ANTHEA CONWAY WHITE - Solo Cadenzas in François Devienne’s Instrumental Music

ANTHEA CONWAY WHITE - Solo Cadenzas in François Devienne’s Instrumental Music

What features is it historically tasteful to include in solo cadenzas for instrumental music by François Devienne (1759-1803)?  As a flute and bassoon virtuoso, Devienne must have been experienced at playing cadenzas.  Regrettably, he left no written information on this topic, despite authoring a renowned flute method. [1]  Fortunately, some of Devienne’s pieces have written out cadenzas.  Analysis of these cadenzas furnishes guidelines that can help today’s performers to create their own effective cadenzas for Devienne’s other compositions.

Although cadenzas occur in multiple harmonic contexts in Devienne’s pieces, this article focuses only on those occurring at cadential 6/4 chords in perfect authentic cadences.  Devienne clearly marked where these cadenzas occur by placing fermatas on both the 6/4 chord and the dominant chord to which this sonority resolves.  See Example 1 (click on the image for a higher resolution file to open in another window)

 Compositions Examined:

I did not have access to all of Devienne’s numerous pieces, but I examined enough of them to make practical observations.  I consulted 11 of Devienne’s 25 concertos and 33 of his 48 sonatas for solo with unfigured bass [2]. I will also group the six sonatas for two flutes from Devienne’s method with the solo sonatas; despite their instrumentation, these pieces stylistically resemble solos with bass, the second flute taking the bass line [3].  Of the works examined, cadenzas occur in 4 concertos and 12 sonatas.  See Figure 1.  Cadenzas are fully notated in 1 of these concertos and 5 of these sonatas.  

Figure 1: List of Devienne’s Compositions Examined (click on the image for a higher resolution file to open in another window)


Before analysing these cadenzas, it useful to examine why Devienne’s notated cadenzas are likely suitable models upon which to base cadenzas for his other works. 

Devienne places all his cadenzas in very similar contexts:

1.     His cadenzas consistently occur in slow, middle movements of three-movement pieces.  More than two-thirds of his cadenzas, including all of the fully-notated ones, appear specifically in adagios

2.     The movements in which his cadenzas occur are often florid with flourishes of rapid notes such those shown in Example 2 (click on the image for a higher resolution file to open in another window)

3.     As is typical of cadenzas, Devienne mostly places cadenzas near movement ends, either at the last cadence of the movement proper or at the coda’s start.  The only cadenza positioned elsewhere comes in a movement with two cadenzas; the first occurs in the dominant key, halfway through the movement [12].

Because Devienne’s cadenzas occur in similar contexts, it is likely appropriate for players to model their own cadenzas for his compositions upon his notated ones. 

Why Devienne notated some cadenzas and not others is unclear.  As Clive Brown notes, composers often wrote out embellishments in response to performers adding “incorrect or inappropriate ornamentation” [13].  Long, virtuosic cadenzas were not uncommon even in slow movements [14].  See for instance the specimen from De Lusse’s 1761 treatise in Example 3 (click on the image for a higher resolution file to open in another window)

 Contrastingly, cultural elites such as Hiller [15],  Turk [16] and Tromlitz [17] stressed that cadenzas should not be unduly long, with those for singers and wind players ideally lasting one breathe.  They further emphasized that cadenzas should match the character of the movements in which they occur and mention that incorporating material from the movement can help achieve this goal.  While Devienne’s cadenzas have no thematic material, they otherwise correspond with the criteria of tasteful cadenzas that these writers advanced and thus, might have been written in response to players adding more extravagant cadenzas.

Determining whether Devienne wrote out cadenzas increasingly in later publications is impossible without examining all of his compositions in their multiple versions, a task beyond this article’s scope.  However, some evidence from the publications consulted does suggest that Devienne may have notated cadenzas in response to the reception of his editions that lack notated cadenzas.  Notably, the six oboe sonatas published in c.1798 [18] lack the notated cadenzas found in the flute editions of these pieces that appeared a year or two later [19]. However, since Devienne only notated the second of the two cadenzas in his seventh concerto, other factors must also have influenced which cadenzas Devienne chose to notate. 

All the notated cadenzas are for the flute.  However, Devienne often arranged his sonatas for different instruments.  These cadenzas are therefore likely helpful models for other instrumentalists.  

 Analysis of Devienne’s Fully-Notated Cadenzas: See Example 4 (click on the images for a higher resolution file to open in another window)

Devienne’s notated cadenzas provide particularly helpful guidelines since they are consistent in style and suit the contexts in which they occur.  Devienne’s cadenzas for concertos and sonatas appear to be similar in style and will be analysed together.


Devienne’s cadenzas are brief.  Examples 4. A-E each consist of one gesture of 16 to 22 notes.  This concision ensures that these cadenzas do not overbalance the 32- to 58-bar movements in which they occur.  4. F consists of two gestures, 32 and 12 notes long, respectively, and occurs in the longest movement (62 bars).



Excepting one resting point in 4.F, the cadenzas consist of notes of one durational value, semiquavers in 4.A and B, and demisemiquavers in 3. C-F.  The cadenzas, thus, reflect the florid writing found within these movements.  Each flourish is beamed together except for 4.A which is beamed in two.  The relatively non-prescriptive rhythmic notation allows players the freedom to shape the music in an improvisatory manner.


Excepting 4.C and E, each flourish is slurred.  The slurs never connect to the notes with fermatas.  4.C and E should likely be slurred likewise [20]. The long slurs help each flourish to be heard as a single gesture.  They also match the slurred florid writing within the movements and assist in creating a suitably gentle character. 


All the examples begin with an upwards arch, a shape that builds and releases tension.  4. F appends a reversed arch to this start. 

Components Involving Pitch [21]


Devienne generally places the fermata indicating a cadenza’s start on the tonic; this tonic may be in the same octave as the final trill or an octave above it.  The first fermata also occurs above the dominant in two of his unnotated cadenzas[22] and above the mediant in one of his notated cadenzas (4. B).

 The notated cadenzas that begin with fermatas on the tonic start their flourishes with turn figures, embellishing the tonic with upper and lower auxiliary notes.  4. C-E have full five-note turns starting on the tonic.  4. A and F have four-note turns that skip the first tonic to begin on the upper auxiliary note (the supertonic). 

4. B, which starts on the mediant, immediately tonicizes the dominant by introducing and resolving this key’s leading-tone.


 Before considering the ascent to the climax, it is useful to examine the climaxes themselves.

 4. D climaxes on F6; 4. A, B, E and F on E6; and 4. C on D6. These are all notes in the flute’s top octave, adding to their dramatic impact. 

The climax is the submediant in 4. A, D, E and F; the applied submediant of the dominant in 4. B; and the tonic in 4. C.  Since the cadenzas that climax on the submediant are all in A minor or G major, it is difficult to know whether Devienne was particularly fond of climaxing on the submediant or if this choice simply corresponds with the register in which he liked to climax.

-Ascent to Climax:

The ascent to the climax in all but one of the cadenzas flows straight from the tonic or applied tonic that concluded the opening figure.  4. E, however, leaps down to the dominant to begin the ascent to the climax. 

  Climaxes are approached in two basic ways:

1. Straight Scalar Ascent: 4.D-F feature this type of ascent.  The ascent in all three is diatonic except for the chromatic passing tone introduced between the subdominant and dominant to tonicize the latter.  Since these cadenzas all climax on the submediant, the position of this chromaticism intensifies the final drive to the climax. 

2. Ascent Decorated by Upper Appoggiaturas: In 4.A, upper appoggiaturas decorated an ascending scale.  In 4.B, they embellish a leap between the applied tonic and mediant of the dominant key and then decorate a rising scale.

4. C combines both types of ascent. A diatonic scale rises to the dominant.  The dominant may be interpreted as becoming an appoggiatura to the applied leading-tone of the dominant.  Initially, it appears as if a series of upper appoggiaturas are embellishing an ascending scale, but the third appoggiatura resolves expectedly upwards to climax on the home key’s tonic.  The change from a straight scale to one embellished by appoggiaturas increases the push to the climax.

-Descent from Climax:

After the climax, a straight diatonic scale descends to the tonic to conclude 4. A, D and E.

4. B and F are also based mostly on descending scales.  4. B descends to the applied tonic of the dominant key, prolongs this note with lower and upper auxiliary tones, and then descends diatonically to the home tonic.

4. F descends to the tonic one octave too low.  This largely scalar descent emphasizes notes of the tonic chord by occasionally skipping between them and embellishing them with auxiliary tones.  Notably, the lower auxiliary tone embellishing the dominant is raised to tonicize this key.  There is also an echappée above the mediant near the scale’s end.  The second flourish starts with the same four-note turn figure that opened this cadenza.  A straight scale then returns the music to the supertonic in the correct octave.

Only 4. C features an arpeggiated descent.  This is three notes long, moving from tonic to mediant.


The final trill occurs on the supertonic in all Devienne’s cadenzas whether or not they are notated.  4. E has the standard (lower auxiliary) form of termination notated, but this component is often left up to performers who may well add termination to the other trills.  The trill in 4.A, however, has a more elaborate conclusion: a four-note expansion (^1, ^3, ^2, ^1) of an anticipation of the tonic concluding the cadence. 

-General Observations on Types of Motion:

Devienne favours conjunct motion.  He never leaps more than a fourth.  Consecutive leaps occur only at the end of 4. C.  This smooth movement helps his cadenzas to have a sweet quality, fitting for the movements that they adorn.       


The cadenzas analysed above are clearly notated in full.  Example 5 (click on the image for a higher resolution file to open in another window) shows one of the rarer instances in Devienne’s work where it is uncertain whether the entire cadenza is provided.  This cadenza has only six notes. 

Sometimes Devienne notated what are plainly approaches to the trill concluding cadenzas.  (See for instance Example 6; click on the image for a higher resolution file in a separate window) 

Consequently, the written out notes in Example 5 might be an extended lead-in to the trill which Devienne meant to be performed after the player had improvised material and come to a pause.  This would create a two-flourish cadenza similar to that in Example 4.F.  Alternately, the five notes could themselves constitute an entire short cadenza.  In fact, the passage begins with a five-note turn figure, one of the openings regularly found in the fully-notated cadenzas.  Additionally, it comes from a collection in which the other cadenza (Example 4.B) is fully notated which might further support interpreting this cadenza as fully written out.  Ultimately, the player must decide of how to view this cadenza.


Locating more of Devienne’s compositions to see if they contain additional examples of cadenzas will increase our understanding of his preferences for cadenzas.  Analysing the other types of fermata embellishments that Devienne sometimes notated might also increase insight into the types of melodic figures that he favoured.

There is only one sentence on the content of cadenzas in Principes élémentaires de musique, a book for students at the Paris conservatoire, an institution at which Devienne taught.  This sentences states that soloists may execute anything they wish in a cadenza [23].  While this is ultimately the case, hopefully studying Devienne’s notated cadenzas will aid instrumentalists in their creation of suitable cadenzas for other works by Devienne.

Anthea Conway-White has a MMus in Historical Performance from the Royal College of Music, an Hons. BMus with High Distinction and majors in Performance, Music Theory and Music History from Wilfrid Laurier University (Canada), and a Performer’s ARCT from Canada’s Royal Conservatory of Music.  She won Laurier’s 2014 Alumni Gold Medal for the Faculty of Music and the Royal Conservatory’s 2012 Gold Medal for Music Theory.


[1] François Devienne, Nouvelle méthode théorique et pratique pour la flûte (Paris: Imbault, [c.1794]), trans. Jane Bowers (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999).

[2] These numbers do not count separately Devienne’s many arrangements of his own sonatas for different instruments.

[3] A contemporary English edition of these duets even titled these pieces “solos”: François Devienne, Study for Flute Consisting of Six Solos with Preludes (London: Goulding, [c.1799]).

[4] William Layton Montgomery, "The Life and Works of Françoise Devienne, 1759-1803" (Ph.D diss., Catholic University of America, 1975).

[5] These are duets, but they stylistically resemble solos.

[6] This collection contains the six sonatas from Devienne's method.

[7] The edition by Hime is not listed in Montgomery’s dissertation. The date is from the British Library.

[8] The title page reads “Œuvre posthume”, but the music itself is labelled “Œuvre 50”. The date is from the British Library.  However, Montgomery suggests that these pieces were in fact composed comparatively early in Devienne’s career.  He does not provide a specific publication date, but lists them as appearing chronologically between the volumes listed above.

[9] This edition includes only the first three of the six sonatas found in the other publications of this opus.

[10] Montgomery does not list this edition.  It appears to have been printed from the same plates as the Broderip and Wilkinson edition. The date is from the British Library.

[11] Although they are labelled as sonatas numbers 1-3, this volume contains the sonatas numbered 4-6 in the other versions.

[12] The movement with two cadenzas is found in Septième concerto pour la flûte (Paris: Imbault, [c.1787-88]).

[13] Clive Brown, Classical and Romantic Performing Practice, 1750-1900 (Oxford: Oxford University Press,   1999), 420.

[14] Interestingly, examples of cadenzas that appear to be for concerto fast movements and which are relatively long and virtuosic were added by an anonymous author to a bilingual edition of Devienne’s treatise: Méthode pour la flûte: Français et allemand (Offenbach: André, [c.1816-1827]), 62-63. (Thomas Boehm suggest this date in his introduction to Jane Bower’s translation of Devienne’s original treatise; see p. 41.) 

[15] Johann Adam Hiller, Anweisung zum musikalisch-zierlichen Gesange [Treatise on Vocal Performance and Ornamentation] (Leipzig: Johann Friedrich Junius, 1780), trans. Suzanne J. Beicken (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 123.

[16] G. Gottlob Türk, Clavierschule, oder Anweisung zum Clavierspielen für Lehrer und Lernende [School of Clavier Playing or Instruction in Playing the Clavier for Teachers and Students] (Leipzig, 1789), trans. Raymond H. Haggh (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1982), 298-99.

[17] Johann George Tromlitz, Ausführlicher und gründlicher Unterricht die Flöte zu spielen [The Virtuoso Flute-Player] (Leipzig, 1791), trans. Ardal Powell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 260-62.

[18] Six sonates pour hautbois (Paris: Sieber, [c.1798]

[19] Six sonates pour la flûte, Œuvre 73, vol. 2 (Offenbach: André, [c.1799]) and Six sonates pour flute, Op. 68, Livre 4 (Paris: Sieber-fils, [c.1799-1800]).

[20] As Devienne, Nouvelle méthode, trans. Jane Bowers, p. 95, observes, publications from the time often forgot to include some articulation marks.  Slurring these passages matches Devienne’s standard treatment of florid passagework in his slow movements and is also in keeping with his comment (p. 96 of the translation of his treatise) that “the tongue should be used very little” in slow movements.

 [21] There are multiple ways the cadenzas could be analysed, particularly due to their metric ambiguity.  The analysis presented here has been chosen with the aim of facilitating their absorption by performers for use in their own improvisations.

 [22] Concerto d’airs connus à flûte principale, Œuvre 4 (Paris: Sieber, [c.1782]) and the first of the two cadenza in Septième concerto pour la flûte.

 [23] Giuseppe Agus, Charles-Simon Catel, Luigi Cherubini, François-Joseph Gossec, Honoré Langlé, Jean-François Le Sueur, Étienne-Nicolas Méhul, and Henri Joseph Rigel, Principes élémentaires de musique arrêtés par les membres du Conservatoire pour servir à l'étude dans cet établissement (Paris: L'imprimerie du conservatoire de musique, [1799-1800]), 46.  Original: “Le chanteur, ou le concertant peut execute tous les traits qu’il voudra sur la note surmontée par ce point.”

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