Monarch of the Flute

Monarch of the Flute : The Life of Georges Barrere

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Georges Barrere (1876-1944) holds a preeminent place in the history of American flute playing. Best known for two of the landmark works that were written for him--the Poem of Charles Tomlinson Griffes and Density 21.5 by Edgard Varese--he was the most prominent early exemplar of the Paris Conservatoire tradition in the United States and set a new standard for American woodwind performance. Barrere's story is a musical tale of two cities, and this book uses his life as a window onto musical life in Belle Epoque Paris and twentieth-century New York. Recurrent themes are the interactions of composers and performers; the promotion of new music; the management, personnel, and repertoire of symphony orchestras; the economic and social status of the orchestral and solo musician, including the increasing power of musicians' unions; the role of patronage, particularly women patrons; and the growth of chamber music as a professional performance medium. A student of Paul Taffanel at the Paris Conservatoire, at age eighteen Barrere played in the premiere of Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. He went on to become solo flutist of the Concerts Colonne and to found the Societe Moderne d'Instruments a Vent, a pioneering woodwind ensemble that premiered 61 works by 40 composers in its first ten years. Invited by Walter Damrosch to become principal flute of the New York Symphony in 1905, he founded the woodwind department at the Institute of Musical Art (later Juilliard). His many ensembles toured the United States, building new audiences for chamber music and promoting French repertoire as well as new American music. Toff narrates Barrere's relationships with the finest musicians and artists of his day, among them Isadora Duncan, Yvette Guilbert, Andre Caplet, Paul Hindemith, Albert Roussel, Wallingford Riegger, and Henry Brant. The appendices of the book, which list Barrere's 170 premieres and the 50 works dedicated to him, are a resource for a new generation of performers. Based on extensive archival research and oral histories in both France and the United States, this is the first biography of Barrere. It is being published in conjunction with the centennial of his arrival in the United States in May 1905."
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Product details

  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • New ed.
  • 1423742028
  • 9781423742029

Review quote

"An impressively detailed biography.... The thoroughness that Toff exhibited as she investigated so many diverse sources of information, and her scrupulous attention to detail and accuracy, have paid off handsomely. She writes in a very engaging style, each page replete with fascinating material, and we are forever indebted to her for this landmark biography of our 'great-grandfather' of American-style flute playing."--Walfrid Kujala, The Flutist Quarterly"Once again, Nancy Toff puts her thorough research and journalistic skills to use and creates this fascinating, well-documented look into the founding father of American flute playing. There is no doubt that this book will be part of the standard body of flute literature, just as Toff's other valuable writing, The Flute Book has become."--Victoria Jicha, Flute Talk"This is the first work of depth and stature on Georges Barrere (1876-1944), one of the most important flutists in modern history. Barrere, for example, premiered in Debussy's Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune (at age seventeen, no less!); and the Griffes Poem and Verese's Density 21.5 were composed for him. Toff has pursued solid credible research including repeated trips to Paris to examine primary documents ("Somebody's got to do it," she quipped with a smile at a presentation last summer at the NFA Convention), and the result is absolutely fabulous. --Kansas City Flute AssociationNewsletter"In this detailed view of Barrere's life, Nancy Toff weaves an amazing musical tale of two cities, Belle Epoque Paris and early 20th-century New York...This book is a good read. Clearly and logically organised, with really useful appendices and index, it shows how the man and his music developed. Fascinating and informative, I found it hard to put down. Fascinating because it reveals how a playing musician lived and worked (so often we only hear about how composers lived), and informative because by the end of it, I felt as though I too had
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About Nancy Toff

Nancy Toff is author of The Flute Book, The Development of the Modern Flute, and Georges Barrere and the Flute in America and is a past president of the New York Flute Club. Toff is the 2012 winner of the National Flute Association's National Service Award."
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