Robert Bigio flute pages
Articles on the flute
Christopher Steward’s early flute recordings
By Bernard Duplaix
Translated by Robert Bigio
Adolphe Hennebains (1862–1914) was born in
Saint Omer in northern France. His family was
poor but made every effort to enable him to
become a musician. Hennebains entered the
Paris Conservatoire in 1878 where he studied
with Henry Altès, obtaining his Premier Prix in
Hennebains was held in high regard by Paul
Taffanel. The two became firm friends, and
throughout his life Hennebains regarded the
older man as his 'true master'. Hennebains
became first flute in the Pasdeloup Orchestra
and later the Lamoureux Orchestra between
1880 and 1890. In 1891 he joined the orchestra of
the Paris Opéra, becoming first flute the
following year. At the same time he became first
flute in the Paris Conservatoire orchestra (the
Societé des Concerts du Conservatoire, the most
important French orchestra of the time). In both
cases he succeeded Taffanel.
Hennebains was a busy chamber music player, in Taffanel's Societé pour Instruments à Vent, and
especially in the Double Quintette, a celebrated ensemble that performed throughout Europe, and
he partnered such distinguished performers as the pianists Alfred Cortot, Louis Diémer, Francis
Planté and Edouard Risler, the harpsichordists Marguerite Delcourt and Wanda Landowska, the
violinists Georges Enescu and Jacques Thibaud and the singers Louise Grandjean and Alice Verlet.
He was much admired and very active as a soloist, and he was friendly with many composers,
including Cécile Chaminade, Gabriel Fauré, Georges Hüe, Vincent D'Indy, Jules Massenet and
Charles-Marie Widor, often performing with them and receiving dedications of their works.
Hennebains was at ease in high society, regularly performing in aristocratic salons in Paris.
As a teacher, Hennebains received, often without payment, many private students including
Georges Laurent, Marcel Moyse and René Le Roy. He became assistant to Taffanel at the Paris
Conservatoire from 1893, replaced him regularly from 1905 and became professor at the
Conservatoire in his own right in 1909 after Taffanel's death. He was regarded as a warm and
extremely generous teacher and was adored by his students, who included Jean Boulze, André
Lespès, Albert Manouvrier and Joseph Rampal, the father and first teacher of Jean-Pierre Rampal.
In August 1914, at the start of the Great War, Hennebains took refuge in Primel-Trégastel, Brittany.
A sensitive and deeply anti-militaristic man, he suffered a heart attack on 17 September on hearing
of the death in battle of one of his favourite students.
Benjamin Godard: Allegretto from Suite Op. 116.
Unknown orchestra. Recorded 1908.
Photograph of Adolphe Hennebains courtesy
of Bernard Duplaix.