Sometimes, it seems the more you learn, the more you know how much you don’t know. I realized this in a particularly deflating way when I recently discovered something that had been right under my nose for a very long time!
It is no news to most of you that I am married to a flute player. If you read last week’s column, you know that we just celebrated our 40th anniversary and took a river cruise in Europe to celebrate. I have listened to flute music on a daily basis at home or at work for nearly fifty years. During most of our working relationship, I have sat almost directly behind my wife in the orchestra. Some would say that is as it should be. Nonetheless, whether she is practicing at home, or we are rehearsing or performing professionally, I have heard most of everything she has played on the flute for a very long time. I even took some lessons on the flute during college to get acquainted with the instrument. You would think I should know something about it.
Well, I do, but like I say, the more you know, sometimes the more you still have to learn. This hit me in particular when I was developing our programming for this festival season. Having heard so much flute music over the years, I have a pretty good idea of what the big orchestral, operatic, ballet, chamber, and solo pieces for flute are. I know a bit about who wrote the etudes flutists study, and I’ve heard my share of student recitals.
One of the names that I have heard forever is Phillipp Gaubert. I know Jean has played his sonatas for flute and piano on recitals. I understand that his music is a mainstay of the flutist’s repertoire. Paganini wrote for the violin, Chopin wrote for the piano, and Gaubert for the flute. For some reason, however, I never knew much about Gaubert. I never realized that, other than solo flute pieces, and unlike Chopin and Pagannini, he wrote all kinds of music including chamber music.
My ignorance (in that area anyway) began to lift about six months ago. Somehow, I came across a listing of a few trios by him for flute, violin, and piano, and flute, cello, and piano. I ordered a recording. “Blow me down, matie.” Or perhaps I should say, “mon Dieu.” Here were some of the most beautiful pieces of music I had ever struck, exquisitely played by a member of the Boston Symphony and his colleagues. I started doing a little further research and found that this Gaubert guy, in addition to being a flute player and composer of flute music, was also a conductor and composer of operas, symphonies, ballets, chamber music. In short – a very well rounded fellow who lived a full, productive, and successful life. As a conductor he premiered works by many of his contemporaries and had a very wide-ranging repertoire from Wagner, to Berlioz, to the baroque period and back to the present.
I can’t wait to experience more of his music, but based on the chamber music that I have heard, I am in for a treat. And to think, here this music was so close. In a sense, I was living with it, and I was oblivious. Well, we are going to try to make up for lost time. Our “French Ambiance” program featured at our Gala Opening night at Birch Creek this Friday, and then repeated on Saturday and Sunday at Bjorklunden and Sister Bay Moravian Church this weekend, begins with Gaubert’s Médailles Antiques (Antique Medallions). It is a tone painting as only a French impressionist could sketch with a musical brush. It is breathtaking in its exquisiteness. Following that are two other wonderful French works. One features the oboe playing of Milwaukee Symphony member, Margaret Butler. The other is by one of the greatest composers of the late nineteenth century, Ernest Chausson, his fantastic quartet for piano and strings. However, it is the Gaubert work that got me thinking in the French direction. Much of his life as a flutist and conductor was spent presenting the works of other worthy fellow composers. It seems he is still doing so, since he got me to pull together this program featuring him and his countrymen. Our festival begins with this enchanting piece by Gaubert following a champagne toast. It is a fitting start for our gala opening night. Please join us for one of our three presentations of this program. I’m sure you will be glad you did. You might even say “Merci” to me afterwards. Please call 920.845.7088 or visit www.midsummersmusic.com for tickets or more information.