Louis Moyse

This month for our composer of the month feature, we have a 2-for-1 deal: the father-son powerhouse duo, Marcel and Louis Moyse. While Marcel focused most of his energies on performing and Louis is more known for his compilations of flute music, they both left a profound mark on the flute world as performers, authors, and scholars. Many of today’s most famous players, such as James Galway, Trevor Wye, William Bennett, can be counted as Moyse scholars.

Marcel Moyse (1889-1984) was one of the most influential flutists of the twentieth century, first in France and later in the United States. He entered the Paris Conservatory in 1905, where he studied with Phillippe Gaubert and Paul Taffanel.Moyse played principal flute in various Paris orchestras, appeared widely as a soloist, and made many recordings. Before World War I, Moyse took part in several significant world premieres, including Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé (1912) and Stravinsky’s Petrushka and Rite of Spring (1913). While in Europe, he played under the batons of conductors such as Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Strauss, and Toscanini.

Moyse’s experience playing in the Paris opera orchestras influenced his teaching; in order to develop tonal flexibility, he encouraged his students to practice nineteenth century operatic arias on the flute. He published many pedagogical works that are still widely used. Moyse also taught on the faculty of the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal, and was a founder of the Marlboro Music School and festival in Vermont. Moyse strove to teach his students “not how to play the flute, but to make music.” His trademark tone was clear, flexible, penetrating, and controlled by a fast vibrato. This was a characteristic of the ‘French style’ of flute playing that was to influence the modern standard for flutists worldwide—including the list of current performers mentioned above.

Louis Moyse was born in Scheveningen, Netherlands during one of his father’s tours. His first flute teachers were his father and Philippe Gaubert. Louis Moyse was a member of the successful Moyse Trio where his father played flute, Louis played pianoand his former wife, Blanche Honegger Moyseon violin. Louis also taught for 27 years at Marlboro College, and was professor at Boston University and the University of Toronto. He is considered by some to be one of the most prolific producers of flute music worldwide, both of his own pieces and collections of compositions for study and performance. Nearly every private flute student (myself included!) has come across his collections of Forty Little Pieces for the Beginner Flute, Flute Music by French Composers, or Twelve Fantasias for Solo Flute. His collections are thoughtfully organized by progressive order or time period and are truly a joy to play. The Moyse Society meets at the annual National Flute Association convention to discuss their works and help continue their legacy.