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Marcel Mule – “Le Maître”

In this tribute article to the legendary Marcel Mule, Todd Oxford (Associate Professor of Saxophone and Chamber Music at the Texas State University School of Music, TX, USA) takes us over a complete trajectory of one of the most famous saxophone soloists and pedagogues ever, with some interesting interviews with this genius just before his death, which is like listening to history.
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French classical saxophone virtuoso, Marcel Mule, is regarded as a master of his instrument on a par with figures such as Luciano Pavarotti, Nicolo Paganini, Jascha Heifetz, and Arthur Rubinstein.

In fact, so great was his influence that it’s likely the saxophone wouldn’t have become so popular throughout the music world were it not for Marcel Mule’s visibility and fame as an international performer, recording artist, and master teacher.

Defining the Style

Marcel Mule possessed a world-class technical and expressive command of the saxophone. Although he played with a straight tone (no vibrato) early in his career, Mule became the first classical player to use a lower jaw vibrato in performance after experimenting with the technique in dance bands of his time.

Mule was the saxophone section leader of La musique de la Garde républicaine (Paris military band) from roughly 1921-1936. This experience led to world concert tours.

New Repertoire

Early literature for the saxophone consisted largely of Mule’s own transcriptions of famous classical works. He commissioned solo and quartet works by several leading European composers to include Gabriel Pierné, Darius Milhaud, Jacques Ibert, Florent Schmitt, and Alexander Glazunov. Many of these works became a standard part of the classical repertoire for saxophone.

Recordings

Marcel Mule, along with German contemporary Sigurd Raschèr, established a world-standard classical saxophone performance through both solo and quartet literature.

These landmark recordings influenced and inspired countless players worldwide who became famous performers and teachers themselves, such as Jean-Marie Londeix, Daniel Deffayet, Frederick Hemke, Eugene Rousseau, Harvey Pittel, Donald Sinta, Claude Delangle, among others.

Selected Marcel Mule Recordings:

Education

Marcel Mule was Professor of Saxophone at the famous Paris Conservatory from 1944 until his retirement in 1967. The had been no saxophone at the conservatory since Adolphe Sax (the instrument’s inventor) last taught there in 1870.

Mule was the first master saxophone teacher to codify a pedagogy system (teaching method) to include embouchure, breathing, tonguing, intonation, vibrato, musical line, style, and playing technique on the daily practice of scales, arpeggios, articulation, and melodic etudes.

The famous French publisher, Alphonse Leduc, published an extensive series of scale books, etude books, and solo transcriptions used by Mule in his teaching and performance.

Selected Marcel Mule Method Books:

Saxophone Design

In the early 1950s, Mule collaborated with the Selmer instruments company to develop the Classic Mark VI model saxophone.

Paris Saxophone Quartet.

A Book About Mule’s Life

With this book written by Eugene Rousseau and published by Étoile (1982), anyone can learn more about the saxophone’s genius.

Marcel Mule: Sa vie et le saxophone — by Eugene Rousseau.

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