Research Seminar - Douglas Macnicol

In this talk, I will give an overview of my PhD thesis, titled ‘Les jours de gloire: The French Violin School and the Paris Conservatoire, 1795-1842’.   

The French Violin School is a body of compositional, performing, and teaching practice which emerged within the context of the Paris Conservatoire, founded in 1795. Its first exponents were all founding professors of that institution: Pierre Baillot, Pierre Rode, and Rodolphe Kreutzer. This violinistic style was promulgated through the pedagogical activity of the Conservatoire in several forms: direct teaching; the official violin method published by the Conservatoire printery and its subsequent translations; and a large corpus of composition for violin, including the famous books of etudes by Rode and Kreutzer. 

Although there has been much written on the French Violin School’s compositional and violinistic style, few scholars have considered the degree to which its pedagogical practice was bound up with the culture of the institution surrounding it. In turn, the existing scholarship on the Conservatoire as an institution has largely glossed over the history of its foundation, in part because much of the relevant French scholarship was written under the sway of the revisionist school of Revolutionary historiography and thus contains an anti-Revolutionary bias. The thesis explores the development of both the French violin school and its institutional home and relocates them within the wider cultural framework of the Revolution. What emerges is that it was the early years in which the Conservatoire in general, and the violin school in particular, showed leadership within the music world and French society.


Douglas Macnicol is a PhD candidate at the Humanities Research Centre at ANU. Before undergraduate studies at ANU in history and German literature, he studied violin at the Musikhochschule Köln in the FRG and at Østlandetsmusikkonservatorium in Olso, Norway. He worked as a freelance musician and taught violin and viola for a number of years before going over the dark side and taking up a position in research management, first at UNSW and subsequently at ANU.  His PhD project focuses on the history of the French School of violin playing and the early years of the Paris Conservatoire.

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