Researching Vobaron

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muschem
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Researching Vobaron

Post by muschem » Thu Jul 15, 2021 3:52 pm

Recently, I've been going through some musical works in the public domain and re-typesetting etudes, vocalises, and other studies for trombone into MuseScore format. It is a fun project, which I imagine will be something I chip away at for a few years. In typesetting/transcribing works, I usually like to provide the years of birth and death for the composer in the header. This information is usually well known, but not always. In the case of one of the early instructors (1833-1836) of trombone at the Paris Conservatoire, Félix Vobaron, I have found this information less readily available. Herein, I will describe the beginning of my journey to uncover a bit more, and I would be very interested if the esteemed members of this forum can provide any more insight.

In "Slide Trombone Teaching and Method Books in France (1794-1960)", published in the Historic Brass Journal, Volume 9 (1997), authors Benny Sluchin and Raymond Lapie describe the situation as follows:
There is little precise biographical information available about the musical members
of the Vobaron family. The eldest seems to have been Félix Vobaron. He was an interim
professor at the Conservatoire and served as music director at the cavalry school at Saumur
and for the first regiment of horse grenadiers of the Garde Royale. He belonged to the
Royal Society of Fine Arts of Ghent, as well as that of Bordeaux. A Vobaron is mentioned
as professor of trombone at Cahors in 1819-1820. In his Grand méthode, Félix Vobaron
mentions that he studied the trombone from 1815. These several elements allow us to
sketch a profi le of the musician.
All other references I could find in the handful of doctoral theses and other academic works referencing Vobaron omit the bookends of his life, underscoring the statement of "little precise biological information available" made by Sluchin and Lapie. The dates during which he was interim professor at the Conservatoire seem solid, but dates and attribution to works get a bit fuzzy outside of this narrow range. Confusing matters further, there was an Edmond Vobaron (possibly Felix's son), who published a method for trombone around the same time as a different work attributed to Felix, and some modern transcriptions of these works apparently contain references to both Felix and Edmond in different places.

In digging for more information, I ran across The Vobaron Project (https://vobaron.wordpress.com/), an effort by Sam Gossner to transcribe Vobaron's "Grande Methode de Trombonne" from 1834. I reached out to Sam to see if he had any additional information on Felix or Edmond. He provided a wealth of information in his response, including:
[Vobaron] mentions in the 2nd paragraph of the avertissement at the beginning of Grand Methode de Trombonne that he was inspired to devote himself entirely to studying trombone in/around 1815 after being disappointed in the simplicity of trombone playing in the army at that time. The statement suggests this was when or possibly after he began playing, and thus he was likely born before 1800 in order to be old enough to do so (much less make such a pointed observation). Already by 1834 he must have had something in the way of a career, as he makes detailed reference to playing to great praise throughout France and Belgium (specifically mentioning Gant, Paris, and Bordeaux). This only really makes sense chronologically if we assume Vobaron was at the very least in his late 20's if not 30's by 1834. Again, this is all assumptions and guesses, nothing concrete.
Sam suggested a possible search for obituary or genealogical information. I have no previous experience in this sort of research, but the project sounded like a fun learning experience if nothing else. I don't have conclusive evidence as yet, but I wanted to share what I have found so far in case it helps anyone else looking into this.

Starting with the site https://en.geneanet.org, I searched for Vobaron, and found some interesting trails to follow. Among them, this link from military records:

https://translate.google.com/translate? ... 0%2F573594

Shows a Felix Joseph Francois VOBARON, born in 1791, in Southeastern France. The military service dates seem to align with the beginning of his interest in trombone (as described above by Sam) in or around 1815. For anyone interested, here is a link to the French military register showing Vobaron's name:

https://www.memoiredeshommes.sga.defens ... m_rotate=F

Another link from the same site:
https://translate.google.com/translate? ... &sandbox=1

Shows, I believe, marriage of the same Felix VOBARON in 1815 to Marie Reine Philippine Joseph DEUGEUGNIES. Again we see 1815 as an interesting inflection point - end of military service, marriage, and beginning of focused interest in the trombone.

It isn't conclusive, but the dates seem to align well with what little we do know. If this is indeed the correct Vobaron, then we have a potential candidate for the first of our bookends - a birth date of July 23, 1791.

I'm clumsy at this sort of research, but I do find it interesting. I'll continue looking into it a bit more and see what I can find.
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robcat2075
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Re: Researching Vobaron

Post by robcat2075 » Fri Jul 16, 2021 10:50 am

I find that all interesting and wish you further success in your research.

I got interested in the Conservatoire a few months ago, knowing that they were commissioning a new solo for students to compete with every year or so and wondering... what was a "college-level" solo like in the very early days?

I figured they'd all be on IMSLP by now but, no, there are decades of solos that are AWOL. One academic paper I found on the topic had to just say they are "unavailable".
>>Robert Holmén<<

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Re: Researching Vobaron

Post by fsgazda » Fri Jul 16, 2021 11:10 am

robcat2075 wrote:
Fri Jul 16, 2021 10:50 am
I figured they'd all be on IMSLP by now but, no, there are decades of solos that are AWOL. One academic paper I found on the topic had to just say they are "unavailable".
From what I understand, the majority of them were not published. They are in the archives in the basement.
Frank S. Gazda
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Freelance Low Brass, Mid-Atlantic
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robcat2075
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Re: Researching Vobaron

Post by robcat2075 » Fri Jul 16, 2021 11:30 am

fsgazda wrote:
Fri Jul 16, 2021 11:10 am
robcat2075 wrote:
Fri Jul 16, 2021 10:50 am
I figured they'd all be on IMSLP by now but, no, there are decades of solos that are AWOL. One academic paper I found on the topic had to just say they are "unavailable".
From what I understand, the majority of them were not published. They are in the archives in the basement.
I presume a reason for not immediately publishing them was to be able to re-use them as concours material in later years. The list I saw had a number of cases where something got re-used.

But today... what are they waiting for? They are one archive fire or flood away from being lost forever.

Either they are just too awful to allow the light of day, or someone has decided they're not going to bother if they can't make money off them.
>>Robert Holmén<<

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BGuttman
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Re: Researching Vobaron

Post by BGuttman » Fri Jul 16, 2021 11:35 am

Some of the Conservatoire pieces have entered the repertoire. The Saint-Saens "Cavatine", and the various "Andante and Allegro" (there are at least 2 -- Ropartz and Barat). There are others, but I can't think of them.
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robcat2075
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Re: Researching Vobaron

Post by robcat2075 » Fri Jul 16, 2021 1:43 pm

I imagine anyyone who last looked into this matter has encountered the 2016 dissertation by Jeffrey Jon Lemke

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/do ... 1&type=pdf

He says that 1897 was the first year a trombone solo was specifically commissioned for the purpose for the Concours, but lists composers and sometimes titles used as Concours material going back to 1842.

He notes Cavatine by by Jules Demerssman is the only one prior to 1897 that is "obtainable" today.
However I also found the Andante and Allegro by Chretien from that pre-1897 list on IMSLP along with the Demerssmann.

All in all there are about eight Concours pieces available on IMSLP.
>>Robert Holmén<<

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muschem
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Re: Researching Vobaron

Post by muschem » Wed Jul 21, 2021 2:25 pm

I followed up my research on Geneanet with a message to the Vobaron family tree owner - one Dominique Chassignet, who very kindly and promptly responded with what he knew of the Vobaron family. While Mr. Chassignet did not have additional information on the music history side of things, he was able to provide data linking Edmond and Félix from his own genealogical research. Page 39 of this record shows the marriage of Edmond Auguste to Claire Soulens in 1848:

https://mdr.aude.fr/mdr_aude/index.php/ ... 536222/0/0

This document confirms Edmond's parents as Félix Joseph François Vobaron and Reine Philippine Joséphine de GHEUNIES. We also know from this that Edmond was brother to Emile Gustave, whom Mr. Chassignet tells me was "major trumpet in the 4th regiment of dragoons, garrisoned in Belfort in 1851". This is interesting, in that it adds another potential "E" attribution to publications under "E Vobaron", which might seem to further muddy the already unclear waters of which Vobaron authored which works. I think additional research would be necessary to disentangle the conflated attributions in this area.

The information from Mr. Chassignet would seem to confirm the finding of Félix Joseph François Vobaron presented earlier as correct. So, assuming the other records on Geneanet are correct, we can now with some assurance say that Félix Vobaron lived from 1791-1848, and that Edmond and Emile were his sons.

I hope that this short research project adds in some small way to what we know of these notable contributors to trombone literature.
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robcat2075
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Re: Researching Vobaron

Post by robcat2075 » Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:03 pm

"Vobaron" would be a great name for a planet in a movie.

"Plot a course for Vobaron!"
>>Robert Holmén<<

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muschem
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Re: Researching Vobaron

Post by muschem » Fri Jul 23, 2021 2:26 pm

Agreed, Robert! Vobaron would make a fantastic planet name :)

The owner of the Vobaron project site, Sam Gossner, wrote a great blog post summarizing the new information on the Vobaron family if anyone is interested:

https://vobaron.wordpress.com/2021/07/2 ... ons-dates/
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paulyg
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Re: Researching Vobaron

Post by paulyg » Sat Jul 24, 2021 10:28 am

robcat2075 wrote:
Thu Jul 22, 2021 11:03 pm
"Vobaron" would be a great name for a planet in a movie.

"Plot a course for Vobaron!"
Or a car... "Now introducing the all-new Buick Vobaron. Exclusively at your airport Enterprise Rent-a-Car."
Paul Gilles
Aerospace Engineer & Trombone Player
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