as a trio for horn, violin and piano especially for this recording by Jan Huylebroeck and as such makes a great encore for future performances of the Brahms Trio Opus 40.

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Some notes on style & performance

We tried as much as possible to focus on the importance of tempo liberty in this repertoire: marking the direction of the phrase by forwarding or slowing down, detaching the timing of the articulation from one part to another without loosing the idea of 'togetherness' too much, variation in phrasing.
The piece should be considered as a real meditation, without any hurry, but with strong and dramatic feeling.

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About the Horn:

The fascination of the Liègeois horn school for the Van Cauwelaert horn reaches its apex around this time. The Meditation is most likely to have been played on the classical single F modèle Gantois, on later performances, from the 1890s onwards probably on the B flat modèle Liègeois. For this performance I chose to perform on the original 'Belgian Valve' - Van Cauwelaert horn as presented in the latter's patent of 1847, a classical Belgian setup with valves of a Viennese-style design adding a lot of richness especially in the legato passages. The 1870s part pushes this 'old' instrument to its limits, high notes are particularly unstable, but the sound is very particular.

more on this horn
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Chants d'Amour...
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Tracks: Read&Listen
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Alphonse Stenebruggen