by Philippe Gaubert 1879-1941
Divertissement Grec by Philippe Gaubert
Beginning with Paul Taffanel and the introduction of the silver Boehm system flute in the mid- nineteenth century, the French Flute School of flute playing refers to the use of vibrato, emotional approach to musical line, technique, and tone of French flautists.
The French Flute School used metal flutes of the modified Boehm system by Louis Lot and others,
It stood in contrast to the mostly wooden instruments German and English flautists played with a strong and steady sound.
The French School has a long tradition carried down to today with an enormous contribution by Marcel Moyse one of the greatest flute players and teachers of our time. The legacy he left with his wonderful tutorial books, recordings and students like William Bennett, Paula Robison, James Galway, Trevor Wye, and others have continued to carry this approach to tone and musical expression through the years.
Philippe Gaubert is considered one of the founders of the long-standing French School of flute playing and was taught by Paul Taffanel.
Gaubert was said to be Taffanel’s favourite pupil. He gained his first prize at fifteen and was for a time a highly acclaimed performer and teacher. His reviews were always glowing and the few recordings we have shown him to have all the qualities we would expect from the best of the French School. He was a versatile musician and at the age of 25, turned his hand to conducting, very successfully, and was appointed Assistant Conductor to the Societe de Concerts. From there he went from strength to strength, and eventually became Chief Conductor of the Societe and Conductor at the Opera. In 1932 he was appointed Professor of Flute at the Conservatoire and eventually Professor of Conducting. Of all the legacies we have of this era, his flute compositions, which comprise of numerous flute and piano works as well as a small amount of chamber music, demonstrate an impressionistic sense of harmony and phrasing, and variety of tone colour and articulation. Runs, which are simply brush strokes of sound and modulations, are an influence of Debussy, Faure and Ravel, and characteristic of his writing.
The Divertissement Grec was written in 1909 and dedicated to Louis Fleury.
Louis Fleury (1878-1926) was a skilled flautist, respected writer and critic, prolific music editor, and new music enthusiast in France at the turn of the twentieth century. To some extent, Fleury’s legacy has been overshadowed by figures such as his teacher Paul Taffanel (1844-1908), as well as his contemporaries, including renowned flautists Philippe Gaubert (1879-1941), Marcel Moyse (1889-1984), and Georges Barrère (1876- 1944). Fleury studied with Taffanel at the Paris Conservatoire from 1895-1900. Taffanel is regarded as having established the modern French Flute School, which is a tradition of flute playing that still dominates the musical world. The legacy of the French Flute School of the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries impacted modern flute playing with its emphasis on beautiful sound, effortless technique, and mature musical interpretation. Many of Taffanel’s predecessors emphasised technique over artistry, especially in their repertoire selections. Taffanel and his prominent students, such as Louis Fleury, highly influenced the repertoire for the flute in the twentieth century through numerous commissions of works, as well as through a revival of forgotten works of the baroque and classical periods.
Louis Fleury served as the dedicatee for many new flute works; these works extended the boundaries of the previous era in the flute’s range and expression, as well as helped to elevate the place of the flute as a solo instrument in the modern era. Selected flute works dedicated to Louis Fleury between 1913 and 1923 display the expressive and technical capabilities of the flute using extra-musical references, novel harmonic language, and rhythmic complexity.
Originally written for two flutes and harp, the Divertissement Grec is an interesting setting for flute and piano. The right hand of the piano part takes on the role of the second flute and as a result should try to imitate the sound and phrasing of another flute player. For most of the work, the flute line and the top piano line are in thirds and in unison rhythm. The piece explores, tone, colours because of the key changes throughout and the players musical imagination. A divertissement means a diversion or amusement and what a wonderful diversion this is, full of sparkle and colour. Tempo choice is crucial here as it can sound like an entirely different piece played too slowly. When approaching Gaubert, I find it always useful to listen to him playing his Madrigal, his tempo really flows and moves , so I think it is an indication for his style.