Hanon’s first major publication was also among the most successful during his lifetime: Système nouveau, a method for accompanying plainchant on the organ, was originally printed in 1859 and was in continual publication for more than 30 years. In 1867, the volume was not only recognized by Pope Pius IX who named him an honorary member of the Accademia de Santa Cecilia, but was also given an Honorable Mention at the 1867 World Exhibition in Paris.
One of the most substantial documents relating to Hanon is a curious article by critic Oscar Comettant published in his chronicle of the musical activities at the 1867 Exhibition.(5)
Hanon wrote the Système nouveau partially using a notation system of numbers instead of musical notes that was popular at the time, especially in France, for teaching sight singing. Comettant was violently opposed to this system. Believing that it was more mathematical than musical, he wrote, “This system is of all of them [the] most intolerable, the most dangerous, the most inadmissible. It is a misleading mask for the ears by the eyes, a lie, a disorder, a chaos….”(6)
(5) Oscar Comettant, “L’Organiste universel, par Hanon,”
La Musique, les Musiciens et les Instruments de Musique chez les Différents Peuples du Monde (Paris: Michel Lévy Frères, 1869), 399–402.
(All translations in this article are by the authors.)
(6) Oscar Comettant, Les musiciens, les philosophes et les gaietés de la musique en chiffres; réponse à M. Francisque Sarcey (Paris, E. Dentu, 1870), section VI.
This article is reproduced with permission from the authors.