Paul Dukas: "Villanelle"

Paul Dukas´ Villanelle requires some extra skill. As in the title stated "pour Cor simple et chromatique", there are some important passages to be played on the "open" F-horn in a fanfare-like style, even using the "bell hand" as a special tool.


Let us begin now. The horn enters after the two forte strokes in the piano. Let sound these chords first & enter a bit late but rapid & observe the accents & the fortepiano on the c1 held for more than three measures. The same fanfare comes again now but much softer in dynamics & character. Then there is the espressivo marked melody with the 7th harmonic, the bb1 included, for which one has to open the bell a bit more to remain well tuned. As can be seen, the melody is divided by bows but all over covered by a greater bow. Take this as an advise, how to make longer phrases. going up means a bit crescendo, just a bit, going down requests a bit of diminuendo, just letting jump or glide the note back to the origin. The slur from c2 to g2 might request a bit more crescendo, but careful. Here the f2 will remain in tune if one closes the bell like flapping with the right hand. Be careful not to smear the intervals f2 - d2 - f2. The hand action must be careful & quick.


Starting with the c1 there comes a nearly completely "manipulated passage" (5th line on the part - Durand edition). The eb1 is just "muted down" (half closed bell), also the gb1, but the hand closing the bell a bit more, and again more closing for the ab1, while wider opening for the 7th harmonic, the bb1. The a1 in the 2nd next measure requires a light flapping of the bell hand, but half closing (muting) is required for the b-natural. Take care to do all right hand actions quickly.


Again the very late but quick entrance at the measure change. The tempo might go a bit slower now. Do not forget the little bell-like accents. Start the triplets modestly but accelerate, accelerate again the sixteenth , but when you arrive at the "Retenu au Mouvt" markings, stay in tempo. The sfz should not be taken too serious. A light accent here would do it also. But let the sound diminuend well. Do respect the difference between triplets´ last eight and the dotted eight with sixteenth. Right ? The f2 results best if you just quarter-mute the bell. The accent above the g2 (7th measure of the new tempo) should not result in a too long held note, as too often heard. Anyway, the triplets can have some rubato, which would make them more alive.


The most critical measure is the 3/2 measure, where a lot of right hand action is required: the f2 with a light closing, the f# wider opening as usual, the eb2 just half closing (muting), the bb1 wider open & finally the ab1 more closed (muted) than the other notes, which require a half step, as one has to tune down for a 3/4 step at least (the 7th harmonic being flat anyway).


Now the tempo changes to tres vif (quite fast: 144 beats/min. thought as alla breve = two beats per measure) and one gets a rest to water the horn & take some breath before the "valved section" (avec les pistons) will begin, where one needs the first valve only for the first five measures. There is again no reason to use the Bb-side. The scale runs are simple, remaining on the f, the staccato dots should not result in a hard "dotted" playing, they should just remind, that one has to play all very light. The crescendo comes with the accents a few measures later. Again the dots above the triplet notes indicate - and the composer wrote "legerement" (light) all ready - that one should do it LIGHT, but firm. A good F-horn exercise, one will benefit tone-wise.


The risoluto marks the forte passage, where one might use the Bb-side for the upper notes (f2 on T1, eb2 also on T1), so to reduce the valve actions to a minimum. If one remains on the F-side for the entire risoluto passage, the valve action will be limited to the use of the no.1 & no.2 valves respectively. One will benefit from the more co-sounding overtones on the F-side. Several days extra practice on the F-horn will bring the required self-confidence on the F-side. Remember to play the c#2 on F2 only, not the wrong F12. The crescendo on the top f#2 can be something, followed by the rapid arpeggiando downwards ending in the tenuto low c. This arpeggiando is another wonderful exposure of the F-horns advantage.


Start thinking (counting) in ONE now (72 beats / min. = one beat per measure). So the speed remains the same but the character changes to more "tranquillo" (calm). Here the fanfare comes again, only differently annotated. If one is very skilled on hand horn, one could do the entire passage "hand horn-wise", as only light right hand action would be required for the eb2 & also the d#2 and the bnat1. Starting the d#2 as piano subito (an immediate piano), crescending the b-nat & again the d#2 as "piano subito" & dying away would create a fine mysterious effect.


Now comes the "echo" passage as contrast. This is a bit delicate. The real echo effect comes if one plays the entire passage a half step higher & mutes down by half closed bell. Well, sounds the opposite as I am preaching for years. No, wrong. I am talking about "muting" & not stopping, where you transpose a half step down to compensate for the higher, the stopped pitch. But here "echo sound" is required. Watch, turn back that page & look at the end of the third line from bottom up. Here you see exactly the same phrase, but as open notes. What a superb effect. Observe the expression marks & you will do the piece well. And here, there is now an "ouvert (pp) " mark and a clever breath mark, or is it just a tonguing mark ? Clever made, to allow the right hand to sneak out of the bell & return to the proper position for the regular "valve" horn. As there is a lot of romanticism implemented into this echo thing, rubato might be allowed, but one must return to the exact tempo at "Revenez --- au Mouvt.".


There was still no need to use the Bb-side. If you like to continue on the F-side, you should pull out the third valve a bit during the six measures rest, if you have not adjusted it before you started the piece. Why ? if you finger the low d, it might come a bit sharp with 13. I would rather recommend to use T12 for that note. It is easier fingering with12 and as there is no special need for the Bb-side, one can adjust the Bb-slides before the beginning.


The d2 is a superb lucid note on the F-side. Use it. Bring a bit life to the d2 by using careful crescendo & diminuendo, also a bit of vibrato. The last three d2 are holding back the tempo significantly, as one needs more time to grab the mute (sourdine), and the piano cannot just slow down by itself. Start freshly with the muted passage. Here is the right place to use the harder speaking Bb-side. Take care that the low eb comes right on, not muffled. This is it for the Bb-horn, as the next phrase would contain too much valve action, if you would use the Bb-side. And the gb  does not sound on the Bb-side (T123 ???). The next phrase starting with the bb & the consecutive measures until the place where you have to remove the mute, is much better on the Bb-side, Think, that is does not matter much to use the Bb-side here, as the whole passage is muted. The sound is "castrated" anyway.


If there is a chair nearby, would help for the required mute-in & mute-out action without the danger of an unpleasant noise created by a "fallen mute". Could tell you stories.......


Remember, the tempo must be kept. And there is no much time to place the mute on the chair & turn the page, just five quick measures. The next five measures are only a F-horn thing. I would understand, if you would use the T0 for the g2. Do not exaggerate the accents here. They are meant as a "pesante" (heavy) sign. The a2 runs out of pitch often. Surely to be played on T12, if you have tuned the a very well before. The ab2 is on the Bb-side also, as it might be too sharp on the F-side. This brings a nice transition to the following "sans les Pistons" section, the 6/8 part.


By the way, you might have organized yourself well now regarding these "open note things", right. So I have not to explain every note here, how to "swindle around". "Tres modere" (comme au debut) is to be translated to very moderate as in the beginning. Do so. The upbeat eb is to be interpreted as sighs, a super introduction to the final lip trill. Have you understood now, how to develop a fine trill. The final trill is with a strong crescendo & culminating on the g2 after a nice "abschlag".


Think the "Tres anime et en serrant le Mouvt" as a culminating fanfare. The speed should be set as 84 beats per minute, one beat per measure. So think in ONE. All notes should come in "marcato", accentuated. Even as thee is the fortissimo marking, try to reduce your power output and player rather virtuoso & elegant. I would tongue the c2 in the arpeggiando slurred triplets. It comes much better & sound very naturally & goes faster. Take a deep breath for the rapid triplet passage, as you should arrive at the held g2 with the same sound quality as you started. Also, the F-horn helps a lot here. Is not an entire F-horn piece (with few exemptions) ??


Now the very final. To make the c1 speak better after all that playing, use T0, but only for the c1, return to the F-horn & use the Bb  trigger again for the g2-g2-a2-bnat2-c3 and the very final c1.Just hit it. The last thing to observe is, not to push when you change from triplets to simple 4/4 rhythm. The music pushes forward by itself.


Good luck for you F-horn-exercise-masterpiece. I recorded it for the Austrian Radio, using my Viennese F Horn (Pumpenhorn from 1924) - I had no other horn then, not did I need another one) about 1960 or 1961, when I was still in school, but also in the orchestra.


Prof. Hans Pizka,© Copyright 2000 by Hans Pizka, D-85541 Kirchheim - Germany, email: - If you archive this analysis, do not place it on your homepage, please. Remain fair.


© 2003 by Prof.Hans Pizka 24.04.2003