by Douglas Yeo
The name Joannès Rochut has been known to generations of trombone players around the world, thanks, in part, to the three volumes of Vocalises of Marco Bordogni that he arranged for trombone. Published as Melodious Etudes for Trombone Selected from the Vocalises of Marco Bordogni, Rochut’s books were published in 1928 by Carl Fischer of New York City. The date is significant: it was during Rochut’s tenure as principal trombonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1925-1930 that he published the books that made his name so famous to trombone players. Most players today are unaware that Rochut played in the Boston Symphony, and his tenure in Boston will be the story of a subsequent article on The Last Trombone.
But if most players today are unaware of Rochut’s connection with Boston, those who first bought his Melodious Etudes certainly knew about it, since his affiliation with the orchestra was printed on the cover of the Melodious Etudes. See the photo above of my early copy of Book I.
There is something about Rochut’s books that has puzzled many trombone players and scholars. Rochut transcribed and arranged 120 of Bordogni’s Vocalises. 119 of them have been identified in Bordogni’s works. But No. 1 of Book I has never been found in Bordogni’s oeuvre. So who wrote it?
Many people have assumed that Rochut composed this etude. It happens to be one of my favorite exercises in Book I and I, too, have puzzled over this, wondering who wrote it. [As an aside, note that Rochut’s first name is spelled “Joannès.” Unfortunately, Carl Fischer’s new edition of “the Rochut book” does not spell his name correctly, but that is a story for another time. . .]
A few months ago, the mystery solved itself. A needle in a haystack surfaced as I was doing research for one of the books I’m writing at this time. I had some correspondence with Gary Spolding about his planned edition of Bordogni for trumpet and we discussed “Rochut No. 1.” As a result of our conversation, I located a copy of 26 Etudes Techniques d’apres Bordogni by Louis Allard and Henri Couillaud.
Published in Paris in 1927 – a year before Rochut’s Melodious Etudes – Allard and Couillaud’s book contains original exercises in the style of Bordogni. And on page 12, exercise 11 is found:
What is this? It is none other than “Rochut No. 1.” Except it’s not. It’s Allard and Couillaud’s No. 11. Allard and Couillaud were the chickens; Rochut was the egg.
Louis Allard and Henri Couillaud were trombone professors at the Paris Conservatoire; Allard from 1888-1925 and Couillaud from 1925-1948. Rochut studied with Allard at the Conservatoire; in fact, Rochut won the first prize in trombone there in 1905, playing Sigismond Stojowski’s Fantasie.
So here we have a situation. Rochut’s No. 1 was published in 1928. Allard and Couillaud’s No. 11 was published in 1927. Clearly authorship of the etude points to Allard and Couillaud (1927), not Rochut (1928). Which begs the question: why did Rochut include it in his book when it had been published in another book (in France) the year before? Was he paying tribute to his teacher? If so, why did he not credit Allard and Couillaud as the composers? Did Rochut (and Carl Fischer) pay royalties to Allard and Couillaud (the Carl Fischer gives no credit to another publisher for their printing of No. 1)? Or did Rochut assume the etude was by Bordogni; perhaps he just missed the “après” in Allard and Couillaud’s book title? What was the response of Allard and Couillaud (and their publisher) when they saw their etude reprinted in Rochut’s book. Allard and Couillaud’s book is forgotten; Rochut’s book continues to be one of the best selling trombone books of all time.
Spend a few minutes with Allard and Couillaud’s printing of their etude, above; there are some significant differences between it in their book and the way it was reprinted in Rochut’s book (including tempo, dynamic, a different note, and phrasing, as well as the repeat).
Now, the hunt is on to find Allard and Couillaud’s original piano accompaniment to Etude 11. Another haystack; another needle to be found.
[Photo at the top of this article: Joannès Rochut (standing) with his Lefevre trombone, and Georg Wendler (seated, horn), 1926. Detail from a photo of the Boston Symphony Orchestra brass section, 1925.]