An Introduction to Franz Wilhelm Ferling's 48 Studies, Op. 31

by Charles-David Lehrer

© International Double Reed Society: Boulder, Colorado, USA - 2008

Franz Wilhelm Ferling (1796-1874) spent a good part of his life as an oboist at the Court of Braunschweig [Brunswick]. This was a time of great upheaval in German-speaking lands, when people living in dozens of little principalities and duchies like Braunschweig were trying to come to a consensus as to whether they would prefer to join together as a sovereign country, or be absorbed by Austria-Hungary or Prussia. While the principalities waited to see what would happen, they and their people continued about their daily lives as they had for centuries.

Ferling's fabulous 48 Übungen [Studies], Op 31 are reflective of the kinds of music the master played daily as part of his duties at Braunschweig. Clearly, the Art of Music was practiced on a very high level in that duchy. Influences from Italian Opera led to 5 Bel canto etudes; while an intimate knowledge of French Opéra inspired Ferling to produce 6 Romances. For Church there are 2 Offertories; both have surely been transposed into difficult keys to suit pedagogical purposes. The influence of Paganini seems to be the root of the 4 Toccatas, and perhaps the 3 Slow Movements of Sonatas or Concertos. The Romantic Movement itself is certainly responsible for the 7 Marches, 12 Waltzes, 4 Polkas, 2 Polonaises and 3 Czardas; the same genres derive from works for the stage: German Singspiel, Italian Opera, and French Opéra.

In the original 1840 edition of Ferling's 48 Studies, two etudes in the same key are placed on each page: one slow, the other fast. The studies cycle through the circle of fifths, sharp keys followed by flat ones. Their difficulty is controlled by the key in which each is placed, and by tempo. In addition, style determines just how much work a given movement will require on the part of the student. The importance of style in these etudes is all the more noticeable since the structure of practically every item is simple or rounded binary form, although some movements include a trio and da capo. Not a single example of sonata form is to be found.

The following editor's list of the genres which Ferling includes in his 48 Studies proceeds by stylistic difficulty. It will be noticed that No. 1 in C Major is located in one of the most difficult categories, Bel Canto.

Marches: 19, 21, 37, 38, 43, 44, 46

Waltzes: 3, 6, 11, 13, 18, 23, 24, 32, 36, 40, 42, 48

Polkas: 2, 14, 22, 34

Polonaises: 10, 26,

Czardas: 8, 20, 30

Slow Movements of Sonatas or Concertos: 5, 7, 9

Offertories: 31, 45

Romances: 15, 29, 33, 35, 39, 47

Bel Canto Arias: 1, 17, 25, 27, 41

Toccatas: 4, 12, 16, 28

Because of the stylistic problems posed by each genre, it is the editor's opinion that students should progress through the 48 Studies by way of the above list. Throughout the edition, analyses of each study are provided, and, if warranted, repeat marks have been added to binary structures. The latter were apparently removed from every item of this type when the Op. 31 was printed, probably to save space and permit laying out just two studies to the page. The editor has provided modest piano accompaniments for the entire opus in order that the harmonic movement, which controls the shape of each phrase, might be easily discerned.

Charles-David Lehrer
Thousand Oaks, California
October 2001

Back to Table of Contents