The Influence of the Boehm System Flute on 19th Century Virtuosity




Taylor, Edward

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This document will focus in part on the evolution of the Boehm system flute created by Theobold Boehm who is responsible for providing the mechanical modifications that led to today's modern flute. The other focus will be how the Boehm system flute was used as a model for technically challenging 19th century romantic music by determining a performer's ability to successfully play a piece by the instrument's physical design. The beginning chapter discusses Boehm's work in the earliest days creating his first design and progresses in the mid-1800s. The chapter will also include information on Boehm's Grand Polonaise written in 1831 regarding the piece's technical demands and musicality.

The second chapter will focus on a critic of Boehm, John Louis Tulou, who rejected the flute design. Details regarding Tulou's life will be discussed including his flute professorship at the Paris Conservatory as well as his being a flute maker, and proprietor, of his own design. It will discuss Tulou's Air Varee Brillant, a work that exemplifies Tulou's musical choices in writing for his flute. This chapter will also go into detail about Tulou's method book which gives examples of hand positioning, body posture, a discussion of his criticism of the Boehm flute, and his techniques for tone quality and sound production. The third chapter will discuss the Paris Conservatory and how the Boehm flute became the official standard instrument. It will include details of one of the final examination pieces used in the "Solo de Concours," Fantaisie by Georges Hue. The chapter will also provide the history and the significance of the French flute school originated by Paul Taffanel. Along with biographical information, this chapter will mention a few other notable flute professors including Louis Dorus, Joseph Henri Altus, and also, noted woodwind inventor Victor Coche, all supporters of the Boehm system flute.

The fourth chapter will focus on Louise Farrenc, a 19th century pianist and composer who was recognized for her brilliant chamber music writing and became the first female professor at the Paris Conservatory in that century. This chapter will discuss her role as a woman in 19th century Europe, due to the restrictions placed on women by a male-dominated society that discouraged them from pursuing music as a profession. There will be an analysis of the first movement of Farrenc's Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano, Allegro deciso. This analysis will focus on Farrenc's musical ideas, which were inspired by classical composition in the 17th century and fused with 18th century Romanticism. The conclusion will tie all chapters together in a summary of the Boehm System flute's influence on 19th century virtuosity through the compositional technique of each of these four composers.


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19th century, Boehm system flute, Paris Conservatory, Theobold Boehm, virtuosity