James Galway made me hate flute, but Emmanuel Pahud made me love it

So it’s been less than two weeks since I started playing flute again. One thing I forgot to mention is that James Galway made me hate flute for decades.

The bottom line is that I never liked Galway’s distinctive vibrato and sound. Unfortunately, for some reason, I kept on seeing him on TV and hearing him on the radio, and so he sort of represented to me “flute”.

(Update of 2013-08-23)

I have periodically received comments from people very unhappy with my dislike of the playing of James Galway. I mean no disrespect: everyone has different taste. I should add that I actually love and respect James Galway as a musician and as an educator. I will write a detailed blog post about that at some point.

Revival through jazz

Interestingly, I started to enjoy hearing the flute again mainly from getting into jazz. I loved hearing Herbie Mann on flute, for example, and others as well. In fact, my original intention when buying a flute several years ago was to get into jazz flute: I had sort of lost interest in playing classical music by then.

Discovery of Emmanuel Pahud


Just a couple of years ago, I was driving and listening to the local classical radio station, WQED, when I was put totally under a spell by a performance of a work for solo flute. Being completely unfamiliar with the classical flute repertoire, I didn’t know what the piece was, but the announcer said it was “Syrinx” by Claude Debussy, and performed by one Emmanuel Pahud.

I went and found CDs by Pahud at the library. Great stuff! He is definitely my flute hero.

Here is a beautiful video of Pahud performing “Syrinx” on YouTube:

(Update of 2013-08-23)

I wrote for Debussy’s 151st birthday a note on unusual performances of Syrinx.

Entr’acte from Carmen

It turns out that today I was practicing an arrangement of the Entr’acte from Bizet’s Carmen from the “I Used to Play Flute” book, and out of curiosity, looked up Pahud on YouTube.

Here he is playing it under the young Venezuelan superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel:

Very nice, although his interpretation differs in various ways from my personal conception of the Entr’acte: I would play it faster and more passionately. One reason I feel compelled to play music, and not only listen to it, is that nobody ever plays a piece just how I would play it. To live music, I must create it or recreate it afresh. To not do so would be like watching a video of a hike rather than being on the trail hiking and experiencing it.

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