JF Ptak Science Books Post 1252
This engraved plate from Abraham Rees' Cyclopedia... is the wonderful invention of Alexandre Choron (1771-1834), and appeared (perhaps for the first time in an English press) in London in 1814. It is a concise and interesting display of the comparisons of the reach of instruments along the eight octaves, and is a very strong example of clear and useful graphical display of quantitative data.
The full subtitle: "Table of the Compass of Voices and Instruments, Shewing the Place Each Occupies in the Scale". (The original print is also available for purchase through our blog bookstore.)
From Grove Music Online:
(b Caen, 21 Oct 1771: d Paris, 29 June 1834). French writer on music, instructor, publisher and composer. While still a boy, he taught himself Hebrew and German and acquired a permanent interest in scientific experiment and a fascination for music theory and the techniques of composition. Although he reached the age of 16 before taking music lessons, he had already attained elementary skill on keyboard and other instruments. He greatly valued a friendship with Grétry which began in his 20th year and which suggests that he moved to Paris after his father’s death.
Choron’s earliest publications, the three-volume Principes d’accompagnement des écoles d’Italie (1804) and Principes de composition des écoles d’Italie (whose publication was announced for 1806 even though it did not appear until the end of 1808 or early 1809 - the preface is dated 9 December 1808), include courses in thoroughbass together with instruction in counterpoint and fugue, implemented by exercises from Sala, Martini, Marpurg and Fux. In February 1806 he undertook the editing for August Leduc of the scores of Haydn’s symphonies. He began his activities as a music publisher in partnership with Leduc in November of that year, in order to exploit a licence for lithographic printing bought from Frédéric André in 1807. His partnership with Leduc ended in late 1811. Choron published works by Josquin, Goudimel, Palestrina and Carissimi, as well as Italian and German music up to the time of Bach. In 1827 his daughter Alexandrine (d 1835) took over the running of her business, which after her marriage in 1832 to the composer and teacher Stéphano Nicou took the company name of the Société Nicou-Choron. There followed the two-volume Dictionnaire des musiciens (1810–11) in which Fayolle was his collaborator. Choron was too idealistic to be financially successful, and his attention to business was limited by his scholarly and scientific pursuits. What might have been his magnum opus, Introduction à l’étude générale et raisonnée de la musique, remained unfinished. He was forced to teach music and accept public appointments.
In 1811 he was appointed a corresponding member of the Beaux-Arts class of the Institut de France in succession to Framery. From 1812 until Napoleon’s downfall he was Directeur de la Musique des Fêtes Publiques. His essays on plainsong and church music led to his nomination for the task of reorganizing music in French cathedrals and in the royal chapel after the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy. In January 1816 Louis XVIII made him régisseur général of the Académie Royale de Musique. According to Fétis he turned the Opéra ‘into a trial theatre’, and his dismissal after little more than a year enabled him to devote his energy to the founding of his Institution Royale de Musique Classique et Religieuse. He secured public grants for it between 1826 and the Revolution of 1830, but Charles X’s attempt to revive absolutism led the new government under Louis Philippe to discontinue expenditure associated with royal privilege.
The reduced budget not only proved disastrous for Choron but incurred disappointment for music lovers in general, as Choron’s students associated with other schools to give choral festivals in Notre Dame, St Sulpice and provincial cathedrals. The programmes included unaccompanied works of the Renaissance, together with Baroque oratorios with orchestra and music of later periods. After years of decline his school was revived by Niedermeyer and renamed Ecole de Musique Religieuse Classique. It remains the most substantial testimony to the work of an influential idealist during a time when French musical life badly needed ideals.
Although a few Conservatoire pupils sought Choron’s instruction, his school produced no outstanding composers until the Niedermeyer régime after 1836; yet Choron had a widespread influence on teachers, organists, choralists and those who were awakening to the importance of music history. His inexpensive editions of polyphonic and choral music were invaluable, despite the later issue of most of the works in better format by Proske and the Regensburg scholars and by English and German publishers; nor were his labours towards the revival of plainsong in vain, though the work of the Benedictine monks of Solesmes superseded them. His interest in the Baroque masters was more a revival than a novelty, and contributed indirectly to the demand for scholarly editions. The Manuel complet de musique vocale et instrumentale, published after his death by his collaborator, La Fage, was uniquely valuable in its day. In a country whose musical tradition was almost entirely unscholarly, and focussed on the capital, Choron stimulated interest that made his own publications impermanent.
He composed chiefly sacred music, including a Messe brève, a Magnificat, a Stabat mater and numerous motets, both a cappella and with organ accompaniment. His opera, Nadir et Salyha, was produced in Kassel in 1811. He also wrote a number of songs, of which La sentinelle (1810) was popular in his lifetime.