Niall O'Riordan

Flute Soloist  


Elegant Virtuosity- The French Flute School

Posted on August 30, 2012 at 1:30 PM


Here in England we are all a bit obsessed with the French school. Seriously, I think we are, more than the French! But I don't think we have a complete picture. In fact, if you really want to have a global impression of this school of playing there is much more investigation to be done.


Pieces by Devienne, Tulou, Demersseman, Reichart, Boehm etc are mostly forgotten here. These pieces display elegant virtuosity, a crucial component in the development of a solid flute technique. I agree, sometimes they are not the greatest pieces of music ever written but they are fantastic pieces to learn for a multitude of reasons. This type of virtuosity is very different to what you might need for Sonatas by Prokofiev or Liebenman. Marcel Moyse was hugely influential in the UK and these are the very type of pieces he taught regularly. William Bennett, a celebrated student of Moyse, is one of the very few teachers who is still keeping this repertoire alive in this country. These pieces were also a central component of the flute pedagogy of Alain Marion and Rampal, an important branch of the French school that has not really influenced British flute playing.


Overall I think we are going in the wrong direction. I am a champion new music, but I think there is too much emphasis of finding new pieces to be ‘different’ or ‘unique’ with an overemphasis on extended techniques. I think we are neglecting a whole chunk of our heritage because of this.


Last night as I flicked through these virtuoso solos, I asked myself ‘are we going forward or backwards?’ The technical demands of these pieces are much more complicated than some of the pieces that are in fashion at the moment. If you don't have a solid flute technique there is no way you will successfully do justice to a Demersseman Solo but I think it can be disguised in some of the repertoire that we are currently playing.


*The above pictures show left Jules Demersseman,  right Alain Marion


Demersseman (9 January 1833 – 1 December 1866) was born in Hondschoote, Département Nord, France, near the Belgian border. At 11, he was a student of Jean-Louis Tulou at the Conservatoire de Paris. He won the first prize there at the age of twelve and quickly became famous as a virtuoso.

You can find scores by Demersseman here


Categories: None

Post a Comment


Oops, you forgot something.


The words you entered did not match the given text. Please try again.

Already a member? Sign In