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Jacques Francois Gallay

Jacques-François Gallay was born in Perpignan on the 8th of December 1795. Like so many other budding musicians of this time, his early musical education was the study of solfège, a system often credited with giving students excellent aural skills - something very necessary when playing the horn. By the age of twelve he had began horn lessons with his father and, at the astonishingly young age of fourteen, made his solo debut. This occasion was due to the principal horn player of the local orchestra being unwell and Gallay stepping in to save the day which involved playing the tricky obbligato horn solo in the aria "O toi dont me memor" in from opera that was being performed - François Devienne's Les Visitandines.

Despite his developing career in his home town, in 1820 Gallay travelled to Paris where he headed straight for Louis François Dauprat, one of the leading horn players and the professor at the Paris Conservatoire. Officially Gallay, who was now twenty five, was above the age limit to study at the Conservatoire but in the end an acception to the rules was made and it was agreed that he could study both horn and composition.

After graduation he became cor solo (principal horn) firstly at the Odéon Theatre and then, in 1825, became cor solo at the Théâtre Italien. Whilst this could be considered his main role he also played for the Chappelle Royale, the Musique du Roi and the influentual Société des Concerts Au Conservatoire.

Gallay frequently appeared as a soloist, often performing a number of his bravura compositions for horn. His playing attracted glowing reviews from critics including Hector Berlioz. He gained particular praise for his operatic vocal style, his expression and musical grace, and was deemed the equal of many leading operatic singers of his day.

In 1842 he succeeded Dauprat as Professor of Horn at the Paris Conservatoire though there are indication that his predecessor felt edged out by the younger musician. The esteem in which he was held led to him being awarded the Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur.

Sadly, from the early 1850s onwards Gallay was dogged by poor health probably caused by arthritis. Anxious to fulfill his duties as a teacher he petitioned the Conservatoire to be allowed to continue teaching his students from his home. The Conservatoires agreement to this led to him continuing to teach up until his death on the 18th of October 1864