Born to a cobbler who was a good amateur clarinetist, at an early age Gaubert began private lessons with the great French flute pedagogue Paul Taffanel , and Gaubert joined him in Paris when Taffanel was named to a teaching post at the Conservatoire in He studied composition with Raoul Pugno and became an assistant conductor at the Concerts du Conservatoire from Although Gaubert practiced the flute for a half hour before each lesson given until the end of his teaching career, the demands of his various commitments impacted his flute technique and he ceded his flute teaching position at the Conservatoire to Marcel Moyse. Gaubert remained unflappable and optimistic even in the face of the Second World War, but died, suddenly, of a stroke just hours before he was to take the podium to lead the premiere of his ballet Le chevalier et la demoiselle.
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And when I go to the window It seems to me that each note flies From the flute to my cheek Like a mysterious kiss. Bach and Mozart brought the tradition of the keyboard fantasia into the late-Baroque and Classical eras with their fantasias for organ, harpsichord, or fortepiano. Precise formal structure — usually very important to both Bach and Mozart — is not a feature of fantasia composition. While all music has structure, fantasias have a tendency to create their own formal designs, which may have been part of their appeal for Romantic composers, whose yearning for expressive beauty of melody and sonority often overpowered the requirements of traditional forms.
Fantasias abound in 19th-century musical literature. To them the fantasia. The sonata itself had crystallized into a more or less rigid formal scheme, and the fantasia offered far greater freedom in the use of thematic material and virtuoso writing. Three of them — those by Doppler, Borne, and Taffanel — are in the traditions of Liszt, who wrote a number of piano works elaborating themes from operas, and Max Bruch, whose Scottish Fantasy incorporates traditional folk tunes.
Founded in , the Conservatoire has long been a mecca for aspiring flute soloists. The annual competitive examination called the Concours began in the s and was supervised for more than a decade by Paul Taffanel — He is regarded as the founder of the modern school of French flute playing; his traditions were carried on by Philippe Gaubert and Marcel Moyse, among others.
In , he joined the faculty of the Paris Conservatory and became its director in He wrote his Fantaisie for the flute Concours of and dedicated it to Taffanel; it also exists in an orchestral version. It is reminiscent of a Siciliana a favorite slow-movement style of Baroque composers , with a pastoral mood and occasional dotted-rhythm figures. The flute and piano parts both become increasingly complex and intense, passing briefly through many keys, alternating between staccato and legato playing.
The sudden dynamic contrasts enhance the sense of building to a heady climax. He became artistic director of the Paris Opera in but never lost his connection to flute music, working with Taffanel on a flute teaching manual and holding a professorship at the Conservatory. Although he composed for orchestra, ballet, and solo voice, he is remembered mainly for his compositions featuring the flute.
Its two principal sections are labeled Moderato Quasi Fantasia and Vif lively , but there are many tempo variations within each portion — subtle indications asking the players to speed up or slow down. The opening section is similar to a concerto cadenza, with virtuosic, improvisatory passages for both instruments. The key is mostly G minor. A Lent slow passage ushers an elaborate theme for the flute before the start of the Vif section in B-flat, the relative-major. The initial melodies cover the range of a major seventh.
They sound very much like incomplete scales and lend a sense of indeterminacy. New motives emerge, often echoing, elaborating, and re-turning to the basic major-seventh pattern. Several keys are briefly explored, with a return to G minor near the end and a final piano chord in G major.
He divided his career between composing and teaching throughout his long life. His works recall the harmonic world of Debussy. He wrote his Fantaisie for the Concours of he orchestrated it ten years later.
The opening key is G minor, rhythmic patterns are dotted and almost hesitant, the flute has a long, brilliant passage over sustained piano chords. The melodies are increasingly elaborated until we return to Tempo I — Assez Lent rather slow — and the original improvisatory motives.
An echo of the A major theme leads to a fast section introduced by staccato notes in the piano part, a very different and more agitated sound for both instruments. The rhythm changes to a rapid waltz. Sudden changes of key, dynamics, and major-minor modality increase the emotional intensity. New melodies are introduced and interrupted by bravura measures of virtuosic display. After touching on a number of keys, the piece ends with a triumphant coda in B-flat major. We move back a generation or two, and eastward from France, for the famous Hungarian Pastoral Fantasy by Albert Franz Doppler — Doppler wrote operas for theaters in Budapest and had a notable career in Vienna as both a composer and flute virtuoso.
The melancholy opening section, Molto Andante in D minor, is virtuosic for the flute and dramatic for the piano. A quick shift to D major brings a new theme and faster pace; the theme is varied and constantly elaborated, with miniature cadenzas in both instrumental parts.
An Allegro section returns to D minor and drops into a mysterious pianissimo passage; then we come back to the major mode to lead into a flute cadenza accompanied by soft piano chords and a brilliant fortissimo D major coda.
Taffanel taught a generation of flute players and wrote a great deal of music for his beloved instrument over the course of a distinguished career that also encompassed solo and chamber music performances and conducting. Not so well known in the United States, Der Freischutz was a milestone in the evolution of German opera when it premiered in Berlin in Based on legends of the Dark Huntsman, it is both a love story and a Faustian tale of men imperiling their souls by dealing with the devil.
The main body of the Fantaisie, however, moves away from the demonic to the prayerful. Agathe knows Max has been tempted by the idea of the magic bullets but, in the course of the aria, reaffirms her faith in his goodness and greets his return with joy. The Fantaisie follows this progression with a brilliant Allegro variation on the concluding part of her aria, which signals his return to her.
The flute presents this yearning, lyrical melody in a passage marked Andante Quasi Allegretto, a very moderate and serene tempo. The piano at first supports the aria theme, then takes it over as the flute plays imaginative figurations. Taffanel turns this theme into a propulsive finale for both players.
He is remembered by flutists and non-flutists alike for his Fantaisie Brillante sur Carmen, reproducing and varying themes from the most famous of all French operas. The flute picks it up, and both instruments cascade through brilliant elaborations. Andrea Lamoreaux is music director of Album Details.
Fantaisie for Clarinet and Piano (Gaubert, Philippe)
Fantaisie for Flute and Piano (Gaubert, Philippe)