Xavier Lefèvre (1763-1829) was one of the first clarinet professors at the Paris Conservatory from 1795 to 1824.1 He published his Méthode de clarinette in 1802. This Méthode proves to be of lasting relevance and influence. Only three years later, in 1805, a German translation is published in Offenbach by J.André.2Iwan Müller, in the introduction of his Méthode pour la nouvelle clarinette et clarinette-alto (1821) still recommends it3and in 1836, Claude-François Buteux, a former student of the Conservatoire, publishes a new edition adapted to the mechanical innovations of the instrument.4 

It is also interesting to mention that several influential clarinettists of the time studied with Xavier Lefèvre. Among them, J.G.H. Backofen, known for his method Anweisung zur Klarinette nebst einer kurzen Abhandlung über das Basset-Horn (1803)5 or the Finnish-Swedish B. H. Crusell.6


Frédéric Berr (1794-1838), born and trained in Mannheim,7 held the same position as clarinet professor at the Paris Conservatory from 1832 to 1838.8 In 1836 he published two clarinet tutors: Traité complet de la Clarinette à quatorze clefs and Méthode Complète de Clarinette. The Méthode is dedicated to his well-known student, Hyacynthe Klosé, co-inventor of the Boehm-system clarinet and Berr's successor at the Conservatory from 1839 to 1868.9 In his Méthode published in 1843, Klosé expresses his admiration for his former teacher. Proud to have been part of Berr's Clarinet School he affirms that he will continue to follow its traditions and to keep them alive.10


Although I studied in France for many years, I had never heard the name of Frédéric Berr before arriving in the Netherlands and I only knew Xavier Lefèvre for one of his Sonatas, played a long time ago. Reading their tutors for the first time, I immediately found them fascinating. Therefore, it is around these authors and these methods that I decided to do my master research. I asked the following question :


How to describe Clarinet instruction at the Paris Conservatory between 1795 and 1838?


My motivation, through this research, has been to get an idea as precise as possible of the Clarinet performance practice in France during the first decades of the 19th century. Many aspects of performance practice are not limited to the clarinet. Consequently, other methods for singing or for other instruments, related to the Conservatory, have been studied to provide a broader perspective.

I have chosen to divide this work into 6 chapters, each one discussing an aspect of the Clarinet performance practice that seemed important to me during my preliminary research:

Musical Expression, Breathing and Phrasing, Clarinet Technique, Embellishments, Articulation, and Dynamics.