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On the Bochsa Requiem

After Napoleon was first defeat­ed by a coali­tion of Euro­pean pow­ers in 1814, the coali­tion restored the throne of France to Louis XVIII on 6 April 1814. Louis XVIII returned to Paris on 24 April 1814 and the sub­se­quent cel­e­bra­tion of the Bour­bon Restora­tion was the occa­sion for a Motet, by Bochsa, “Com­posed for the cel­e­bra­tion of the Apothéose of Louis XVI and the Hap­py Return of the Bour­bons”.

After “The Hun­dred Days,” dur­ing which Napoleon attempt­ed to regain con­trol, anoth­er, much larg­er cel­e­bra­tion was held on 15 Jan­u­ary 1815 cen­tered on the rebur­ial of the remains of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. It was for this cel­e­bra­tion that Bochsa and Cheru­bi­ni com­posed Requiems in hon­or of Louis XVI.

The Bour­bon Restora­tion end­ed with the July Rev­o­lu­tion of 1830, a com­mem­o­ra­tion of which result­ed in the government’s com­mis­sion of Berlioz’ Sym­pho­ny for Band. Thus we have as book-ends for the Bour­bon Restora­tion two large-scale, impor­tant orig­i­nal com­po­si­tions for large band.

The Requiem for Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

Louis XVI had been behead­ed on 21 Jan­u­ary 1793, as a vic­tim of the French Rev­o­lu­tion. But France had always been a coun­try with a father-fig­ure at the head of soci­ety and after the peri­od dur­ing which Napoleon was respon­si­ble for the death of an entire gen­er­a­tion of French young men dur­ing his Euro­pean Wars, the pub­lic began to look back to the harm­less old king, Louis XVI. This turn in sen­ti­ment result­ed in the rebur­ial of Louis and his wife in a more suit­able loca­tion. And so on the anniver­sary of Louis’ behead­ing, on 21 Jan­u­ary 1815, a great cer­e­mo­ny was held in Paris which fea­tured two gov­ern­ment com­mis­sioned Requiems, one by Cheru­bi­ni and one by Bochsa.

The impor­tance of this occa­sion can be seen in the fact that on the very same day in Vien­na an iden­ti­cal cer­e­mo­ny to com­mem­o­rate Louis XVI was held in St. Stefan’s Cathe­dral, orga­nized by Tal­leyrand as an offi­cial event dur­ing the Con­gress of Vien­na. The music on this occa­sion was a Requiem by Sigis­mund Neukomm, with Salieri con­duct­ing. Neukomm, whose birth­place was Salzburg, wrote a num­ber of large-scale com­po­si­tions for band which are unknown today.

Charles Nicholas Bochsa (1789–1856) was the son of Charles Bochsa, an oboist and con­duc­tor of a French reg­i­men­tal band who lat­er moved to Paris to become a pub­lish­er. The son, Charles Nicholas Bochsa, was a prodi­gy, per­form­ing a piano con­cer­to in pub­lic at age sev­en, a flute con­cer­to of his own com­po­si­tion at age eleven and the fol­low­ing year com­pos­ing a bal­let. As a stu­dent at the Paris Con­ser­va­toire he stud­ied with Catel and Méhul and while still in the Con­ser­va­toire he joined with Erard, the piano man­u­fac­tur­er, to invent the dou­ble action harp. For this instru­ment Bochsa pro­duced a vast num­ber of stud­ies which are still used today.

In 1813 Napoleon appoint­ed Bochsa as the offi­cial harpist to his court and in this same year Bochsa began to com­pose the first of sev­en works for the Opéra-Comique. The le Jour­nal des débates of 16 Sep­tem­ber 1815 looked back over these stage works and found that Bochsa’s music had “warmth, dra­mat­ic truth and, as they say, youth.“2

On becom­ing an extreme­ly well-known musi­cian in Paris, Bochsa, per­haps under the pres­sure of hav­ing to asso­ciate with very suc­cess­ful and wealthy per­sons, began to cre­ate var­i­ous kinds of let­ters of cred­it, forg­ing the sig­na­tures of a large num­ber of peo­ple and insti­tu­tions for the pur­pose of obtain­ing mon­ey from their pri­vate accounts. One con­tem­po­rary found that Bochsa had stolen 760,000 francs. To escape a court order for his arrest, brand­ing and years of hard labor, Bochsa fled to Lon­don.

In Lon­don, Bochsa, by nature a show­man, intro­duced him­self by orga­niz­ing eye-catch­ing con­certs such as one at Covent Gar­den for 13 harps, an ora­to­rio, Le Déluge uni­ver­sal, for cho­rus, 14 harps and dou­ble orches­tra and com­posed his only opera in Eng­lish, A Tale of Oth­er Times. His most suc­cess­ful idea was to found, in 1823, the Roy­al Acad­e­my of Music, a school pat­terned after the Paris Con­ser­va­toire. Soon, how­ev­er, there were rumors of “free­dom tak­en with the code of con­duct” and Bochsa was forced out of the direc­tion of the school in 1826.

It was at this time that Bochsa began his asso­ci­a­tion with Anna Riv­ière, a very tal­ent­ed sopra­no who became the wife of Sir Hen­ry Bish­op, known local­ly as “the Eng­lish Mozart” and already famous as the com­pos­er of the song, “Home, Sweet Home.“3 They met and began to become close dur­ing her appear­ances with the King’s The­atre and the Ital­ian Opera House, where Bochsa had become Musi­cal Direc­tor. She was rapid­ly becom­ing famous and Bochsa, to take advan­tage of this, eloped with her and began to accom­pa­ny her on exten­sive recital tours through­out Europe, includ­ing the Scan­di­na­vian coun­tries, Rus­sia and Italy, where Bochsa was appoint­ed Direc­tor of the Regio Teatro San Car­lo.

In 1847, the cou­ple sailed for Amer­i­ca and per­formed in New York, Boston, Wash­ing­ton, Bal­ti­more, Rich­mond, Charleston, Savan­nah and New Orleans. While pass­ing through Amer­i­ca, a review of one of their recitals appeared in the Amer­i­can Review for 1846, the review­er found the singing of Anna Bish­op to be rather cold and not from the heart. Of Bochsa the review was more com­pli­men­ta­ry.

Bochsa is anoth­er instru­men­tal won­der. The harp in his hands is full of splen­did effects; it is capa­ble of infi­nite vari­ety in pow­er and qual­i­ty of tone, full of del­i­ca­cy and of lyric fire. His exe­cu­tion is won­der­ful, and the vari­ety of his touch still more so. His hands wan­der all over the strings and pro­duce sound­ing arpeg­gios, rapid sparkling pas­sages above, and har­mon­ics as pure and sil­very as we may imag­ine to come from the gold­en-wired harps of the cheru­bims. Few, who nev­er heard such play­ing, can be aware of the scope of the instru­ment in solos, or indeed of its pecu­liar effects in the hands of such a mas­ter, as an accom­pa­ni­ment to the voice.

In 1849 Bochsa and Anna, whom he intro­duced as his pupil, made a nine-month tour of Mex­i­co and in a jour­nal4 she kept we learn some per­son­al char­ac­ter­is­tics of Bochsa. Here we read that Bochsa, at age six­ty, was rather well-known for the “rotun­di­ty of his form,“5 near-sight­ed, an impos­ing fig­ure who spoke with “star­tling empha­sis.“6 Reviews of his per­for­mance in Mex­i­co City indi­cate that even at this advanced age Bochsa remained a great harpist.7

He is, incon­testably, the great­est harpist ever lis­tened to.

Trait d’Union

Clear as the tones of a nightin­gale in his touch, he com­plete­ly over­rules every dif­fi­cul­ty of this undocile instru­ment, and, by the pow­er of his genius, draws from it such tor­rents of har­mo­ny as over­whelm the audi­ence with delight and won­der.

Siglo XIX

Bochsa’s harp solo is dwelt upon, as a com­po­si­tion of the most exquis­ite bril­lian­cy and a per­for­mance of incred­i­ble pow­er and beau­ty.

La Moda

While in Mex­i­co City, Bochsa actu­al­ly com­posed, in three days time, an Oper­at­ta buf­fo, El Ensayo, to be sung in Span­ish. In its review of this per­for­mance, the paper El Mon­i­tor remind­ed its read­ers that Bochsa was known not only as the “Pagani­ni of the Harp,” but “as a com­pos­er of great skill and fecun­di­ty.”

Our lim­it of space will not per­mit us to ana­lyze, as care­ful­ly as we would, this inspi­ra­tion of one of the most cel­e­brat­ed com­posers of the age. It is rich in ideas, piquant and orig­i­nal, and the instru­men­ta­tion is per­formed with that thor­ough knowl­edge of the orches­tra, pos­sessed by Bochsa to so high a degree of mas­tery.

They then returned to North Amer­i­ca, giv­ing many recitals, but now Bochsa’s health was begin­ning to fail. The news­pa­per Dai­ly Alta Cal­i­for­nia post­ed a notice on 8 July 1855:

We under­stand the old com­pos­er and con­duc­tor is in a pre­car­i­ous state of health and is afraid he will nev­er leave Cal­i­for­nia. A great musi­cal light goes out.

Nev­er­the­less, by Decem­ber 1855, they were sail­ing again, now for Syd­ney, Aus­tralia. With­in a month of their arrival, Bochsa died. A long cortège of local musi­cians formed a pro­ces­sion to his bur­ial place, per­form­ing the slow move­ment of Beethoven’s Third Sym­pho­ny and march­es tak­en from the works of Han­del. His bro­ken-heart­ed com­pan­ion com­mis­sioned an elab­o­rate tomb, which shows her lying at the base of a tree with a harp lying against it, in the Camper­down Ceme­tery in Syd­ney, and read­ing:

To the mem­o­ry of
Nicholas Charles Bochsa, Esq.
Who died 6th Jan­u­ary 1856
This mon­u­ment is erect­ed in sin­cere
Devot­ed­ness by his faith­ful friend and pupil
Anna Bish­op
Mourn him — mourn his harp-strings bro­ken
Nev­er more shall float such music
None could sweep the lyre like him!

Half a world away and six months lat­er, an Irish news­pa­per car­ried a brief obit­u­ary.

Mr. Elia’s Record for this week announces the death, in Aus­tralia, of Sign­or Bochsa, a man who, had he pos­sessed more con­duct and less char­la­tan­ry, might have left a per­ma­nent name in the annals of music, and not mere­ly in Europe an ephemer­al rep­u­ta­tion, which, for bet­ter or worse, had died out long before he him­self had died. Sign­or Bochsa was an orig­i­nal and bril­liant harpist, allow­ing for a cer­tain flashy vul­gar­i­ty of taste, which seemed to cleave to all the man’s doings. Some of his music for his instru­ment, both solo and con­cert­ed, has fan­cy and well intend­ed (or adroit­ly bor­rowed) ideas.

The Cork Exam­in­er, 6 June 1856

After Bochsa’s death, Anna con­tin­ued her life as a trav­el­ing artist, with con­certs in Asia (where she was wrecked on Wake Island and strand­ed for three weeks), India, back to Aus­tralia and then to New York where she died in 1884.

Notes on the Requiem

The form of the Bochsa Requiem for Louis XVI is as fol­lows:

1. Marche funèbre, for band alone
2. Kyrie Eleyson, for ATB soli, ATB choir and band
3. Dies Irae, for ATB choir and band, Segue to Nr. 4
4. Tuba Mirum, for Bass solo and band
5. Liber Scrip­tus, for AB soli and Har­moniemusik, Segue to Nr. 6
6. Rex Tremen­dae, for ATB choir and band
7. Recor­dare, for A solo, Eng­lish horn solo and Har­moniemusik
8. Ingemis­co, for choir and band
9. Pec­ca­tricem, Aria for T solo with solo flute and Har­moniemusik
10. Judi­can­dus for choir and band, Segue to Nr. 11
11. Amen, Fugue for choir and band
12. Sanc­tus, for choir and band
13. Pie Jesu, Ele­va­tione, for soli AB, horn and harp
14. Agnus Dei, for choir and band

Original Instrumentation

The basic orig­i­nal instru­men­ta­tion of the band in this score is as fol­lows:

2 Tierce (flutes in Eb)
2 Oboes
Eng­lish horn
2 Bb Clar­inets
2 Bas­soons
Trum­pet in C
4 Horns
Haute-Con­tre, Tenor and Bass soli
Haute-Con­tre, Tenor and Bass cho­rus

The Kyrie also calls for a con­tra­bas­soon to dou­ble the sec­ond bas­soon. The Tuba Mirum calls for three addi­tion­al trum­pets, which if not avail­able can be replaced by horns. A note says the Eng­lish Horn, if not avail­able, can be replaced by Bas­set horn.

Notes on this Edition

For this impor­tant his­tor­i­cal com­po­si­tion I have resist­ed the addi­tion of instru­ments to make a larg­er, more mod­ern band. How­ev­er, one must not view the inten­tion of the com­pos­er as writ­ing for one play­er on a part. Already in the final decade in France the band as a medi­um had become one in which a large clar­inet sec­tion func­tioned like the string sec­tions of the orches­tra. We see, for exam­ple, in 1802, in the French Impe­r­i­al Infantry band in an ensem­ble of 34 instru­ments there were 16 reg­u­lar clar­inets and one small one in F. There­fore it is no sur­prise that there is clear evi­dence that the clar­inet parts, in par­tic­u­lar, were dou­bled, as for exam­ple in the Liber Scrip­tus where, after the clar­inet solo, we find “tut­ti” in the first clar­inet part. Indeed there are numer­ous exposed pas­sages where the musi­cal mean­ing would fail if the work were played by one clar­inet play­er per part.

Also there are places where the con­tra­bass line car­ries a note that the ser­pent and trom­bone were assumed, while not notat­ed.

I have also in this edi­tion resist­ed adding artic­u­la­tions and mak­ing changes in the many dynam­ic sym­bols. These seem to be care­ful­ly thought out by the com­pos­er, even to the dis­tinc­tion between a gong solo which is ff and one which is fff. I have, how­ev­er, com­ment­ed in the notes below on spe­cif­ic per­for­mance prac­tices of this time which include under­stand­ings of artic­u­la­tions which are quite dif­fer­ent from today.

Performance Practice

What do we do with the Haute-Contre vocal parts?

This prac­tice in ear­ly French choral music dates from the Baroque where com­posers wrote for the cho­rus in five parts: Dessus, haute-con­tre, taille, basse-taille and basse-con­tre. Rousseau, in his Dic­tio­n­naire de musique, Paris, 1768, in writ­ing for four-part choral writ­ing clear­ly asso­ciates the haute-con­tre with the male voice.

Just as a com­plete chord is com­posed of four sounds, so there are in music four prin­ci­pal parts, the high­est of which is called dessus, and is sung by women’s voic­es, chil­dren, or cas­trati; the three oth­ers are the haute-con­tre, the taille, and the basse, all of which belong to the men’s voic­es.8

On the oth­er hand, Rousseau tells us that in Ital­ian music they call the haute-con­tre part con­tral­to and “is near­ly always sung by bas-dessus, be they women or cas­trati.” He con­tin­ues, “Indeed, the haute-con­tre is not nat­ur­al in a man’s voice; one must force it to car­ry it to this pitch.” From this per­spec­tive one can under­stand why in Eng­lish the haute-con­tre is often con­fused with the “coun­tertenor.”

The prob­lem is, when look­ing at the score of the Bochsa Requiem, at first sight it seems appro­pri­ate to think of this com­po­si­tion as one for male cho­rus. But in real­i­ty, it is dif­fi­cult enough to find a large num­ber of tenors and almost impos­si­ble today to find male singers who sing in the reg­is­ter above the tenors.

From my per­spec­tive it is a shame not to per­form this mas­ter­piece of the band reper­toire because of this prob­lem, there­fore one might begin by con­sult­ing the local choral con­duc­tor for sug­ges­tions, as I am told they deal with this prob­lem fre­quent­ly. When I first per­formed this Requiem, in 1971, I just told all the women singers to sing the haute-con­tre part in what­ev­er octave they could. I did this in part on the ear­ly Baroque prin­ci­ple giv­en by Prae­to­rius that one could add an octave above the sopra­no (here tenor) with no ill-effects so long as it was the same tex­ture.10 The result was, I think, quite beau­ti­ful.

Nr. 1 Marche funèbre

  • Bar 4. The tenu­to means to play this bar slow­er to height­en the feel­ings and then return to a tem­po in the fol­low­ing bar.
  • Bars 22 and 24, 52 and 54. The cadences with the quar­ter-notes with a dot over the head should be thought of not as stac­ca­to, but as lit­tle accents.
  • Bars 26, 61. The half-note when fol­lowed by rests at this time were played as a quar­ter-note.
  • Bar 29. Hav­ing the melod­ic line in this bar only in the first clar­inet, while every­thing else is for­tis­si­mo, sug­gests that the clar­inet parts were dou­bled or more, where­as the oboe and high flute parts were prob­a­bly not dou­bled.
  • Bar 46. At this time a bar with 4 forte marks was tak­en to mean: forte, più forte, più forte, più forte. In pas­sages where the full ensem­ble lev­el is forte, repeat­ed forte sym­bols in a sin­gle voice with­in such a pas­sage should be tak­en as più forte in that voice, which in effect is an accent not a change of dynam­ics.
  • The per­form­ers will notice that where­as the inter­nal repeat sign sug­gests that the sec­ond half of the march be repeat­ed, there is no repeat signs at the end of this sec­tion. But then there are also no repeat signs at the begin­ning, which is also to be repeat­ed. It was still too ear­ly for pub­lish­ers to be con­sis­tent with this kind of detail.

Nr. 2 Kyrie Eleyson

  • Bars 21 and 32. Dots over the note-heads mean an accent, not stac­ca­to.
  • Bar 61. The dots over the note-heads in the upper wood­winds mean small accents, not stac­ca­to.
  • Bar 123. The dots over the note-heads should be tak­en as small accents.
  • Bars 154–158. Each f means più forte in suc­ces­sion.
  • Bar 196. Choral stac­ca­to dots mean accents.

Nr. 3 Dies Irae

  • Dots over note heads mean accents.
  • Repeat­ed dynam­ics, such as f, f, mean forte, più forte.
  • Bars 39–42, the use of the dot over the note head is very clear in the wood­winds. All quar­ter-notes have a dot above the note, but only the last note of each group has writ­ten above it “stac­ca­to.” In oth­er words, all are accent­ed, but the last note of the group is also short.
  • Bar 58ff, a very unusu­al crescen­do by enlarg­ing the ensem­ble of singers.
  • Bars 59ff, 3rd and 4th horns, the pro­gres­sion of mf signs means, mf, più mf, più mf, più mf.

Nr. 4 Tuba Mirum

  • This is the only move­ment which requires more than one trum­pet. In a note, Bochsa says that if trum­pets are not avail­able the horns can sub­sti­tute.

Nr. 5 Liber Scriptus

  • Here we have a move­ment for two vocal soloists and the typ­i­cal ver­sion of a small Har­moniemusik after 1805: 2 clar­inets, 2 bas­soons and 2 horns, with string bass. A note in the score indi­cates that the trom­bone and ser­pent are assumed to dou­ble the con­tra­bass, but, depend­ing on what instru­ment the con­duc­tor choos­es for the ser­pent part, this may prove to be too much bass sound.
  • Bars 1–5. A case can be made that the dots over note-heads are small accents. If this was true in the first three bars of the sec­ond clar­inet, it would have been for musi­cal rea­sons. Most mod­ern con­duc­tors may pre­fer these to be sim­ply stac­ca­to.
  • Bar 2. The grace note in the first clar­inet part is to indi­cate an upper note trill.

Nr. 7 Recordare

  • The Har­moniemusik accom­pa­ni­ment has a con­tra­bass part added, which car­ries a note that it is assumed the ser­pent will dou­ble the bass. At the end of this move­ment a note des­ig­nates the ser­pent as being tacet.
  • Bar 8. Here in the first bas­soon is a good exam­ple of the dot over the note-head rep­re­sent­ing an accent for caden­tial pur­pos­es with the solo Eng­lish horn. The sec­ond bas­soon an octave low­er lacks this indi­ca­tion, not being of melod­ic res­o­lu­tion.
  • Bars 45–58. K.P.E. Bach, in his The Art of Key­board Play­ing, states that the f sym­bol was used for sev­er­al oth­er rea­sons besides as a vol­ume indi­ca­tion. One of these was to indi­cate an accent. The bars in the bass line here are an exam­ple of this.

Nr. 9 Peccatricem

  • In the style, the final half-note should be per­formed as a quar­ter-note.

Nr. 11 Fugue

  • The small note [vorschlage] in bar 82 of Flute 2, and sim­i­lar places, reflect the style that one should not change octaves in a dia­ton­ic pas­sage. Hence the lit­tle note sup­plies the melod­ic log­ic to the ear, so long as it is played as a grace note, that is before the beat.
  • Bars 184, 185. These bars in the orig­i­nal print were notat­ed as half-notes, but with the word “stac­ca­to” writ­ten above each bar. This reflects the old­er tra­di­tion found in this score where the dot above the note-head meant not stac­ca­to but a small accent. Hence for a true stac­ca­to the word had to be writ­ten out. As a result the only way to show a stac­ca­to half-note was to notate it as a quar­ter-note.
  • Bars 190 ff. Even though the over­all ensem­ble dynam­ic is fff, the addi­tion­al mark­ing of f in some voic­es here means an accent at the fff lev­el.
  • When the Stret­to arrives, after bar 125, the lis­ten­er will notice that Bochsa builds up a dense struc­ture of tones to imi­tate the impres­sion one hears in a large cathe­dral when the over­tones of the organ begin to build up in the space above the lis­ten­er cre­at­ing some­times an extra­or­di­nary cacoph­o­ny. It is dif­fi­cult to recall any com­po­si­tion before 1815 which con­tains such an extend­ed pas­sage of this nature.

Nr. 12 Sanctus

  • Horn 3 and 4 have been dropped an octave owing to the high B-flat’s in Bochsa’s orig­i­nal.
  • The repeat­ed use of ff, when that is already the dynam­ic lev­el, means only an emphat­ic begin­ning of each entrance.
  • Bar 12. All the quar­ter-notes in this bar, except the choral parts, have a stac­ca­to dot above the note-head. Accord­ing to the usage in the late Baroque, as well as is evi­dent in this com­po­si­tion, the dots mean only an accent. It will have that effect any­way as long as the con­duc­tor does not make them too short.

Nr. 13 Pie Jesu, Elevatione

  • This love­ly quar­tet for AB soli, horn and harp was used in the Ser­vice for Com­mu­nion.

Nr. 14 Agnus Dei

  • This is the final move­ment of the Messe de Requiem, at the end of which is a note which says if one wish­es the first move­ment, the funer­al march, can be repeat­ed.

Nr. 15 Motet

  • Bound with this score for the Messe de Requiem, and num­bered Nr. 15, is a sep­a­rate Motet com­posed to cel­e­brate the Apoth­e­ose of Louis XVI into Heav­en and for the “hap­py return of the Bour­bons.” This work con­sists of a recita­tive, “Apothéose de Louis XVI” fol­lowed with­out a pause by a fast move­ment, “Vivat,” which again includes the ATB choir. The char­ac­ter of the sec­ond part is a march, which is why we now find there the addi­tion of bass drum and cym­bals.

David Whitwell
Austin, 2015

  1. Just around the cor­ner from a house I main­tained there for two years. []
  2. Quot­ed in Michel Faul, Nico­las-Charles Bochsa (Le Val­li­er: Edi­tions Dela­tour France, 2003), 17. Faul quotes many reviews from Bochsa’s Eng­lish res­i­dence. []
  3. From his opera, Clari (1829). []
  4. Trav­els of Anna Bish­op in Mex­i­co, 1949, pub­lished with­out an author’s name by Charles Deal in Philadel­phia in 1852. []
  5. Ibid., 14, 42. []
  6. Ibid., 212, 147, 126. []
  7. Ibid., 104ff. []
  8. This quo­ta­tion and all the impor­tant infor­ma­tion here was pro­vid­ed to me by Neal Zaslaw, of Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty, one of our lead­ing music schol­ars, who has writ­ten a paper, “The Enig­ma of the Haute-Con­tre.” []
  9. The same prob­lem is encoun­tered in the choral and band music of the French Rev­o­lu­tion. []
  10. Syn­tag­ma Musicum, III, 1619. []