Introduction to the New Brod Oboe Method

by Charles-David Lehrer

© International Double Reed Society: Boulder, Colorado, USA - 2000

After the completion of the New Barret Oboe Method, the present editor realized that an even more important task awaited him. This job was somewhat more complex in that it involved presenting the entirety of an oboe method which, at the time, could only be had in part, as the edition currently in circulation lacked the essential bass line which was designed to reinforce the harmonic flow. In addition, the final set of studies were missing in their entirety. Knowledge that the same method was the all-important bridge to the Barret oboe method, made it all the more urgent that it become again available in its original format. The volume in question is the legendary Méthode pour le Hautbois composed in Paris by the young genius, Henri Brod (1799-1839), during the early years of the Romantic Era.

The Brod Méthode consists of two parts. The first, published in 1835 by the house of Schonenberger in Paris, contains a substantial introductory essay in French similar to the one produced in English by Apollon Barret for his A Complete Method for the Oboe, and published 15 years later in 1850. Also, included in this section are scales and 30 articulation procedures applied to scale motives; the latter were to realize their full potential only years later through the work of Clemente Salviani in Vol. II of his Studi per Oboe. Brod's essay is followed by 40 short progressive studies, just as in the Barret method; but, unlike Barret's, Brod's studies truly are progressive in nature. This first part is completed by a set of six easy sonatas.

The second part, published in 1836 also by Schonenberger, begins with a shorter essay than that found in the first part; and here one finds Brod's information on the English horn, bass oboe, and, most-importantly on the making of reeds. Peter Hedrich made an excellent presentation and translation into English of Brod's reed-making procedures in the 1978 Journal of the International Double Reed Society, and, to say the least, it is required reading for anyone learning to play the early oboes. Following the essay are 20 Études of considerable difficulty, which oboists of today learn from the edition published in 1951 by the firm of Alphonse Leduc & Cie. The editor, Pierre Bajeux (1899-1961) Professor of Oboe at the Paris Conservatoire, concentrated solely upon the oboe part, embellishing it with dynamics and articulation not found in Brod's sparsely-notated print; and it must be said that he did a good job here. The bass line, as mentioned earlier, is lacking, so that oboists working on the studies in Bajeux's edition are often baffled by the harmonic movement. The second part of the Brod Méthode is completed by a set of six difficult sonatas and 24 orchestral studies, the latter which Bajeux completely deleted.

A word must certainly now be interjected concerning the Brod orchestral studies, which he entitled: Airs Romances et Solos, tirés des meillieurs Auteurs. In his position as second, and later, principal oboist of the Paris Opéra, Brod was witness to the change of style that accompanied the transition from Classicism to Early Romanticism. In these orchestral studies, presented with accompaniment, we travel back with Brod to the time when the music of Grétry and Mozart made room for the new music of Rossini, Weber, and Beethoven. Furthermore, in five of these studies we are present for the birth of popular music. Finally, in three works composed by Brod himself, we are witness to his humor as he pokes fun at music of the men he calls Mozard, Bethowen, and Kzerni.

It is clear, from the many separate items for oboe and piano which were published by Brod during his lifetime, that harmony was extremely important to him. After all, he stood at the beginning of a new age, and the freshness of its chordal progressions was a prime identifying factor of what we now call the Romantic Movement. Therefore, it has been the task of the present editor to restore the bass line to the entirety of Brod's method and realize all of its rich harmonies. In essence, the editor has followed the identical procedures to those found in the New Barret Oboe Method. The work, though, was made all the more difficult, because Brod never had a chance, as did Barret, to review his oboe method and prepare a second edition. In fact, Brod died in 1839, three years after the publication of the second part. He was just 40 years old!

The present editor has had to tread carefully through the often sparsely articulated oboe part of the Brod method just as Pierre Bajeux did 45 years ago. The procedure has been to complete Brod's articulation based upon the hints given by the composer, rather than imposing personal preferences. Each item in the New Brod Oboe Method has a fully realized keyboard part created from the bass line, and a short paragraph describing the music itself.

For the ability to undertake this project, the editor is indebted to several of his oboe and musicology professors. Among the former, much credit is due to Louis Rosenblatt, Ralph Gomberg, and Florian Mueller who essentially laid the groundwork which led me into the world of music and specifically oboe playing. The musicologists Janet Knapp, Glenn Watkins, Marie Louise Göllner, Frank d'Accone, Gilbert Reaney and Robert Winter form the latter group who competed with the oboists for my attention, in order to impart to me yet further details which are integral to understanding the art of music.

It is the hope of the editor that Henri Brod's complete contribution to the art of oboe playing will eventually be revealed. Today's oboists still utilize Brod's fabulous inventions: the cane shaper, the gouging machine, and the straight-bodied English horn. It would seem that the time has now arrived to add Brod's compositional and pedagogical works to the list of what we oboists need to confront in our daily lives in order to become even better performers.

Charles-David Lehrer
Thousand Oaks, California
November 1999

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