The Legacy Of The Flautist, Marcel Moyse

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Subject: Flute
Last updated: 29/01/2018
Tags: flute, marcel moyse

Marcel Joseph Moyse was born on May 17th, 1889 in St.Amour, France. The son of Christine Josephine Moyse and a Notary student named Bernod who weren't married and had arranged between them for Marcel to be born discreetly and left in an orphanage. However seven days after his birth on the 25th May, Christine, aged 22 passed away and was buried in St. Amour, her cause of death unknown.

Bernod was not interested in his child but payed a monthly allowance to a Madame Romand to care for the baby, but as the village midwife of St. Amour was in no position to care for the child for the long term so a Madame Josephine Perretier (a recent widow with two daughters) became his adoptive mother. Marcel was later baptised in the church of Ballanod close to St. Amour in August, 1889.

There were several descriptions of Marcel Moyse's first encounter with a flute, all of them being of a make shift nature such as a blade of grass or a hollowed out branch fashioned into a white. A popular past time in France. Marcel was between three and four years of age when he first began to play his flute, which he played like a recorder. Even at this age his enthusiasm was apparent as he recalls ; "I did not let a day pass without trying to perfect it."

The Grandparents of Marcel were led to believe that he had died when his mother had, but were only to discover seven years later that this was not the case. A settlement was reached between the Moyses' and Madame Perretier in which Marcel would live and go to school where his grandparents resided but would spend the holidays in St. Amour. In Besançon, where Moyses' grandparents lived, his grandfather would take Marcel to see the Operetta performances and trips to the circus. His musical appetite was encouraged by his grandfather who arranged flute lessons with M. Angelloz at a music school when he was 12.

Moyse had his first real flute (Lebret) bought for him by his Uncle and went on to use it in the Lamouruex Orchestra later on. It is worth mentioning Moyse probably learnt from the first Major Tutorial for the Boehm (1847 Boehm System introduced) system flute by Henri Altès. Altès also taught Adolphe Hennebains who eventually taught Moyse. After being taught for a while, Marcel's uncle decided to take him to Paris for him to pursue a career, himself already a cellist in the Concerts Lamoureux.

Marcel moved to Paris and stayed with his uncle in his home on the Southern edge of Montmartre. Just before Marcel's birthday, Uncle Joseph introduced him to Adolphe Hennebains who was solo flautist with the Opéra and teaching assistant to Paul Taffanel, the teacher of the flute class at the Paris Conservatoire. Hennebains agreed to take Marcel on as a pupil and in October 1905 Moyse entered the class of Paul Taffanel at the Paris Conservatoire and a year later won the coveted "Premier Prix" first prize at the age of seventeen.

Paul Taffanel passed away in 1908 and Moyse continued to study at the Conservatoire while becoming a pupil of Philippe Gaubert. Due to ill health at the age of 3 months, Moyse was plagued by illness through his lifetime and in his suffering with his weakened lungs he began to write exercises to aid in his recovery.

At 21 years old Marcel fell in love with a dancer from the Gaité Lyric Theatre. Celine too was an illegitimate child and had come to work in Paris from her birthplace of Brittany. Moyse and Celine married on March 12th 1912. Moyse believed her to be the greatest benefit to his life and she was a devoted mother of two and wife. She would also nurse him through his bouts if respiratory illness. Moyse clearly reiterates these claims by often saying, "I am nothing without my family."

1913 was the first time that Moyse went to America. He toured with Nellie Melba and her private train. 1914 heralded the start of the Great War and due to his recurring pneumonia he was rejected from the army. Moyse was ill for periods of time and gradually was rebuilding his health. L'opéra Comique appointed Moyse as principal flautist and simultaneously he applied for the first flute with the Paris Opera. He was offered the job but declined as it would interfere with his visits to his birth place of St. Amour which he had grown so fond of.

From 1931 things really began to take off for Moyse. Philippe Gaubert was promoted to Musical Director of the Opéra and stopped his flute class at the Paris Conservatoire. Marcel succeeded him as professor and it was expected as he had assisted Gaubert with his class for nearly ten years. Rateau, one of the students who studied under the tutelage of both (before Gaubert left) said of Gaubert and Moyse, "Gaubert was extremely gifted - he could play anything," Rateau recalled. "But he was not so good at explaining things. Moyse made up many exercises to solve problems."

Moyse was gaining massive popularity and by the early 30's and gave the world premier of the Ibert flute Concerto in 1934. Following this in 1936 he became a Chevalier of the Légion D'Honneur for his artistic contributions as a musician to France. Subsequently he travelled widely around Europe and made several recordings in London.

As was the case with World War One Moyse could not serve in the Second World War because of his illness and during the War he left his class at the Paris Conservatoire. After the musical bareness (apart from his successful writings) of the French Occupation, Moyse returned to the Paris Conservatoire to reinstate his Professorship. However, on his return he was to find that his class had a new teacher, Gaston Crunelle. He struggled to get his class back only to be given a subsidiary class. Moyse was not happy. Pride bettered him and he quit soon after.

After quitting his position at the Paris Conservatoire Moyse accepted a position in Argentina following several tours there with the Moyse Trio (Moyse, L. Moyse and Blanche Honegger) between 1948 and 1949. When they arrived though the people who had first extended then the invitations were now enemies of the state and the job disappeared. After some fruitless time in Argentina, with concerts often being cancelled and financial uncertainty, Rudolph Serkin and Adolph Busch invited the Moyse family the opportunity to create a music department in Vermont, U.S.A.

In 1950 The Brattleboro Music Centre began but was not what the famous Moyse Trio were used to. At one point Moyse only had one pupil, and felt that he was not picked up by other, more well known conservatoires, as the American flautists of the time did not want the great Moyse on their turf.

In spite of this, Brattleboro became increasingly sought after and at one point there were twenty nine musicians at the course in 1959. People were increasingly impressed by the depths Moyse and the other faculty members were teaching, but it was not always smiles. Moyse would jest and be good humoured but his temper can be recalled at least once by his students if he wanted to shock when he was genuinely angry or disgusted. One intensive musician was told "You play like a Nazi!" All of his outbursts would be justified though. If only for the music's sake.

Many flautists' first encounters with Moyse came at his renowned masterclasses in Boswil, Switzerland and Canterbury, England, Japan and across the U.S.A. Some students who attended his classes include Paula Robison, Averil Willaims, William Bennett, Philippa Davies and Sir James Galway. His first masterclass at the invitation of Willy Hans Rösch was at Boswil. This contained just 30 students and he continued to teach there until the end of his life.

People of all ages and abilities attended such as the then 27 year old Trevor Wye (Founder of the Canterbury Music Courses) who drove out with William Bennett to spend 3 weeks at his course in Boswil. Along with them there were Nicolet, Dagnino and Raymond Guiot.

Towards the end of his life, Moyse was plagued ever more by his illness but mostly by the passing of his wife, Celine in 1971. Despite his devastation he continued to teach and give masterclasses. In 1984 Moyse contracted pneumonia again and was hospitalised as a result. His frail form required an increasing amount of care and eventually Blanche Honegger moved him to a nursing home. Moyse continued even from there to teach students and coach the occasional quintet.

Marcel Moyse passed away in his sleep November 1st 1984. Even in his last years he continued to teach and share his love of music with the same passion and enthusiasm that he had all those years before as a child in St. Amour.


Jack Welch Flute Teacher (South East London)

About The Author

I am an experienced and holistic flute teacher who aims to make lessons personalised, stimulating and fun!




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