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Do you approach learning contemporary music with the same principles as for something earlier?

Yes, of course! I never make differences between the ‘repertoire’ and the new pieces, and maybe this approach makes it new and refreshing. I play a lot of contemporary music because I just feel attracted by it. I don’t believe in ‘specialising’. I really think that we all must keep open minds and love all kinds of music. It’s very dangerous to focus only on a specific kind or style of music. It’s by having a wide historical perspective that one can bring something special to the interpretations. So, I totally encourage people to discover and support new music, but never forgetting the music from which the new one comes.

Being a musician of variant styles of flute playing would you suggest for a young flutist to explore a series of extended techniques? Could this evolve the whole learning technique process of both extended and more conventional technique ability?

I think that everyone must do what they and need to do. I think that it’s good to know these extended techniques, but it’s not essential. I firmly believe that one must master the classical technique before exploring extended techniques! I would prefer to underline the word ‘extended’: it’s not necessarily something new, but something extended from, but still related to,  classical technique. For that, one must possess a very solid traditional technique (sound, intonation, articulation, mechanism…) before go beyond it and extending it. In music, like in nature, one must go step-by-step, without missing anything.

What would you say are your main teaching principles?

Continuity!! A teacher must be constantly present in the musical life of the students! From beginners to soloists! A teacher is also a coach, someone who suggests ideas, who helps with the self-doubts, who helps in choosing the good paths and to avoid mistakes.

A teacher must be honest and frank with the students! The teacher must support, help, encourage (also discourage sometimes) and listen to the students’ needs. The teacher must have an authority, but at the same time be humble. A teacher must help the student not to be ‘the best’ in general, but the best they can be!

Do you prepare your students for orchestral auditions and competitions? Do you have a strategy for that? Is it the same for a performance competition and orchestral audition?

I am very close to my students and I follow every single step of their preparation for auditions and competitions. The strategy is not the same, according to what they are about to do. An orchestral audition needs specific qualities, which are not exactly the same of an international competition. This is how I train my students:

In orchestral audition, the perfect control of every single technical parameter is absolutely fondamental! In these situations, one play for a very short lapse of time: no space for special and/or unique interpretations! You will probably get a job, so you must show that you have the requestes qualities for this job, which are: technical stability (which makes you trustable for the orchestra) and musicality. In the first round, one should control: open sound, perfect intonation (intervals!!), flexibility, articulation, fingers control, rythm/pulse, and, fondamental, dynamics! Musically, it must be very natural, coherent, enjoyable and not too free, but not too “rigid” though. Other parameters depend also for which position one is competing.
If one competes for a solo-flute position, the orchestra is looking of course for a personality, but for a personality which can mix up and interact with others, not a personality which stands up too much to the others! This is fondamental!

For a competition, the thing are very different: one is going to play much more time than in an orchestral audition, so other parameters come into the game!
Since the first round, one will probably face very different styles, which need different approach to the sound and to the phrasing. If I should to say it shortly I would suggest this:
in the first round, play more like an orchestral audition! You must convince that your technique is very solid and that you are able to go on to the further step. The first round -which is also the shortest- is called “Eliminatory” because the goal is to eliminate a big number of participants! A very strong technique will impress the jury which, very probably, will let you go further. Musically, try to be convincing and natural, no overexaggeration.
In the second round, the jury already knows your technical level, so I would suggest for this round to focus more on the music, by opening much more your musical personality. This is the round in which one normally plays Sonatas and big other pieces of the repertoire. Is this the moment to convince the jury that, besides a strong technique, you have a strong and flexible musical personality too! Don’t play a baroque sonata with the same sound and phrasing requested by Prokofief or Jolivet! Control in the same way the intonation and the notes, but change sound (timbre and sound’s weight) and phrasing (don’t forget to use fantasy in your baroque articulations!). Attention also to how you build your program if you have lists of pieces. The participant’s choises is a very important parameter!

If one remains only on his/her technical skills, the jury will probably stop here.

The final is the moment when the candidate has to do the best to convince that he/she deserves the first prize! This means to be both technically and musically up to everyone else! All the energy must be very much focused on what one plays! Playing by heart (which is often compulsory in this round) should help the concentration. Try to do your best both musically and technically in order to convince the jury that you have all the qualities required. Don’t focus only on technique! It will be not enough! In real life, people don’t pay for a ticket to listen to a technical machine, but to listen to the music!

Who was most influential to you in your career? Either flute and musically.

Manuela Wiesler with no doubt. This somehow mysterious artist has illuminated my path since I was 16. Her courage, her perfection, her intensity, her originality, her power and her solitude too have been to me a model which has inspired me deeply. I keep thinking of her every single day of my life. Her music talks to me like no one else. Sometimes, I find myself in dialog with her, just by listening to her. Her playing was so sincere and generous, that I feel like being in front of her, in a Viennese coffee, while eating a piece of Sachertort and drinking a warm coffee, as we have been done in the past….

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Amy Yule is the principal flute of the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester. She joins us in a discussion on general flute playing, tips and tricks and orchestral life. This is part of our weekly interviews with professional flute players hosted on our Facebook page. Like and subscribe for more.

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