In 1965, I heard that the legendary Marcel Moyse was giving master classes in Boswil, Switzerland. William Bennett and I decided to go and drove out by car arriving in the evening of September 5th. The classes were morning and evening and there were about 40 in the class. The set-up allowed anyone who wanted to play, to do so., even if the player was of a low performing level. It was interesting to see how Moyse dealt with their problems. I attended each summer for the next 12 or so years and for the first four years, made notes of the important things he said. Everything in italics is his comment, unless shown otherwise. In the classes, held in Boswil Church, I always sat in the front row so as to hear everything clearly.
Moyse spoke ‘Franglais’, a mixture of English with some French, but so often, words were missing from the sentences. I have not reflected that in the transcriptions and have filled out the sentences so as to make reading it easier. They do offer good advice and I hope you enjoy them.
From Notebook No.1. 1965
Only people with a bad tone use much vibrato.
The fingering is almost nothing; the real technique of the flute is in the lips and the colour.
In conversation: He wrote the 50 Variations on the Bach Allemande partly to show the various approaches one should make to the piece. The 50th Var was written as a joke in the jazz style but I have never met anyone who could sight read it without a mistake.
About Handel, Telemann and Loeillet, etc,: When people talk about improvisation, I listen and understand, but do not want to know. This has no interest for me. I take pleasure with other music. Whatever you do with improvisation, it must be interesting to the listener. I like baroque music as it is and if you do not agree with me – so!. I take my pleasure with romantic music.
His staccato has to be heard to be believed! So bell-like and singing.
He often says he learnt pieces from singers just by listening to them.
When someone plays fast scale passages, he slows them down and asks them to think about every note instead of rushing. The effect he got from a man playing Doppler was incredible; every note was heard…
After you have practiced all afternoon, perhaps the next day, pftttt! You can’t play. Don’t expect to feel relaxed after walking up a mountain all day; the lips are fragile and sensitive.
Octaves: to practice two Fs, for example (low and middle F),in order to get a good colour, practice using the middle of the octave, B natural, as a pivot note, like trying to cross a river and using a stone in the middle as a crossing point. (He demonstrated intervals larger than two octaves slurred which were quite fantastic)
C major and G major are ‘dry’ keys. Ab is very expressive. Why not play the Bach Partita in Ab which would show a better colour?
When he was demonstrating expression in major and minor scales, he put his arms around me and said, ‘I love you’ three times in different ways.
He played Andersen (24 Studies) No.3 and demonstrated how to take the greatest care with the less important notes while always singing the melody well first, then keeping the same effect while playing the accompaniment.
To a man playing Taffanel’s Fantasie: When I hear you play this music, I wish to leave – unless I hear you taking pleasure in playing it!
When playing leaps, try not to move the lips. If the note doesn’t come out, just shrug and say, ‘OK. See you later!’ Then go back and practice it until it returns.
His book, Tone Colour Through Interpretation (Melody Book): The dynamic marks are entirely up to you. I play this one way: you may want to play entirely differently. OK. Its up to you.
Someone played Massenet from the ‘Melody Book’: Vibrato in this piece is a great mistake as Massenet has already put the sentiment into the music. If you notice the vibrato when someone is playing then it is too much. If it is not protuberant, it is OK. When I hear vibrato in this piece, I think the flute is drunk!
In Demersseman’s Oberon Fantasie, Moyse played with ‘slow’ fingers like a portamento, to show a more expressive effect.
In C major, the tone is dry: in Db, it is rich!
When making a leap from low to high notes, if it is difficult, don’t help the lips by tightening! The second or third time you will get it because the lips become warm. But don’t help them...
Don’t develop your tone as though your eyes are closed and as if when you open them, the light is too strong, so you close them again. Make the lips think for themselves and don’t push octaves or leaps. Put in a little life on the first note. The second note?, he doesn’t exist!
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