This fascinating and highly informative article (PHB © February 2018) was written by flutist Peter H. Bloom as a foreword to NSM's edition of Salute to New York, A Song for the Flute. It provides interesting historical details regarding the composer and flutist Louis Drouet, his 1854 U.S. performance of Salute to New York, the New York Crystal Palace venue, and Hall & Son's flutes.
Louis Drouet — Salute to New York, a Song for the Flute
“This Song was performed by Mr. Drouet at the Grand reopening of the American Crystal Palace, May 1st (sic) 1854 ...” i
Inspired by the London “Great Exposition (1851),” New York investors imagined their own Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations. In July of 1853 their enormous glass and cast iron “Temple of Industry and Art” was opened for business.ii Despite monumental architecture, magnificent displays, and an enthusiastic public, the Crystal Palace was near financial ruin within months.
Desperate shareholders concurred that their only hope for fiscal salvation was to engage new leadership. After considerable cajoling, legendary showman Phineas T. Barnum reluctantlyiii assumed the presidency of The Exhibition. Barnum arranged a re-inauguration ceremony (complete with a 3.5-mile-long, 3-hour parade from City Hall to the Crystal Palace at 42nd St. at Sixth Avenueiv) to coincide with his installation as president of the operation. Following the parade, at 3 PM on Thursday May 4, 1854,v Barnum addressed the multitude assembled for a rededication the Temple. His impassioned oration exhorted manufacturers, inventors, and merchants and extolled the American virtues of innovation, cooperative competition, and entrepreneurship. A press account reports: “Mr. Barnum’s speech was followed by the soft music of the flute by M. Drouet, which, notwithstanding the immense space it had to fill, gave the audience extreme delight.”vi Delighted they may have been, but it’s unlikely, given the appalling acoustics of the gargantuan glass greenhouse, that the audience actually heard the performance.vii
Louis-Francois-Philippe Drouet (1792-1873) is one of the most highly esteemed flute virtuosi in history. Innumerable contemporary press accounts of his concert triumphs throughout Europe attest to his technical brilliance and exquisite musicianship. He was a prolific and accomplished composer, author, flute theoretician, and pedagogue. His many etudes are still prescribed as tools for flute mastery. His Method of Flute Playing (1830) and 72 Studies on Style and Taste (1855) provide us with useful information concerning instrumental technique and performance practice in the mid-nineteenth century.
American concert tours by itinerant European virtuosi were not uncommon at the time. Celebrities such as pianist Henri Herz, violinists Ole Bull and Henri Vieuxtemps, bassist Giovanni Bottesini and many other instrumentalists, as well as countless singers, had concertized in The States before mid-century. In 1850, soprano Jenny Lind, the “Swedish Nightingale,” made a sensational barnstorming tour across the United States. The spectacle, produced and managed by P. T. Barnum, established a culture of musical superstardom in America that persists to this day.viii
Drouet, along with his son, undertook their speculative expedition to the New World in 1854. It’s difficult to imagine that an arduous Atlantic crossing and the uncertainties of an American adventure would appeal to an established celebrity such as Drouet père. Louis Drouet Jr., on the other hand, was an aspiring concert pianist and former student of Felix Mendelssohn and Mendelssohn’s mentor Ignaz Moscheles.ix The story of Jenny Lind’s unprecedented windfall via Barnum was likely irresistiblex to an industrious son and a supportive father.
Louis Drouet’s prominent place as the featured performer immediately following Barnum’s address shows a number of things: despite having only recently arrived from Europe, Drouet Sr.’s reputation as a celebrity flute virtuoso had already been established in Manhattan; Barnum believed the general broad audience of The Great Exhibition was sufficiently sophisticated to be attracted to his event by the addition of an instrumental soloist of Drouet’s refinement; and the flute was the instrument of maximum Victorian era “sex appeal.”
“…On a Flute Manufactured by Wm. Hall & Son.” xi
The publisher’s note that Drouet performed Salute to New York on a flute made by the publisher’s own firm is worth considering. Louis Drouet Sr., as well as having been a performer, composer, and conductor, was also experienced in the design and manufacture of high quality flutes. Superb specimens attest to the excellence of the few instruments he produced in London in 1819 during his brief collaboration with ingenious London builder Cornelius Ward.xii
William Hall had apprenticed as an instrument builder in Albany before the war of 1812. He began his professional career working for the esteemed flute-maker (later to become his father-in-law) Edward Riley in Manhattan. He then formed profitable partnerships with woodwind manufacturers John Firth and Sylvanus Pond. Leaving Firth and Pond in 1847, Hall partnered with his son, James, in order to expand into the burgeoning American enterprises of piano manufacturing and music publishing.xiii We know, from extant examples, that Hall & Son’s line included some elegantly designed and finely constructed woodwinds.
Although he may have been paid by Hall & Son for his endorsements, Drouet’s enthusiasm for Halls’ instruments is unmistakably authentic. Shortly after his Crystal Palace performance he wrote:
Gentlemen: - It Affords me much pleasure to give you this testimonial of the superiority of your Flutes. Since my arrival in America I have seen a number of them, and played upon one of them at the opening of the Crystal Palace. During fifty years’ experience I have never found instruments more perfect in tone, tune, and finish, and I feel it due to you before leaving the United States to express the pleasure it has given me to find the Flute brought to such perfection here. Receive my best wishes for the proper appreciation of these excellent instruments by the public, and believe me very truly yours, L. DROUET.xiv
The sentiment expressed in Salute to New York, a Song for the Flute is also unmistakably authentic.
—Peter H. Bloom, February 2018 ©
i The performance date was, in fact, May 4 as we’ll see below.
ii New York Times July 30, 1853 P. 1
iii Barnum, Phineas T., The autobiography of P.T. Barnum: Clerk, Merchant, Editor, and Showman.
London: Ward and Lock, 1855.p. 152
iv New-York Daily Tribune Friday May 5, 1854. P. 5
v The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Evening Edition, Thursday May 4, 1854.
vi New-York Daily Tribune Friday May 5, 1854. P. 5
vii Lawrence, Vera Brodsky, Strong on Music Vol. 2 (Reverberations).
Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1995. P.460.
viii Preston, Katherine K., in The Cambridge History of American Music.
Ed: David Nichols P. Cambridge University Press 1998. P.200ff
ix Rasch, Rudolf, in the preface to the Facsimile reproduction of: Drouet, Louis, The Method of Flute Playing
(originally published London by Cocks, 1830), Buren, Netherlands: Frits Knuf Pub., Rien de Reede Ed. 1990. P. IX
x Barnum contract provided Jenny Lind a per-performance fee of $1000 - equivalent to $30,000 US in January of 2018.
xi Footnote on the first page of the piano accompaniment of Louis Drouet’s “Salute to New York” A Song for the Flute.
New York: William Hall & Son, 1854.
xii Waterhouse, William, New Langwill Index: a Dictionary of Wind-Instrument Makers and Inventors.
Tony Bingham, London, 1993. P. 95
xiii Ibid. p. 158:
xiv The Musical World and New York Musical Times, Vol IX No.7. June 17, 1854.