9. Morceau de Concours (1872)
Adolphe Samuel (1824-1898)

Between 1850 and 1875, horn players from the Liège school obtained nearly all major horn positions in Belgium. One of the last forts that was conquered was the position of horn teacher at the Ghent Conservatoire. This school of horn playing had a particular history in horn playing given that the Conservatoire itself was founded in 1835 by natural horn virtuoso Martin-Joseph Mengal (1784–1851).
Only one year after Adolphe Samuel (Liège 1824–Gent 1898) became director of the school the horn teacher Norbert Herteleer (Ghent 1829–1874) was detained at the psychiatric centre of Dr Guislain. The conservatoire organised an audition, that was won by the young Liègeois Jean Deprez (Liège 1844–Ghent 1901).

Deprez had been recommended by the Liégeois horn teacher Jean-Toussaint Radoux (Liège 1825-1889) and was thus in pole position for the job. It was a clear put-up job: Samuel and Radoux were the same age and studied at the same school (as was Stenebruggen): the Liégeois obviously knew each other very well. Also, the year before, one of the first new staff appointments made by Samuel was the one of Toussaint Sauveur (Liège 1844–Ghent after 1909) as teacher of trumpet. Sauveur had been the colleague of Deprez in the season's orchestra of Spa.

On top of this, the
Morceau de concours, which candidates for the job had to perform as a sight-reding test exposed everything the Liègeois horn players were good at; a slow and expressive texture, long lines and an overall sense of flexibility. It shows that the takeover by musicians from Liège, a phenomenon that was not limited with the horn, was not only and solely a matter of quality, but also one of politics.

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Some notes on style & performance

The piece is intended as as sight reading-test , and the piano part is purely accompanying the horn. The candidate's ability into basic horn playing skills (accuracy, intonation, phrasing) are all integrated into the piece. The absence of any kind of virtuosity is remarkable, and chromaticism is kept to a strict minimum. Once again, colour is the codeword. The initial tempo indication,
Andante sostenuto - Molto espressivo marks the atmosphere of this intensively lyrical work. The nearly minimalistic simplicity of the piece ads a lot of charm, as if Samuel wanted to hear the true essence of horn playing.

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About the Horn:

The absolute favourite instrument of the Liège horn school was used here: the Van Cauwelaert Gantois, with three valves, which was also used for the recording of Van Cromphaut's Mélodie. Although Deprez figures on the famous 1858 picture of Toussaint Radoux' horn class with a two valve Mahillon horn, it is unlikely that he still would have played a similar instrument by 1872. Also, the Morceau de Concours' low passage calls for a three valve horn. The silky colour of the instrument showed to be the perfect accompaniment for this hornplaying delight.

more on this horn
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Alphonse Stenebruggen