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Flûte française: Influence of the late nineteenth-century French flute school on flute playing today
One of the most important schools of flute playing was founded in France during the nineteenth century and was developed further during the twentieth century. Many of the world’s most famous flutists were part of this extraordinary tradition, and its legacy lives on today. The aim of my written work is to explore the history of the French flute school, in order to understand its impact on today’s flute playing. Not only did this school influence flute technique, but it also greatly affected the flute repertoire. We still have this repertoire available today to inform our understanding. My starting point is to try to understand the foundation of this school, and to use this knowledge to look for similarities and differences between its early days and its later developments. This work follows the history of the French flute school starting from the great teacher Paul Taffanel, then focusing on the famous French flute soloists of the following generation.
My work deals with the legacy of the French flute school, both from a technical and from a musical standpoint, in order to understand what has changed and what has remained. To understand the history and this period, I will have to look into the early flute professors at the Paris Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique, Paul Taffanel and his student Philippe Gaubert, who effectively developed the modern French flute school. Taffanel and Gaubert wrote exercises and teaching materials which are still used today. I would like to find and understand the changes that the flute sound has undergone since the early twentieth century compared to today. For this project I will use early recordings from the beginning of the twentieth century by Philippe Gaubert, his student Marcel Moyse and George Barrère who were part of the development of the modern French flute school. These recordings might give unique insights into their way of playing. The question I want to answer with my research is how much of the old tradition still exists. What has stayed the same since the nineteenth century and what has changed or developed? I would also like to describe precisely what the characteristics of the French flute school are, and what makes it so special. Listening to old recordings and reading contemporary documents from this time will help me answer those questions.