Claude-Paul Taffanel (16 September 1844 - 22 November 1908) was a French flautist, conductor and instructor regarded as the founder of the French Flute School that dominated much of flute composition and performance during the mid-20th century.Born in Bordeaux, France, Taffanel received his first lessons on the flute from his father at the age of nine. After giving his first concert at the age of ten, he studied with Louis Dorus at the Paris Conservatoire. Once he graduated in 1860, he won his first of several awards for flute performance at age sixteen. Taffanel built a substantial career as both soloist and orchestral player over 30 years, becoming known as the foremost flautist of his time and reestablishing the instrument in the mainstream of music.In 1893, Taffanel became Professor of Flute at the Conservatoire. As Professor, he revised the institute's repertoire and teaching methods, restructuring the traditional masterclass format to give students individual attention while building a reputation as an inspiring teacher. He instructed his students to play in a new, smoother style that included a light and carefully modulated vibrato.Taffanel also revamped the required repertoire for his Conservatory students. Beginning in 1894, he replaced much of the 19th-century music his student Louis Fleury called "idle twittering" with works by Johann Sebastian Bach and other composers of the 18th century. Until then, French musicians (save for a handful of organists) had ignored the Bach revival that had swept England, Germany and Austria. Alfredo Casella, who had studied Bach in Italy before coming to Paris, noted that none of his classmates at the Conservatoire knew that composer's music.Taffanel toured widely in Europe. This placed him ahead of his contemporaries in awareness of baroque repertoire. (His tours had included playing Mozart concertos at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, a singular honor for a French performer.) Thanks to this awareness, Taffanel's impact on the early music revival in France cannot be overestimated. Louis Fleury writes, "Bach's sonatas, those wonders, long buried in the dust of libraries, awakened to find a real interpreter [in Taffanel]. He was the first, at any rate in France, to find out the meaning of these works, which his colleagues thought dull and badly written for the instrument ... It is a fact, though hardly credible, that down to 1895 Bach sonatas were not taught in the flute class (under Altes) at the conservatoire."His work sparked and helped fuel a growing interest in France in early music, with editions such as Saint-Saëns' of music by Jean-Philippe Rameau. In 1897, Taffanel also became head of the orchestra class at the Conservatoire.
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