by Daniel Hathaway
Oberlin’s historical flute professor Michael Lynn has devised a whole day of events celebrating the little-known world of 19th century French flute music. On Saturday, October 31, Lynn will team up with flute professor Alexa Still, fortepianist David Breitman, the Conservatory’s music history department, the Conservatory Library, and the Frederick R. Selch Center for Music History, to shine light on a neglected subject through lectures, a concert and an exhibition.
Lynn said in a telephone conversation that his project has been an adventure full of surprises. “I didn’t know that much about the repertoire, but I had the general feeling that there was a bunch of it out there. I’ve collected flutes from that era, especially Viennese instruments, but somehow I got pulled in by the French flutes. They’re simpler, more elegant instruments, and the more digging I did into the music written for them, the more interesting it became.”
Having once thought of flutes in the three categories of “baroque, later, and modern,” Lynn said he had to revise his thinking when he got closer to the subject of flutes in 19th century France, a period when the “Boehm” flute was invented and either adopted or rejected by French flute teachers — who were also the composers and virtuoso performers of the era.
Those composer-performers are not household names. “Jean-Louis Toulou was the main professor at the Paris Conservatory, which was more influential in France than any music school in the U.S.,” Lynn said. “It really dictated what happened. Toulou was also a flute maker. Louis Drouet, who came earlier, toured internationally including to the United States. Charles de Cottignies was a second-tier player but a very good composer. Benoit Tranquille Berbiguier wrote some 500 pieces. Ludovic LePlus wasn’t super famous, but he was certainly in the upper echelon.” The music they composed was highly influenced by operatic music of the day.
Those who attend the 6:30 pm concert on Saturday in Kulas Recital Hall will hear performances by faculty and students playing both modern and historic flutes, but the musical scores they’ll play from are definitely historic. “We wanted to use only music in original editions owned by the Conservatory, including a manuscript in the Selch collection that contains 110 flute pieces,” Lynn said. The piano will also be a historic one, an 1862 Broadwood from the Conservatory’s collection. “It’s a serious piano with a lot more color than a modern Steinway.”
Michael Lynn noted that Oberlin students are “some of the busiest people in the world,” but they’ve joined in on the project enthusiastically. “They’re surprised at all the cool music they’ve never heard of.”
The complete schedule follows:
Saturday, October 31
All day in the Conservatory student lounge.
Lecture by Tom Moore “50 Unknown Flutists”
1:30 PM – Bibbins 238
Lecture and demonstration by Michael Lynn: “Historical Flutes of the 19th Century”
3:00 PM – Bibbins 238
Concert performance by conservatory students and faculty
6:30 PM – Kulas Recital Hall
Published on ClevelandClassical.com October 27, 2015.
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