3 Pieces of advice for flutists from Emmanuel Pahud
Here at Play with a Pro we have had the honor of working with Emmanuel Pahud, one of today’s most renowned flutists. Critiques widely agree that his technique is exquisite and flawless, his stage presence is imposing and the emotion he expresses while playing, can easily send you into a trance of deep emotional exploration. Since we believe that sharing is caring, we want to share with you some of Emmanuel Pahud’s thoughts and advice for flute players. You can also see the full interview with him for free here.
1.What makes a great flute player in your opinion?
A great flute player is someone who doesn’t feel the limitations of the nature of the instrument or from the technical side. So, it’s a combination of technical ability, sound expressivity and flexibility, and unlimited possibilities. But, a good musician is somebody who tells the story. While the composer writes down with black and white the notes, he is like a writer putting down the words. The whole piece has a development, it has a structure...it’s like a theater play with all the characters.
“A good musician is somebody who tells the story.”
Our job as performers is to find the inspiration of the composer, what made him put these feelings and thoughts on the paper. Our job is to bring these back to life, so that they reach the people out in the hall. Music is a coded language, without words, without pictures and this is why it’s so suggestive. Anybody in the audience, as soon as you catch their attention, they are following the music and they can think whatever they want to think and feel at that moment. So a good musician is a combination of good instrumental skills, good presence and he/she has the talent of telling the story in such a way that people react to it.
2. What are your thoughts on stage presence?
I have seen famous people, conductors or soloists, just showing up on stage and being like students who do this for the first time and have no idea where they are, they don’t focus the attention. Actually, when you are the conductor or the soloist, you are the boss, you are in charge of the entertainment in a way. But, you are the one entertaining the people so if you have no shinning, no glow… you have to be burning for what you do and your whole body has to be burning at the same time, you have to be very controlled and having a very structured work.
“… you have to be burning for what you do and your whole body has to be burning at the same time."
You have to reach a point when you are getting so into the truth that it’s no longer you playing, it’s just music….if you are going to be a musician and go on stage you have to learn how to behave on a stage... Give a certain energy and actually take a lot of the energy from the people listening … The only worry that we can have is the self reflective feeling of not being at the level of expectation or being disappointing… and that is not what we want to give to the other people. We have to get rid of this and when we appear we have to give our best, simply, truly and in the most touching way by using all that energy and basically focusing it through this tube that we call flute.
“….when we appear we have to give our best, simply, truly and in the most touching way by using all that energy”
3. What would your advice for young flute players be?
Well, I recently had the privilege of listening to a 10-year old young flute player and she played the Mozart concerto in a very talented way and she started to play the flute at the age of 3. You can develop until the age of 22 to 25 depending on how you are made, but everything you learn until then, is there for your entire life, so it’s time to learn as much literature as you can. Try to go through all the Handel sonatas, the Bach sonatas… then move on...just don’t try to make a definite interpretation, just try to learn how they work, try to play them with somebody else playing the piano… then move on to Mozart, to Haydn...
“You can develop until the age of 22 to 25 depending on how you are made, but everything you learn until then, is there for your entire life.”
My advice is to read as much music as you can and to be confronted with a wider horizon of the musical world… and probably learn how to improvise as well. I was going to these piano and jazz bars in Paris just to see what these guys were doing and learn more about this kind of tradition that is not written.
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