Marcel Mule
Saxophonist And Teacher
June 24, 1901 - December 19, 2001
The information on these Marcel Mule pages are intended to aid researchers looking for information about Marcel Mule's life.








Saxophone Class
National Conservatoire National Supérieure de Musique
1946-1947




















Le Maitre est mort, mais le saxophone vive
By Eugene Rousseau
Marcel Mule's Last Interview by David Gibson,
published in Saxophone Journal
Le Maitre: Memories Of The Master Teacher/Musician, Marcel Mule
By Frederick L. Hemke
Marcel Mule's Sax Quartet History
Bonjour Maitre, Je suis prêt
By Paul Brodie
Marcel Mule's Discography
Marcel Mule Remembered
By Marshall Taylor
Marcel Mule Scholarship
A Private Lesson With Marcel Mule
By Marshall Taylor
 

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Le Maitre est mort, mais le saxophone vive
By Eugene Rousseau
Born in Aube, Normandy June 24, 1901, Marcel Mule died peacefully in his sleep on December 19, 2001 at age 100. He is survived by two sons, Pol and Jacques. His wife, Pollete, his equal as a person, and a constant in their long and devoted marriage, preceded him in death.

It was in the spring of 1947 that I heard, for the first time, Marcel Mule's recording of Jacques lbert's Concertino do Camera. I was 14 years old. That hearing was a defining moment in my life. For while I had had an affection for the saxophone from my introduction to it in 1940, I had never before heard it played so artistically, and with such a marvelous tone. It was stunning. From the time I heard that recording I nurtured what seemed to be an impossible dream; to study with le Maltre. Thirteen years later, in 1960, my vision became a reality. It was an unforgettable experience that changed my life.

As a young man Mule saw the classical potential of the saxophone, and was truly a pioneer in the development of the instrument as a classical medium. Virtually without a mentor, he was the one who would lead the way for others; he had no idea how profound and widespread his influence would be.

In 1942 he was appointed Professor of Saxophone at the Paris Conservatory, a position first held during 1857?1870 by the instrument's inventor, Adolphe Sax. Many of his students went on to develop influential careers; the list includes Serge Bichon, Daniel Deffayet, Georges Gourdet, Ruben Haugen, Frederick Hemke, Guy Lacour, Jean?Marie Londeix, Michel Nouaux, and Leo Potts, Mule remained Professor at the Paris Conservatory until his retirement in 1968. His classes were notable, quite apart from the knowledge and insights he shared, due to his gentle manner, clarity, and quiet way of expressing his valuable opinions. He set an impeccable example as both artist and human being; he was a magnificent role mode!.

In 1917 he enrolled in the Ecole Normale, pursuing a course that would enable him to teach in the public schools. In 1921, after teaching for only six months, he was called to military service and became a member of the Fifth Infantry Regiment Band. Following his discharge from the army he played frequently in dance bands, and during this same period had occasion to hear many Americans playing jazz in the night clubs of Paris. This exposed him not only to a different tonal concept, but also to the use of vibrato, inspiring him to experiment with and to develop the vibrato for use in classical performance.

In 1923 he won a place in la Musique de la Garde Republicaine, France's most prestigious military band, where he formed a quartet that soon became famous, and was to continue in its fame for some 40 years. In 1936 the ensemble was known as the Paris Saxophone Quartet until 1951, when, at the urging of Georges Gourdet, it became the Marcel Mule Saxophone Quartet.

At the time of his appointment to the Conservatory in 1944, it was indeed one of the most difficult periods in the history of France, for Paris was occupied by the Germans. Mule, while serving in the French military in 1939, became a prisoner of war. It is difficult to imagine, but the artistic life in Paris continued to thrive throughout the German occupation. As Mule himself related, "Upon my release I was freed because my duty was as a medical corpsman; I returned to Paris. In that great city even during this difficult period of occupation the artistic activity kept going at the insistence of the Germans. The intensity of the artistic life and concert?going was perhaps at a higher level than during peacetime, partly because of the German dictates, but also due to the spiritual needs of the French people. I became extremely busy."

Mule was active as a soloist throughout Europe during the 1920s, and in 1935 had the distinction of being the first to appear as a soloist with orchestra, performing the Vellones Concerto with the Pasdeloup Orchestra in Paris, His long career as a soloist is perhaps most notable by his performances of Jacques Ibert's Concertino da Camera, a work that he first recorded in the 1930s for RCA Victor, Philippe Gaubert conducting.

Marcel Mule's career culminated in 1958 when he was invited by Charles Munch, Musical Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, to be featured soloist in a twelve concert tour of the United States. This was indeed high recognition for the classical saxophone, and for this historic occasion Mule chose the lbert Concertino, which had been composed only twenty three years earlier, and Henri Tomasi's Ballade.

While in the U. S., Mule visited the Selmer factory in Elkhart, Indiana, where he presented a recital with the collaboration of pianist Marion Hall that was for most saxophonists the highlight of his American tour. He declined many offers for future appearances in the U.S. and Canada, preferring a more tranquil life in France with family and friends.

It was also in 1958 that, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to his country, Marcel Mule was made a Chevalier de la legion d'honneur, the highest distinction awarded to a French citizen. On June 24, 2001, the day of his 100th birthday, former students and friends paid hommage to him with a visit and a commemorative collection of memorabilia.

It is a simple matter to list the accomplishments, honors, and awards that Marcel Mule earned in, his lifetime, but those facts by themselves do not depict the enduring, qualities of warmth, enthusiasm, and encouragement that were always evident in his performances and pedagogy. He had great depth of character. Le Maitre justly earned the profound respect and affection of his colleagues and students while making inestimable contributions in establishing the saxophone as a viable voice for musical expression. It remains for all those whose lives he touched (directly and indirectly) to uphold the principles for which he stood. Le Maitre est mort, mais le saxophone vive.
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Le Maitre: Memories Of The Master Teacher/Musician, Marcel Mule

By Frederick L. Hemke
Almost 50 years ago, when I was a high-school student in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, my saxophone teacher, Eddie Schmitt, introduced me to a recording of Marcel Mule performing Jacques Ibert's Concertino da Camera for alto saxophone and orchestra. The sound of his instrument was like nothing I had ever heard coming from a saxophonist. His control and technique were impeccable, and he performed with a degree of sensitivity I was not accustomed to hearing from a performing saxophonist.

The record jacket of Marcel Mule's said that Marcel Mule taught at the Paris Conservatory of Music, and on a whim I wrote to him. Much to my amazement, he answered my letter and, in the warmest and kindest manner, suggested it might be possible for me to study with him in Paris. No one in my family had ever ventured much past the borders of Wisconsin.

I started dreaming about traveling to Paris and studying with Marcel Mule at the Paris Conservatory of Music. In the fall of 1955, during my junior year in college, I left for France. Marcel Mule was beginning his 13th year of teaching at the Paris Conservatoire National de Musique et de Declamation when I met him. I had arrived in Paris without a place to stay, but in the space of a few days, Mule found me temporary living quarters, heard me play, and invited me to join his class of twelve students.

The man changed me both as a person and as a musician. Marcel was a caring person, a man with a huge and giving heart, who loved teaching and took great joy from making music. At a time in my life when I was naive, uncertain of myself and lonely, the Mules made me feel like a member of the family; a second son. The Mules were quiet people whose fierce loyalty to each other, along with their shared love for music and students, aroused a sense of awe. As students, we always referred to him as Le Maitre (the Master) and this applied to him both as person and as a musician.

After his retirement, Mule invited me and my family to visit him often at his retirement home in the south of France (Sanary, France). By that time I had come to know him as Papahou and his wife as Papette. I recall with pleasure the many lunches and dinners with the two of them. We talked about the conservatory, the state of contemporary music, and life in general.

When Mule retired, he put his saxophone in the closet and did not take it out again. It was a time, said Mule, for the younger performers and teachers to have their chance. It was time for him and Papette to bask in the mild breezes from off the Mediterranean and simply enjoy life. This sensitive, accomplished and forceful artist had reached a wise conclusion that often eludes many great performers and teachers.

In 1979 Northwestern University hosted the sixth World Saxophone Congress. Marcel Mule was the honored guest, and during their stay, the Mules lived at our home. I remember him as a simple, genuine, and humble man who commanded respect not by pompous and outrageous behavior, or boasting, or arrogance, but rather by expressing his love and passion for music, his saxophone and for life itself.

Marcel Mule had studied clarinet and saxophone with his father as a child. As a young man of twenty-two he became a member of France's most illustrative wind, brass, and percussion ensemble, the band of the Garde Republicaine. He served as a member of this ensemble for thirteen years. It was here that he formed his outstanding Quatuor de Saxophones de Paris and gained renown as a soloist and ensemble performer.

I vividly recall attending rehearsals of the Mule saxophone quartet and attending a quartet concert as his guest. That evening, his quartet performed the Quatuor of the French composer Florent Schmitt, who was in attendance. Mule took the time to introduce me to Schmitt after the concert. We spoke together about the music he had written and about his appreciation for Marcel Mule and the saxophone. That was in 1956. Schmitt was already an aged man at that time and he passed away two years later. Those are memories that linger for a lifetime.

Mule was born on June 24,1901, just 74 years after the death of Beethoven, 63 years after the birth of the invention of the saxophone, and 32 years after the death of Hector Berlioz, the first and principal supporter of Adolphe Sax and his new instrument.

Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone, had been the first professor of his new instrument at the Paris Conservatory of Music. In 1870 the class was eliminated, along with several other instruments, on the basis of financial constraint. Not until 1942 was the saxophone class reinstated at the Conservatoire by Claude Delvincourt, and Marcel Mule, by then an esteemed saxophonist and teacher, was selected to succeed Adolphe Sax.

The recordings of Marcel Mule remain a standard for all saxophonists who take up the instrument. While Mule's use of vibrato reflects the character style of other French wind instruments of his day, none can deny that his interpretation of the musical phrase, the musicianly conception of his melodic line and the sheer beauty of his sound have yet to meet a serious challenger.

The pedagogy, writings and arrangements of Mule, by now translated into dozens of languages, have served as a basic framework of instruction for generations of teachers and performers. His impact continues to influence the musical lives of a countless number of saxophonists and other musicians throughout the world.

The master of the saxophone has departed from us after 100 wonderful years of enjoying life and making music. Rather than lament the passing of Marcel Mule, we must celebrate and enjoy his life; a life dedicated to the making of great music, a life of commitment to our instrument, and to a life centered on the close relationships of family, friends, and students. Those of us that have had the honor and privilege of knowing and studying with Le Maitre, recall a man who was warm, personal and always caring. If each of us could every day put into practice even a small portion of the goodness and compassion that Marcel Mule projected in his teaching and in his interactions with people, all of us as teachers and persons would be ennobled.

I personally am so very proud to have been a student of Marcel Mule. It is not only because of the inspiration that the French School of Saxophone performance and pedagogy provided to me and which is his legacy to us all, but the magnitude and depth of his humanity as a person. Marcel Mule was a masterful music maker who possessed neither guile nor arrogance, who happened to select the saxophone to make music and who could both perform and teach with excitement, precision, and knowledge. Let us rejoice and celebrate in the good fortune that he did this all so very well indeed and that he was able to pass his virtues, talents and pedagogy to so many aspiring musicians in the United States and around the world. In the intimate world of the Saxophone, the name and accomplishments of Marcel Mule will transcend us all. While he has passed from our now seeing and knowing him, he was and remains Le Maitre of the saxophone. Vive Le Maitre! Vive Marcel Mule!

Dr. Hemke is the senior associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Music, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. "Originally printed in part in he NASA Update. Used by permission."
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Bonjour Maitre, Je suis prêt

By Paul Brodie
In 1957 I was completing my masters degree in woodwinds at The University of Michigan. I found a 14 inch LP at a record shop in Ann Arbo, Michigan of Marcel Mule performing the Concertino da Camera by Ibert and the Debussy Rhapsody. His performance with orchestra on that LP was mind boggling to me. I had never imagined that anyone could a saxophone so magnificently.

I immediately contacted a recording engineer in Ann Arbor and went to a basement recording studio that he had in his home. Wich my piano accompanist I made a thirty minute audition tape of my saxophone playing. I mailed the recording to Marcel Mule on February 18, 1957 indicating my great desire to study with him in Paris. I anxiously awaited his reply, which arrived a couple of weeks later accepting me as his student. I was on cloud nine, and without hesitation started to make travel plans to arrive in Paris in late December, 1957.

My parents flew to New York. from Regina, Saskatchewan so we could spend a few days together before I sailed on The Queen Elizabeth ocean liner to Cherbourg, France. We stayed at the Taft Hotel near Times Square. At exactly the same time that we were in New York Marcel Mule was on tour in the United States as saxophone soloist with the Boston Symphony. A few weeks later, when I met Marcel Mule in Paris, we discovered that we were both staying at the Taft Motel at precisely the same time and our rooms were only one floor apart!

After arriving in Paris, and eventually finding a place to live, I traveled to the southern part of the city, to Rue Bezout, where Marcel Mule and his family lived in a very charming apartment. He greeted me warmly at the front door and I quickly realized that he spoke just about as much English as I spoke French. In spite of this, we communicated with each other perfectly for the next six months.

We went directly into his music studio and I nervously put my alto saxophone together. He looked through the music I had brought with me and he asked me to play the Concerto by Glazounov. I got through to the end of the first section and he gently said, "Tres bien, now I would like to suggest a few little changes." Within minutes some of these "little charges" would include a new metal mouthpiece, a different position for my embouchure, a complete altering of my concept for my vibrato and different ideas about the way I was breathing. He also began to suggest a new approach for me to developing much more facility on the saxophone to improve my technical ability, and he even introduced a new position for using my tongue. I was given several study books to work on and many saxophone compositions by French woodwind composers.

With all these changes I almost sounded like a beginner again and I struggled considerably for several weeks to try and alter my style of playing. My Selmer alto saxophone was in need of serious repairs. Marcel Mule reached inside a cupboard in his studio and pulled out a beautiful silver lacquered Selmer alto saxophone and said to me, "I will take your instrument to the Selmer factory for a complete overhaul and in the meantime, here is one of my own saxophones to practice on, while your instrument is being repaired." I was overwhelmed by his generosity and great gesture of kindness to me.

He encouraged me to register at the Paris Conservatory as a foreign auditor because I was nearly twenty-four years of age, too old to be a regular member of his saxophone class, which included about a dozen people. The saxophone students had lessons with Mule on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. He asked me to come to his conservatory studio three times a week at about 8:00 a.m. and offered to give the private lessons until 9:00 a.m. or later, when his other students would arrive. After that, I could audit everyone's lessons until 1:00 p.m.

For the next several months, when Marcel Mule opened the door of his studio at the Paris Conservatory, I always greeted him with "Bonjour Maitre, Je suis prêt" (Hello Master, I'm ready). He was delighted and surprised to see me there, even during poor weather conditions. His 9:00 a.m. students were often delayed because of bad train and subway connections, so when this happened, I benefited by having much longer lessons then usual. I was very excited about my progress, and his continual encouragement only made me want to work even harder and longer.

At my lesson one day Marcel Mule invited me to a concert in Paris that featured his saxophone quartet. I was thrilled to hear this remarkable ensemble of French saxophonists. When I heard Mule play the soprano saxophone that night I knew that I had to buy one immediately. He selected a beautiful instrument for me at the Selmer factory. It was such a fine saxophone that I performed on it for over thirty years.

At the end of June, 1958, I told Mule that I wanted to return to Canada to try to establish myself in Toronto and that I wanted to come back to Paris for further studies with him in a couple of years. As a going away present I gave him the largest scrap book I could find in Paris, in order for him to someday find the time to put his extremely large collection of concert reviews and programs from a lifetime of extensive concert activity as a saxophonist.

Several years later my wife Rima and I visited Marcel Mule and his wife in the town of Sanary, France were he retired from his teaching duties at the Conservatory in Paris. For about the next 35 years, we corresponded semi?annually. I always sent him my latest recordings and he would write back indicating that certain selection on the recording or CD would have "Good audience appeal and that I should keep up the good work."

Being able to study with Marcel Mule was a major influence on my life and I was very fortunate indeed to have had him as my mentor. He was not only the greatest saxophone virtuoso and teacher in the world, but a wonderfully kind, gentle and generous person. He made an indelible impression on me.

Marcel Mule Remembered
By Marshall Taylor
Back in the mid 1950s, when I was a high school saxophonist, there were fewer than half a dozen long-playing records available of concert music for saxophone, at least that I could find in local record shops or advertised in music periodicals. I still have four of them today. Sigurd Rascher Plays the Saxophone was one; it was a collection of shorter pieces for alto and piano, including Pierre Lantier's Sicilienne, which I learned to play by ear from hearing the record. I remember that when I chanced on a copy of the published music in a practice room a few years later I was fascinated to see it written out. It hadn't occurred to me that such music was published and that one could go out and buy it! There was a also recording of the Paul Creston Sonata with Vincent Abato playing saxophone and the composer playing piano, and later, when I was studying saxophone at Wheaton College near Chicago, I went to Northwestern University in nearby Evanston to hear Cecil Leeson, then on the faculty there and the dedicatee of the same sonata, play the work in what was probably one of his last recitals. I remember being somewhat startled when he came out on stage and proceeded to practice several of the harder passages, including the high G in the first movement!

But the recordings that really thrilled me were a series of LPs on London Records called, simply, The Saxophone. The covers were beautiful: yellow designs on a vivid red background, yellow and black type along with black and white photographs of the artists. Who were these elegantly dressed gentlemen, poised and dignified and holding saxophones? I found two volumes before they disappeared forever: Volume 5 was the Quatuor de Saxophones Marcel Mule playing three harpsichord pieces by Scarlatti, Tchaikovsky's Andante Cantabile from his first String Quartet, a Schumann Scherzo, Albéniz Sévilla, and three movements from the Glazounov Saxophone Quartet.

Volume 6 was Marcel Mule, saxophone and Solange Robin, piano, playing Pierre Lantier's Sicilienne, the Creston Sonata, Paule Maurice's Tableaux de Provence, and four unaccompanied études-caprices by Amable Massis, all of which provided an opportunity to hear Mule's flowing legato tone, supple phrasing, casually virtuosic technique over the entire instrument (the sound always staying relaxed and free), crisp, clean staccato, expressive vibrato, faultless intonation, and a dynamic control that could effortlessly move from a vibrant, fortissimo high F to a whispering, pianissimo low B flat. Most of all, I was impressed by the very vivid and compelling aliveness to the playing, the nobility and richness of the sound.

What a sound and what marvelous playing! My life was set on a new course by those recordings. I nearly wore them out; I slowed them down to half speed to study how Mule used his vibrato; I memorized and performed the music in concert; I sought out teachers who admired Mule and the French woodwind tradition - first Russell Platz at Wheaton College, a remarkable teacher who gave me a solid foundation in music, and then, for a masters degree, the great saxophonist and teacher Fred Hemke, who had taken his Premier Prix in Mule's saxophone class in Paris and was then just beginning his long tenure on the faculty of Northwestern University.

Finally, I won a Fulbright grant (and Mule's approval) to go over and study with the man myself for two years in Paris, the culmination of that rich period in my musical life. Marcel Mule was already a legend when I was beginning to play, and he is even more of a legend today.

Fashions and taste in saxophone playing change, but Mule was first of all a great musician, then a great saxophonist. You can hear in those recordings a very advanced and masterful concept of musical time and phrasing. He floats through the phrases and over the bar lines as if he is inventing the music on the spot. Listen to that andante cantabile movement of the Tchaikovsky first String Quartet, if you're lucky enough to have access to a copy of the recording. Have you ever heard a violinist play it as beautifully, as expressively, as freely, as intuitively and instinctively right?

To backtrack just a bit, while I was still in high school, Mule had come to the United States and played a series of concerts with the Boston Symphony under Charles Munch, performing the Ibert Concertino da Camera and the Tomasi Ballade. I heard (and audio-taped) a television broadcast of one of the concerts which aired in the Chicago area. He also gave a clinic at Selmer headquarters in Elkhart, Indiana.

Thus, when I got that letter from the Fulbright Commission telling me I had received a grant to Paris to study saxophone with the master saxophonist for a year, you can imagine my feelings. That was near the very end of the days of luxury transatlantic steamship travel and Fulbright grantees sailed to France on board the steamship Le France.

The five days of incredibly delicious French meals (Craig Claiborn once called the first-class dining room on board Le France the best French restaurant in the world), the bilingual signs and announcements, first in French, then in English, all were a perfect immersion in the French culture and language as preparation for a year in Paris. And what a city Paris was and is! Notre Dame, Les Halles, soupe à l'oignon, the architecture, the cosmopolitan atmosphere that drew people from all over the world. What a marvelous place to be! I remember taking the métro across Paris to my first saxophone class in the old Conservatoire on Rue de Madrid, up the hill behind Gare St. Lazare. I came in near the end of class that first day because Mule had arranged for me to play for him after class. The main thing I remember about that first lesson was Mule talking about playing up and down the horn without moving the jaw. He suggested playing arpeggios over the full range of the horn in front of a mirror while avoiding any jaw movement. I could see that this was one of the secrets of the French saxophonists' fluency and evenness of sound from the bottom to the top of the horn, and I worked hard to learn to do it right.

Because I was too old by a few months to be an official member of the class and compete for the Premier Prix at the end of the year, it was decided that I would audit the classes but have private lessons in Mule's home. I had a lesson every two weeks which lasted at least two hours and I was expected to prepare, in addition to all the major and minor scales and arpeggios, an open-end assignment, perhaps four to six etudes, in each of two etude books (Ferling being one of them - Mule called it "the saxophonist's bible"), plus at least two major works, a sonata and a concerto, for each lesson! When I became frustrated with not being able to perfect the pieces in that amount of time and proposed to Mule that we move more slowly, he adamantly refused. "We have only a short time to work together and I want to cover a lot of literature," he said. "You can always go back to these pieces later and work them up to performance level."

I eventually found my own solution, though it involved more work: while continuing to learn new repertoire for my lessons, I began to schedule recitals every few months at some of the student houses of the Cité Universitaire where I was living, at which I would play the repertoire we had worked on earlier in lessons.

Among the pieces I played was Pierre Lantier's Euskaldunak, then unpublished. Having heard Mule's recording of it and admired it, I borrowed the music from him, copied it, and extracted the saxophone part. Since the composer was kind enough to come to the concert, I played his Sicilienne as an encore and asked him to inscribe my copy of the music.

I later corresponded with his wife, the composer Paule Maurice, concerning the very beautiful suite of pictures of her native Provence, the Tableaux de Provence. Lantier was also from the south of France, but from the Basque region near Spain (euskaldunak is a Basque word). Lantier and Maurice had become friends with the Mules (and the music was, of course, written for and performed first by Mule), and both couples spent their summer vacations in the small town of Sanary-sur-Mer, on the Riviera near Toulon, where the Mules eventually bought a villa, to which they retired shortly after my Paris study days and where I later visited them several times.

Mule had the habit of initialing an "M" at the end of études after he had heard them played at a lesson. Ferling, as I've mentioned, was the ultimate test, and it was a revelation to hear Mule play those études. I would work on them assiduously in preparation for a lesson, only to hear him play them with an such an easy command, such a beautiful singing tone and absolute rhythmic precision that I despaired of ever sounding that good. Finally one day, when I finished played one of the slow studies, I heard him simply say, "Parfait!" (Perfect!).

I should add, however, that, in looking at my edition (which now needs to be rebound), I see that in the last few difficult, rapid études at the end of the book, the enharmonic ones which Mule had written to supplement Ferling's original "48," the "M" is missing! I now realize that he must have been particularly interested to hear students play these studies, which he had written and that my lack of fluency in them was probably a disappointment. Now, of course, I can enjoy and appreciate these beautiful etudes in the A flat and E flat minor, G flat and C sharp major, which, though closely modeled on the original Ferling studies, also reveal a particular subtlety of phrasing and melodic inventiveness.

As a student in Paris, I was also studying French for about four or five hours a day in classes at the Institut de Professeurs de Français à l'Étranger, a part of the Sorbonne, because Mule had told me, "I'm an old man and it's tiring for me to speak English, so please hurry up and learn French!"

One day, after a few months of lessons and of French classes, I arrived at his apartment for a lesson an hour earlier than he was expecting me; there had been a mix up in the lesson time. He was just finishing lunch and invited me in to sit with him while he had a cup of coffee and a cigar. I greeted Madame Mule and, noticing that she wasn't taking part in our English conversation, asked her if she spoke English. She said no, she didn't, and, out of courtesy to her, I switched over to my rather perfunctory French. It must have been at least adequate enough for communication, though considerably less than elegant. That afternoon, when we finished our coffee and began the lesson, Mule continued to speak French, and indeed, from then on never spoke English to me unless a word came up which I didn't understand. If he didn't know the English equivalent he would simply look it up in his pocket dictionary.

Perhaps my being an American, being a bit older that the other students, and being a private student whom he taught in his home all may have contributed to putting our relationship on a somewhat different footing than if I had been in the class at the Conservatoire. Maybe because he knew of my interest in the quartet and my acquaintance with their recordings, he invited me to one of their rehearsals a month or two after we had begun lessons. It was held at the apartment of the baritone player, Marcel Josse, and when I got out of the elevator I could already hear in the resonant hallway, the marvelous sounds of that famous quartet whose recordings I practically had worn out and memorized!

That day, after they had been playing for awhile they took a break and Mule passed around some publicity photos for everyone to sign, which would then presumably be sent out. When they had finished signing them, I was startled and delighted to receive two copies, one of the quartet and one of Mule himself, with warm inscriptions above the signatures.

Mule left his soprano at Josse's apartment in between rehearsals, and at the rehearsal I attended he tried out reeds as the quartet played and complained mildly about how hard it was to find a good one (Where have you heard that one before?), while I continued to marvel at how wonderful he sounded. It seemed to me, on hearing him in that professional playing situation that he had all the ardor and vitality of a young man combined with the sagacity and calmness of an elder, vastly experienced musician. Marcel Moyse, the great French flute virtuoso told me that he remembered hearing Mule play as a young man, when he first burst onto the Parisian musical scene, and he said that it was a revelation to everyone who heard him.

Mule played a lot in my lessons, often demonstrating his points, it seems to me more so than he did in the classes, though I have photos of him playing in class as well. What an experience, after working on a piece such as the Sonatine Sportive of Alexandre Tcherepnine, then to hear le maitre (the master), play it from a couple of feet away! How can I ever forget hearing him play the slow movement of that piece as well as so many other pieces?

He invited me to a concert that the quartet was playing in a neighboring town, Mantes-la-Jolie, where Selmer had their factory. I went and heard it - perhaps one of the last concerts the Quatuor played, since Mule retired from quartet playing shortly thereafter, as he had retired from solo playing several years previously.

He also invited me to a recording session the quartet was doing for the ORTF, as the French radio was then called. The composer of the piece they were recording was present and I took some pictures, as I also did occasionally at the class.

Mule had one really great reed, which he kept for special occasions and he showed it to me once. It was so old it was practically black. He told me where he had gotten it. I think it was in Rouen, where Joan of Arc had been burned at the stake, but in any case he mentioned parenthetically the connection with the Maid of Orléans. I said that perhaps it had come from the actual stake, which might have accounted for its blackened condition, and I always thought of it as his Joan of Arc reed.

I remember that I once complimented Mule on his pronunciation of my last name. He smiled and said that when he was studying English, one of the first sentences he had to learn was, "My tailor is rich (Mon tailleur est riche)," and that that was why he pronounced my name so well.

He also told me a joke in English about a man who asked a railway conductor how long the train would be in the next station, to which the conductor replied, "From two to two to two two." (i.e., from 1:58 to 2:02.): A man of gentle humor.

Mule's warm geniality and friendly smile were always an encouraging part of working with him and as I think of him now, they vividly recall his always heartening kindness and encouragement, just as his recordings and the memory of his playing recall his wonderful abilities as a master musician and teacher. Indeed, in those recordings and in all of our many treasured memories of him, la légende continue.

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Marcel Mule Scholarship

Information about the Marcel Mule Scholarship Fund can be obtained by clicking here to visit the Marcel Mule Scholarship webpage at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.
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