Most brass players are familiar with a couple of series of vocal exercises which have been transcribed and adapted for our instruments. Working on these exercises can bring many benefits, including greater breath control, improved flexibility and range, and more effective phrasing. In the first post in this series we’ll cover a bit of background information on the composers of these collections, Giulio (Marco) Bordogni and (Paolo) Giuseppe Concone, as well as look at some of the original exercises themselves.
For a brief biography of Bordogni, I’ll quote from my copy of Melodious Etudes for Horn: Selected from the Vocalises of Marco Bordogni, compiled and edited by Larry Clark and Sean O’Loughlin, New York: Carl Fischer, 2005.
Marco Bordogni was born near Bergamo, Italy in 1788 and died in Paris in 1856. He enjoyed great success as a tenor in Italian opera houses as well as the Theatre Italien in Paris, where he remained for fourteen years, starting in 1819. He is best known, however, for his activities as a teacher and a composer of vocalises for teaching singers. He was appointed Professor at the Paris Conservatory in 1820 and was a devoted teacher until his death in 1856.
Bordogni composed sets of vocalises during his career as a teacher. These works are artistically and musically superior, and are not just technical studies. The expressive nature of theses etudes is a tribute to the great musicianship of this wonderful teacher and singer. (p. 4)
An entry by Giorgio Gualerzi in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (Vol. 3, ed. Stanley Sadie, New York and London: Macmillan, 1980) also includes some additional information about Bordogni’s performing and teaching career.
In 1819 he was engaged by the Theatre-Italien in Paris, where he remained for 14 years. During this period he sang in the Paris premieres of operas by Rossini…and established himself as one of the best tenors of his time, not so much for his voice, which had a fine timbre but a limited volume, or for his gifts as an actor, which were restricted, as for the elegance of his style and the perfect placing of his voice. The same qualities also made him famous as a teacher of singing. (p. 46)
Turning now to Concone, we find a brief bio in Legato Etudes for Horn: Based on the Vocalises of Giuseppe Concone, by John R. Shoemaker, Belwin Mills/Alfred, 1971.
Giuseppe Concone (1810-1861) was a famous Italian Master of singing and of the pianoforte. In 1837 he moved to Paris, where he became famous as a teacher of the pianoforte, singing, theory, and composition. Although well known as a composer of Romanzas, Arias, and Duets, his chief title to fame rests on the composition of a Series of Solfeggi which have a world-wide reputation and from which these etudes have been selected. (p. 1)
For a bit more detail on his career, we have another article in the same edition of the New Grove Dictionary (Vol. 4) by Elizabeth Forbes. Also interesting is that there seems to be a bit of a discrepancy about Concone’s birth year – the New Grove article lists 1801, while other sources (including the one above) list 1810.
After a short and undistinguished career as a singer, he turned to teaching, and became one of the most influential singing instructors of his time. From 1837 to 1848 he taught in Paris, where he published many books of vocal exercises, some still used. He also composed songs, studies, vocal duets and two operas…After the Revolution of 1848, Concone returned to Turin, where he was organist and maestro di capella at the Sardinian court. (p. 640)
If you are interested in looking at some of the original versions of these studies (which I recommend), you can check out the following links to the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP). Even if you don’t end up using these in your everyday practice, it’s fun to look at the piano accompaniments, which are often not included in editions for brass instruments, as well as the original keys the composers used. Another benefit of the original publications is that in many cases there exist versions for high, low, and medium voice. As horn players, we can study all three versions to cover the complete range of our instrument, as well as get additional practice playing the same exercises in a variety of keys. In part 2 of this series we’ll look at the various Concone and Bordogni editions for horn and other brass instruments, as well as ways to use these collections.