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Marcel Moyse

compiled by editors | December 2016

Marcel Moyse

    Marcel Moyse (1889-1984) was a French flutist and pedagogue. He was born in St. Amour, France, but in 1904 he moved to Paris where he lived with his uncle, Joseph Moyse, who was a professional cellist. Joseph Moyse played in the Lamourreux Orchestra and often took young Marcel to orchestra rehearsals and concerts. He also arranged flute lessons for the boy with Adolphe Hennebains. Marcel progressed rapidly and was invited to audit Paul Taffanel’s class at the Paris Conservatoire. 
    The next year Marcel auditioned and was accepted as a student at the Paris Conservatoire. At the age of 17, after one year of instruction, he won the first prize playing Philippe Gaubert’s Nocturne et Allegro scherzando. Although this was a remarkable achievement, Moyse felt he needed more than just one year of serious study. He approached Gaubert about lessons and was accepted as a private student. He studied with Gaubert for four years. He expanded his musical knowledge by studying and practicing the solo violin and cello repertoire. Eventually he would transcribe the violin etudes by Kreutzer and Wieniawski for flute as well as piano etudes by Chopin, Cramer, and Czerny.  
    In 1913, Moyse toured the United States with Australian operatic soprano Nellie Melba. (Melba toast and peach melba were two iconic recipes named in her honor.) During this time Moyse was in ill health and suffered from recurring pneumonia. He was appointed solo flute in L’Opéra Comique and also applied for the solo flute position in the Paris Opera, a position he was granted but eventually turned down. 
    Moyse became first flutist with the prestigious orchestra of the Société des Concerts. The Jacque Ibert Flute Concerto, which was written for him, was premiered with the Société des Concerts. In 1931 Moyse, Blanche Honegger (violin), and his son Louis (piano) formed the Trio Moyse. The group performed and recorded together for the next 20 years. 
    Moyse was appointed flute professor at the Paris Conservatoire in 1932, a position he held until 1940. At the same time, he was professor of flute at the Geneva Conservatoire. Once a week he took the train from Paris to Geneva stopping on the way to visit his adoptive mother in St. Amour. In 1936, he became a Chevalier of the Légion D’Honneur for his artistic contributions as a musician. He performed as a soloist with all of the major European orchestras and toured widely including performances at Tanglewood and on NBC radio in New York City. He was one of the first flutists to record, and he won several Grand prix du Disques for his efforts. 

Moyse in Boswil, Switzerland around 1969

    He left his position at the Conservatoire during WWII and returned to St. Amour. After the war, he applied for his former position at the Paris Conservatoire, but at first, the request was denied. Eventually an appointment came, but by that time Moyse had already decided to move to Brattleboro, Vermont. In 1951 he co-founded the Marlboro Music School and Festival with Rudolf Serkin and Adolf Busch in nearby Marlboro, Vermont. Students from his classes include Robert Aitken, William Bennett, Julia Bogorad, Michel Debost, James Galway, Bernard Goldberg, Wendy Webb Kumer, Paula Robison, Carol Wincenc, and Trevor Wye.  
    Besides playing under the batons of Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Strauss, Koussevitsky, and Toscanini, he played the premieres of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe and Stravinsky’s Petrushka and Rite of Spring. As a teacher, he published a number of volumes of which the De La Sonorite and Tone Development Through Interpretation are the most famous and still used by flutists around the world.
    Moyse was an exacting teacher. It was said that he expected students to interpret the music just as he did and would be upset if they did not comply. His pedagogical publications outline the basic concepts of musicianship and flute playing.    
    Ardal Powell writes in his book The Flute, “He strove to imitate the range of sonority other instrumentalists and singers such as Pablo Casals (cello), Georges Enesco, Jacques Thibaud, and Fritz Kreisler (violin) and Enrico Caruso (tenor) could achieve. All these artists used a continuous vibrato to produce tones of lightness, sweetness, and brilliance rather than emphasis or strength. Moyse later wrote that his teachers and colleagues warned him to reduce a type of vibrato they considered ‘excessive,’ but on another occasion, he claimed to have invented the technique on purpose at an early recording session.” 
    The Marcel Moyse Society was created by his students to preserve his contributions as an artist and master teacher. A collection of memorabilia is housed at the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts in New York City.

Publications of Marcel Moyse
Flute Pedagogy
Études et éxercises technique (1921)
Exercises Journaliers (1922)
Mécanisme-chromatisme pour flûte (1927)
École de l’articulation (1927)
25 Études mélodique (Var) (1928)
24 Petites études mélodique (Var) (1928)
De la Sonorité (1934)
Gammes et Arpèges (Scales and Arpeggios)
Le Débutant flûtiste (1935)
Tone Development Through Interpretation
20 Exercises et études sur les Grandes Liaisons
48 Studies of Virtuosity; 2 volumes
How I Stayed in Shape

Flute Transcriptions/Editions
50 Variations on a Theme by Bach
Grandes Etudes de Berbiguier
12 Etudes de Boehm
24 Caprices-études, Boehm Op. 26
12 Études de grande virtuosité d’après Chopin (1928)
100 Études faciles et progressives d’après Cramer (1928); 2 volumes
24 Études de virtuosité d’après Czerny (1927)
50 Etudes Melodique de Demersseman; 2 volumes
Bouquet de Tons (Furstenau)
10 Etudes after Kessler
20 Études d’après Kreutzer (1928)
24 Etudes de Soussman, Op. 50
10 Etudes after Wieniawsky