Claude-Paul Taffanel, classical music composer

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Claude-Paul Taffanel


Founder of the French Flute School, Claude-Paul Taffanel was one of the most recognized flutists during the late 19th century and his legacy spanned first half of the 20th. Born on September 16, 1844 in Bordeaux, France, he received his first instruction on the flute from his father at the age of nine. He gave his first concert the following year, and then entered the prestigious Paris Conservatoire where he studied with Louis Dorus. Following his graduation in 1860, he successfully built a career as both a soloist and orchestral performer.

By the time he returned to the Conservatoire in 1893 as Professor of Flute, Taffanel was the foremost performer on the instrument as he embarked on the most influential part of his career. He revised the Conservatoire's curriculum and masterclass formats, allotting more time for students to receive individual instruction. By his pupils, he was viewed as an inspiring teacher. He also revived the works of Johann Sebastian Bach and other 18th century musicians, bringing the now four-score year old "Bach Revival" to France. Alongside this interest in older music, he also commissioned new works for the flute from his contemporary Gabriel Fauré, as well as being the dedicatee of works by Charles-Marie Widor and George Enescu. 

All of Taffanel's work, both as a performer and instructor, came at a crucial point in the development of the flute. Theobald Böhm had perfected the modern fingering system for the flute in 1847. Though Böhm was himself a celebrated composer for the instrument, it was Taffanel that established it as an instrument of elegance and expressiveness. In addition, Taffanel also composed several important works for the flute, as well as the wind quintet, that have since become staples of the flute repertoire. He also began work on a method book entitled 17 Grands Exercices Journaliers De Mecanisme. It was left incomplete at his death but was taken up and finished by two of his students, Louis Fleury and Philippe Gaubert. It is now the standard method book for flute students today.

Besides his many contributions to the flute, Taffanel served as conductor of the Paris Opéra from 1890 until 1906, and was the first flutist to hold the position. While there he premiered several of Wagner's operas and Verdi's Otello. He likewise served as conductor of the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire and founded the Société de musique de chambre pour instruments à vent (Society of Chamber Music for Wind Instruments), which helped revive the wind ensemble music of Mozart and Beethoven. Paul Taffanel died in Paris on November 22, 1908.

Composer Title Date Action
Claude-Paul Taffanel Fantasy on Der Freischutz by Weber 12/30/2009 Play Add to playlist