Gabriël Parès, except for his scale book, a forgotten cornetist

Gabriël Parès (1862-1934), French composer, band leader and cornetist


Today, I wanted to highlight the career of Gabriël Parès (November 18, 1862 to January 2, 1934).

Pares. Pares. Where have we heard that name before?


Cover of the ubiquitous scale book (not only for the trumpet, but for many other instruments)

We know him today from the “Pares” scale book (Americans often pronounce his name like the word “Pairs”). In fact, today, I heard a music jury at the conservatory where I teach. There, a young student played scales on his clarinet from his Pares book.


But he was more than a scale book author. He was a French composer, conductor and a cornetist. The son of a military music director, Phillippe Parès, Gabriël studied at the Paris Conservatory both composition under Théodore Dubois and cornet under Léo Delibes. While there, he won first prizes in composition, cornet and harmony. From 1893 to 1911, he was the music director of the famous wind ensemble, the Orchestra of the Republican Guard in Paris.



During his career, he composed about 90 original pieces for military band as well as about 50 arrangements. His Instrumentation and orchestration book for military wind bands set the standard of its day. His contributions to the French military band were significant enough that he became known as the French equivalent of John Philip Sousa.


He also wrote a few chamber pieces for cornet. Here’s a lovely video of his Fantasy Caprice for cornet and piano with Wim van Hasselt and Eriko Takezawa.

Interestingly for me, I found a newspaper announcement of a “French Military Band” concert that Parès conducted in Chautauqua, New York, on July 29, 1918. Lalo, Delibes, Saint-Saens, Bizet, Massenet and Gounod were on the program.



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Trumpet Books: An Autobiography From Herbert L. Clarke

Herbert L. Clarke as a member of the Victor Herbert Band (c. 1896)

Herbert L. Clarke as a member of the Victor Herbert Band (c. 1896)

Trumpeters and cornetist all over the world usually know a little about Herbert L. Clarke, but what a lot of us may not know is that he wrote a marvelous memoire, How I Became a Cornetist. You can buy this fairly short and easy to read book from various retailers or you can get a PDF version for free from the Kalamazoo Public Library, or from a few other websites. 

Clarke organizes his book into Series (chapters) that were originally published serially in a band magazine, Fillmore’s Musical Messenger. The relaxed style of writing about his pursuit of great cornet playing during an era when cornetist were so incredibly popular helps the reader immerse himself into the time period. 

For me, the most important theme of this book is how much effort cornet-playing at this level was required. In fact, Clarke makes a big point of de-bunking the notion of the “born cornetist.” This book is about the hard work Clarke put in to become great, and it stands as an example for us today. His anecdotes and advice about his family upbringing, the difficulty of buying his first cornet, his first encounters with transposition, and lying about his age to join a band all make delightful reading. 

We can all be grateful to Clarke for his remarkable memory. Even the most trivial stories come to life with his amazing grasp of past details. For instance, his first hearing of Walter B. Rogers when he was about 15 years old: 

At about the middle of the program a young man not much older than myself stood up and without moving from his place began playing a cornet solo which at once so captivated my attention that I forced my way through the crowd in order to get nearer the bandstand and not miss a note. . . . The number, an extremely difficult cornet solo which demanded great endurance in playing was the Excelsior Polka by Frewin. . . . At the ending of the solo the young player was given an ovation of tumultuous applause, in which I joined vigorously. The cornetist again arose, but this time stepped to the front of the platform, and to my wonderment played the entire solo through for the second time without seeming tired or making a slip. . . . His face did not become purple, distorted, or show any signs of strain.


Herbert L. Clarke at age 23, Cornet Soloist of Gilmore's 22nd Regimental Band

Herbert L. Clarke at age 23, Cornet Soloist of Gilmore’s 22nd Regimental Band

Learning how Clarke took up the viola to play in the family quartet and how he tried working in a business store, helps us to realize that Clarke kept his career options open. Even so, he still pursued his dream with an enormous amount of hard work on the cornet. The book concludes with him finally getting his dream job–as cornet soloist with Patrick Gilmore’s band at age 23. 

After I had finished, Mr. Gilmore came over to me, patted me on the back, and told me that he had been looking for a great cornet player who could play musically, with the endurance I had displayed this afternoon and at last he had found one! I nearly fell over on hearing this expression of enthusiasm regarding my playing, and had to sit down. 

In closing, Clarke adds an amazing synopsis of his career as a cornetist after that point. Here are some of those facts:

Clarke logged over 8000 miles of travel as soloist with the bands of Gilmore, John Philip Sousa and Victor Herbert. He played over six thousand programmed cornet solos, including 473 concerts in one season. He soloed at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, the Paris World’s Fair in 1900, and the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904.

Anglo Canadian Leather Company Band leader Herbert L. Clarke (left) and C. O. Shaw (right), owner of the Anglo Canadian Leather Company, Huntsville, Ontario.

Anglo Canadian Leather Company Band leader Herbert L. Clarke (left) and C. O. Shaw (right), owner of the Anglo Canadian Leather Company, Huntsville, Ontario.



Of course, Herbert L. Clarke also distinguished himself as a bandmaster himself, eventually becoming the president of the American Bandmasters Association in 1943.







Me at the grave marker of Herbert L. Clarke

Me at the grave marker of Herbert L. Clarke


I have visited Clarke’s gravesite in Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC, on a number of occasions, and each time I have a sense of wonder, appreciation and meaning. 




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Trumpet Journey Celebrates Herbert L. Clarke’s Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Herbert L. Clarke!

Happy Birthday, Herbert L. Clarke!

Today, I had a enough free time to go down to the Congressional Cemetery in the District of Columbia to pay my respects to Herbert L. Clarke, perhaps the greatest cornet virtuoso to ever live. For me, the connection is personal, because he is my musical grandfather: one of my teachers, Charles Gorham, was a student of Mr. Clarke for a short while back in the 1940s, I believe.

I took my Conn New York Wonder cornet and played a few Clarke pieces: From the Shores of the Mighty Pacific, The Debutante and his Carnival of Venice. “Our” audience was the fifteen or so dog walkers who pass through the cemetery every morning. One of the administrators came out and took some photos of me playing by the grave.

IMG_3981You will want to know that he is buried a mere 20 feet away from the tomb of the great band leader, John Philip Sousa.

As I was walking back to my car, I was thinking that this could become a very nice tradition for future years!

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Repertoire: Some Suggested Easy Pieces

There are thousands–tens of thousands–of trumpet pieces available today. It would be very difficult to have a comprehensive knowledge of all of them. Nevertheless, I thought I would list a few of my favorite “easy” pieces. These pieces will challenge young trumpeters who have studied consistently for 3 to 5 years. Many of these pieces can ease the difficulty of a more difficult recital program. I think all of them have some artistic merit. I have tried to find videos for each piece that I have included. Some of the videos have young trumpeters playing, but others feature great artists who enjoy playing a tuneful piece.


Telemann, Air de Trompette

Here is a wonderful video of Rick Murrell playing this piece on natural (coiled) trumpet, but it is playable on regular B-flat trumpet:


Short pieces:

Anderson, A Trumpeter’s Lullaby


Balay, Piece de concours


Barat, Fantaisie en Mi-flat


Bozza, Lied


Broughton, Oliver’s Birthday and Folksong


Bernstein, Rondo for Lifey


Ewazen, Ballade for a Ceremony


Goeyens, All ‘Antica (in a baroque style)


Hovhanness, Prayer of St. Gregory


Ravel, Piece en forme de Habanera


Reed, A., Ode for Trumpet


Ropartz, Andante et Allegro


Starer, Invocation


Thompson, Virgil, At the Beach

[audio:|titles=Virgil Thompson “At the Beach” performed by Hakan Hardenberger]


Kennan, Sonata (this piece perhaps is not an “easy” piece, but it is not impossible for a young trumpeter)


Cornet solos or encore pieces:

Llewellyn, My Regards


Goedicke, Concert Etude


A Clarke cornet solo, such as Maid of the Mist, Trixie Valse, Venus Waltz, or Victory


Simon, F., Willow Echoes


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A Second Look at Two 19th-Century Books of Cornet Music: Wagner’s Solo Compositions for Cornet

As I mentioned yesterday in “A Look at Two 19th-Century Books of Cornet Music,” All of the pieces in Philippe Goetz’s “solo” book now owned by Dr. Robert Hazen are for F- or G-crooked cornet. It is my guess that the F- and G-crooking were especially comfortable to horn players who wanted to play the new cornet with valves. It is somewhat analogous to a modern trumpet player performing on the B-flat piccolo trumpet: it allows the player to play more securely in the high register. Indeed, Goetz’s duet book includes many duets for horn unplayable by the cornet, so one may surmise that Goetz played horn as well as cornet. Only later in the 1850s, most notably with Jean-Baptiste Arban, did the realm of the cornet begin to shift to trumpet players. Coinciding with this shift, the cornet was more-commonly played in higher keys (like the now-ubiquitous B-flat).

Title page of J. B. Schiltz's Fantasy on themes from Donizetti's "La Favorita"

Title page of J. B. Schiltz’s Fantasy on themes from Donizetti’s “La Favorita”

In the solo volume, there are three operatic fantasies written by the Parisian trumpeter, cornettist and prolific composer, Jean-Baptiste Schiltz. One of these solos, arranged for cornet and piano, was based on the opera La Favorite by Gaetano Donizetti. This fantasy, Schiltz’s 101st opus, was composed before 1846 and published by the famous music publisher, Maurice (born “Moritz”) Schlesinger. The title page, shown here on the left, indicates that this solo is playable for the cornet with two or three valves.

There is a fascinating story about the publishing of this piece, because it seems that Schlesinger had first commissioned Richard Wagner to do it. Wagner writes in his memoir, My Life:

Portrait of Richard Wagner by Ernst Benedikt Kietz (Paris, 1840/42)

Portrait of Richard Wagner by Ernst Benedikt Kietz (Paris, 1840/42)

As my contributions to the Gazette Musicale proved so unremunerative, Schlesinger one day ordered me to work out a method for the Cornet a pistons. When I told him about my embarrassment, in not knowing how to deal with the subject, he replied by sending me five different published ‘Methods’ for the Cornet a pistons, at that time the favourite amateur instrument among the younger male population of Paris. I had merely to devise a new sixth method out of these five, as all Schlesinger wanted was to publish an edition of his own. I was racking my brains how to start, when Schlesinger, who had just obtained a new complete method, released me from the onerous task. I was, however, told to write fourteen ‘Suites’ for the Cornet a pistons—that is to say, airs out of operas arranged for this instrument. To furnish me with material for this work, Schlesinger sent me no less than sixty complete operas arranged for the piano. I looked them through for suitable airs for my ‘Suites,’ marked the pages in the volumes with paper strips, and arranged them into a curious-looking structure round my work-table, so that I might have the greatest possible variety of the melodious material within my reach. When I was in the midst of this work, however, to my great relief and to my poor wife’s consternation, Schlesinger told me that M. Schlitz, the first cornet player in Paris, who had looked my ‘Etudes’ through, preparatory to their being engraved, had declared that I knew absolutely nothing about the instrument, and had generally adopted keys that were too high, which Parisians would never be able to use. The part of the work I had already done was, however, accepted, Schlitz having agreed to correct it, but on condition that I should share my fee with him. The remainder of the work was then taken off my hands, and the sixty pianoforte arrangements went back to the curious shop in the Rue Richelieu.

I love this account for many reasons. It shows the young Wagner trying to get his start as a composer by attempting a method book for the cornet. It shows how these operatic salon pieces were conceived (by referencing piano reductions of popular operas). I also note that Wagner’s commission was for fourteen operatic suites. When Schiltz took over the job, he would have presumably completed the fourteen. It is not clear whether Wagner had submitted less than fourteen manuscripts, or whether he had only partially completed manuscripts for all fourteen. What is very possible is that this “Fantasy on the Opera, La Favorite” by Schiltz was conceived by Wagner and transposed to a lower, easier key by Jean-Baptiste Schiltz.

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