by Philippe Gaubert 1879-1941
Madrigal 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. 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 have been Taffanel’s favourite pupil.
The French Flute School used metal flutes of the modified Boehm system by Louis Lot and others, in contrast to the mostly wooden instruments German and English flautists played with at the time 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.
Gaubert 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 Société de Concerts. From there he went from strength to strength, and eventually became Chief Conductor of the Société and Conductor at the Opera. In 1932 he was appointed Professor of Flute at the Conservatoire and eventually Professor of Conducting. 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. The semi-quaver runs evident in his compositions, which are simply brush strokes of sound and modulations, are an influence of Debussy, Faure and Ravel, and characteristic of his writing.