It is my extraordinary privilege to bring you some incredibly insightful quotes and explanations from a Marcel Moyse flute class held in 1977, thanks to a reciprocal exchange between fellow flutist Jerrold Pritchard and myself. Mr. Pritchard interviewed me recently to write a profile on me (eek!) for Flutist Quarterly, and then sent me these Moyse quotes as a gift for all the incredibly complex questions he asked me during the interview process. Wowza, what a gift! Check it out.
Here's Moyse speaking on Tone.
Pearls of the Master: Words of Advice from Marcel Moyse
From notes at masterclass in Brattleboro, VT in May 1977
by Jerrold Pritchard
The famous French flutist and former Professor of Flute at the Paris Conservatory, Marcel Moyse was a masterful flute teacher and player. He could be very precise and effective in his instructions, but his energy, his enthusiasm, his devotion to perfection, and his way of describing how to approach a melody or a special phrase were what made him exceptional. At times he would seem to get the very best from a student in his master classes just by the look on his face, the sparkle in his eyes, the gesture of his hands.
In May of 1977, I was fortunate to attend one of his annual flute seminars near his home in Brattleboro, VT. It was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life; and today I can still hear his voice in my mind, recall the setting, the mood, the students, and Moyse’ way of getting you to play with absolute accuracy and attention to the composers intentions as well as the mood and emotion of each phrase. Although by this time late in his life he did not perform for the class much, he was able to convey his ideas and ideals very well in words.
Fortunately, I took copious notes about individual pieces that were played, and on the scores of his etudes and exercises to preserve, as best I could, how Moyse described a piece, his advice on tone, technique, phrasing and interpretation, his stories of his career as player and teacher, and the way he was able to come up with just the right image expressing something or describing what he wanted to you do. His English was still strongly accented with a musical French inflection which sometimes made it difficult to hear or apprehend what he said. At times, I was fortunate to sit next to a pupil who spoke French who could translate when Moyse used a French word or phrase I did not know. I suspect that everyone at the class came away with their own impression and version of what he said; the wording is probably not exact, but here is what I heard and captured on paper:
You must try all possibilities for finding the proper center and focus of the tone. Like an Ant moving a heavy object from his path: Determined and Patient.
Lips unfocused? Experiment! They must be soft like a cushion on a chair, comfortable, pleasurable.
The Flute tone escapes like a fish in the hand--Don’t have a “Fish Tone”!
Climate influences mood, style, air, and lips. Put the Sun in your tone: Red, rich, colorful.
Place the Tone—don’t put it. Place it carefully like a fine piece of crystal on a table. [The French was “Posé”.]
Don’t play loud; Play generously. Power is not in the character of the flute, only expansiveness. Like a piggish person on a train making more room for themselves, make room for each tone, comfortable and relaxed.
Scoop out the tone in the low register like mayonnaise from the bottom of the jar.
Your vowel quality must be beautiful. You would never say “I love you” with an ugly, nasal voice.
(continued on this blog in part 3 and 4 of this Moyse series)
So this will be a multi-part blog post over the next few days. Please feel free to comment, and don't hold your breath like a blow-fish (what is the French for that?!), but I'm pretty chuffed and excited myself with the upcoming parts 2 and 3 of this "Pearls from the Masters". Seriously. Pritchard's insights are fabulouso-mosso!
Meanwhile, to fill in those flute players who aren't as familiar with Moyse as those who were around in the '70s, let's get a quick overview.
Firstly, herere is an old black and white film of Moyse in action in the Paris Symphony.
Also, there are Moyse's recordings:
Have a listen to this one right now:
Online you can find a number of Moyse's performance mp3s taken from old 78 records. Now, ha ha, don't be too freaked out with the sound quality. The technology wasn't happening back then, but the soul of the Bel Canto singing style is still audible.
And of course there are also Moyse's amazingly interesting sheetmusic/explanatory books on flute playing.
Sheetmusic Books by Marcel Moyse
Études et éxercises technique (1921)
Exercises Journaliers (1922)
24 Études de virtuosité d'après Czerny (1927)
Mécanisme-chromatisme pour flûte (1927); Éditions Alphonse Leduc
École de l'articulation (1927); Éditions Alphonse Leduc
25 Études mélodique (Var) (1928)
12 Études de grande virtuosité d'après Chopin (1928); Éditions Alphonse Leduc
20 Études d'après Kreutzer (1928)
100 Études faciles et progressives d'après Cramer (1928); 2 volumes
24 Petites études mélodique (Var) (1928)
De la Sonorité (1934)
25 études Journalier (Op-53) Soussman
Gammes et Arpèges (Scales and Arpeggios); Éditions Alphonse Leduc
Le Débutant flûtiste (1935)
24 Caprices-études : Boehm Op. 26 (1938)
Tone Development Through Interpretation
20 Exercises et études sur les Grandes Liaisons
One of my favourites for advanced players is "How I stayed in Shape" which is full of interesting exercises.
As an avid flute student,if you were only to purchase 2 or 3 of the books by Marcel Moyse, I highly recommend for all students:
De La Sonorite
Tone Development Through Interpretation
In part 2 of this series of blog posts, the above book 24 Petites études mélodique will be covered as well with Moyse's hands-on class quotations. Lots of good information to follow in subsequent blog entries.
And do please join in by using the comment button below if you have masterclass notes or memories of studying with Moyse yourself.
Can't wait to get started!
See next post, and huge thanks to Mr. Pritchard for his kindness is providing us all with his own memories from 1977 and since.