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Peter-Lukas Graf LIVE! – “A musical encounter”
Text: Viktoria Eschenfelder – Photos: Stefan Keller
A musical encounter
This year’s Flautando Day on 4 November 2023 in Boswil was not just a musical encounter, no, it was a personal, entertaining, instructive and motivating encounter with the “doyen of flautists” Peter-Lukas Graf. During our chat during the break, he said: “Everyone has their own speciality, one has a fast (double) tongue, the other has a special sound … My speciality is being particularly old.”
Guest of Honour and Guest Artists
This year’s guest of honour had invited three of his former students to support him on this Flute Day. Gaby Pas-van Riet, Aldo Baerten and Franco Cesarini were very happy to accept this invitation to the 24th edition of Flautando and shed light on various aspects of flute playing with the numerous participants.
Aldo Baerten, principal flute with the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra and professor of flute in Antwerp, Utrecht and Cologne, kicked off the programme with a session on “daily basics”.
He explained various exercises on whistle tones, overtones, pp-ff equalisation and quarter-tones. Again and again he gave help with a view to refining the embouchure and the aim of achieving a carrying and intonation-safe tone. This first impulse of the day already led to a few aha moments for the participants.
Afterwards, Peter-Lukas Graf gave tips and suggestions on how to work effectively with his “Check-up!” book, which was created three decades ago and is still widely used today. Most flautists probably don’t have the time in their everyday lives to work through all the lessons chronologically every day. However, the targeted selection of individual exercises for specific flute difficulties also brings good results.
Graf focussed on two elementary areas this morning: Posture and balancing the flute. When playing the flute standing up, most people are well aware of the stepping position of the feet and the 45° rotation of the upper body. However, when playing in an orchestra or in a quartet formation, it is often a particular challenge to find the optimum sitting position, because who wants to give their neighbour the “cold shoulder”?
The preliminary exercise for lesson 7 in “Check-up!” is always very helpful for balancing the flute. The best position of the right thumb and even pressure of the fingers on the keys are certainly prerequisites for relaxed flute playing.
Gaby Pas-van-Riet tackled a very hot potato in her workshop. The professor of flute in Saarbrücken, international soloist, much sought-after juror and guest flutist for renowned orchestras already had a remarkably beautiful vibrato in her early years as a “child prodigy”. But where this vibrato came from, which gave her tone so much beauty, was a complete mystery to her. So the question this year was again: “Where does vibrato come from, how does it come about and what actually vibrates?”
To anticipate the answer: Ultimately, nobody knows the answer!
The fact is that there is a long tradition of vibrato use in Europe. In 1707, Hotteterre wrote about lip and finger vibrato. Quantz distinguished between breast and lip vibrato and Mozart spoke out vigorously against continuous vibrato, which Prill endorsed in the 20th century. There is a consensus across all eras that the use of vibrato depends on the performer’s taste.
The development of a beautiful vibrato can of course be supported. The basis for this is first and foremost good non-vibrato tones. If you add flexible breathing and an activated diaphragm, you can develop a pleasant-sounding vibrato.
Gaby Pas-van Riet succeeded in vividly demonstrating these elusive processes using a stretched blanket, which was stretched to varying degrees by several participants.
Everyone used the breaks for lively discussions.The flute exhibition also invited visitors to try out flutes of all sizes and price ranges and get advice from the specialist dealers.The selection of sheet music, especially Christmas literature, was also very nice and was intended to give pupils pleasure and teachers variety.
Stefan Keller, long-time Flautando host, low flutes and improv specialist, gave the group of participants no chance of falling into a lunchtime slump after an excellent lunch. He charmingly challenged them to an “improvisation for all”.
To this end, he first worked out some modern techniques with all the participants, which were tried out with enthusiasm and many a question mark in their eyes, and then skilfully put them together to create an improv-piece. Courage is rewarded, as the applause from the audience showed.
Composer & publisher
In his workshop, the composer, internationally active conductor and flautist Franco Cesarini gave an overview of the wealth of his original compositions for flute.
The “Concerto rococò” op. 40 for flute and wind orchestra, which Peter-Lukas Graf himself has already performed as a soloist under the direction of Franco Cesarini with the Civica Filarmonica di Lugano, is very beautiful. All his works, whether etudes, trios. Quartets etc. are characterised by the desire to support flute learners with well thought-out, pedagogically prepared editions. His spectrum ranges from literature for beginners to very demanding solo works, such as Six (as yet unfinished) Concert Etudes.
Gaby Pas-van Riet played one of these highly imaginative etudes, “Papillons”, beautifully in the evening Flautando concert.
In the late afternoon, Aldo Baerten once again mobilised all flute lovers to make music together with “Orchesterstellen im Ensemble”. With great empathy, he created an orchestral feeling with excerpts from Brahms’ 1st and 4th symphonies and, above all, the wonderful “Entr’acte” from Bizet’s Carmen. The well-placed excerpts by M. Zupan gave an idea of the challenge of integrating the flute into a filigree orchestral sound.
Peter-Lukas Graf read from his book “Backstage: About music, the flute and life” between all the workshops of the day. He spoke about vibrato, the French flute school, his time studying in Paris, the changing zeitgeist and much more. A lifelong thirst for knowledge and never stopping learning: Peter-Lukas Graf is also a role model when he tells us that not so long ago, after attending a jazz concert organised by friends, he sought out a teacher so that he could not only enjoy jazz but also understand it. Chapeau!
At the evening concert, the lecturers of the day delighted the audience with very different works. Gaby Pas-van-Riet delighted the audience with Poulenc’s sonata and, as already mentioned, with the concert étude “Papillons” by Franco Cesarini. Once again, a big thank you to Tonino Riolo on the piano. Unbelievable how much he lives in the music and carries and supports the soloists – sensational!
Aldo Baerten invited the audience to dream with Fauré’s Fantasie and Franco Cesarini played Telemann’s 10th Fantasie with great sophistication. Stefan Keller took up the bass flute in his piece “Listen to the rhydmm …” and once again fascinated the audience with his creative combination of modern techniques with C.Ph.E. Bach’s tonal material.
Peter-Lukas Graf received enthusiastic applause. With Mozart’s “Andante in C major” in an arrangement for solo flute and flute octet, he demonstrated his decades of mastery on the flute and you could literally feel his deep musical understanding. He was accompanied by “les joueurs de flûte”, perhaps the only flute octet in Europe that exclusively plays works or arrangements written for them. From the piccolo to the contrabass flute in C, the whole range of the flute family is used.
The ensemble opened the evening with Ravel’s “Tombeau de Couperin” and rounded off the concert with Janácek’s “Idyll” and Turina’s “Danzas fantásticas op.22”.
For the brilliant finale, Franco Cesarini and Stefan Keller joined the group for a decet and Gaby Pas-van-Riet and Aldo Baerten took on the two solo parts in A.F. Doppler’s “Rondo”. Long-lasting applause was the thanks of the happy audience, who made their way home during a short break in the rain.
So I conclude with a quote from Peter-Lukas Graf from “Backstage“:
“There is one personal wish that I keep alive and gladly pass on: That we are always able to marvel, to marvel at the wonder of nature, to marvel at the cosmos, to marvel at the great works of art. Because when we can marvel, we usually also find reason to be grateful.”
Thank you! Thank you for every encounter at FLAUTANDO 2023! – Viktoria Eschenfelder
Statements by the guest artists
Once again, I had the pleasure of actively participating in FLAUTANDO, the annual flute event in Boswil, which is excellently organised and successfully held by Stefan Keller. Once again there were stimulating and friendly encounters with colleagues as well as direct, personal contact with a lively, interested and receptive audience. Once again, FLAUTANDO proved to be an informative experience dedicated to the flute and flute music, further enriched by the genius loci of the Künstlerhaus Boswil and its surroundings.
Gaby Pas-van Riet
Boswil – Switzerland – Church and Künstlerhaus
Course centre of Marcel Moyse, Aurèle Nicolet with, at that time, Peter-Lukas Graf, Sir James Galway, etc. as course participants. What an honour to be invited there!
Peter-Lukas Graf invited me, as a former student, to Boswil to give a concert and a workshop on vibrato, which I gladly accepted.
When I arrived in Boswil, the nature, the sight of the church and the Künstlerhaus did me good. Such an oasis of peace with the snow-covered mountains in the background. What a wonderful panorama!
A warm encounter with Stefan Keller gave me great anticipation and aroused my curiosity for the following day of the course.
After a lovely rehearsal in the wonderful church with its super acoustics, with the pianist Tonino Riolo, we sat together in a cosy atmosphere. The next morning, the excitement grew with the arrival of Peter-Lukas Graf and the course participants.
Giving a workshop on vibrato is not normally a problem for me. But when your former teacher listens and takes part in the exercises, it gets exciting … It was a huge success with great co-operation between Peter-Lukas Graf, myself and the course participants.
I also listened to all the other workshops and at the end of the day I was full of all these positive and very interesting topics. The concert in the evening was pure joy!
I was very pleased to see Peter-Lukas Graf so focussed and committed … “Please stay healthy for a long time” …
A big thank you to Stefan Keller for the perfect organisation. It’s a blessing to be able to organise and play the flute so intelligently. He also leads an improvisation course and does it all with such exceptional friendliness. A great personality! – Thank you for everything!!!!!
In an enchanting historical setting for the transverse flute, where Marcel Moyse’s summer courses took place, I had the pleasure of performing alongside my former teacher and renowned fellow students who have gone on to have a brilliant career. The participants gave strong performances and Peter-Lukas Graf had many suggestions on intonation, vibrato and fingering accuracy. Graf performed several times during the congress and was always engaging and entertaining.
Thanks to the highly efficient organisation by Stefan Keller, the day was a complete success and to the satisfaction of the participants.
Thank you Peter-Lukas Graf and Stefan Keller for a wonderful and unforgettable time in beautiful Boswil!!!! A crossroads between generations with a passion for music and the flute …
The FLAUTANDO anniversary event – 25 years of flute events in Boswil – will take place on 17 – 19 January 2025!
Stefan Keller is an active flutist who plays a wide range of musical styles and instruments. This is reflected in his diverse projects and invitations to international flute festivals as a specialist for low flutes, improvisation and loops. His own compositions and practice books for flute complete his activities. He organizes since over 20 years the flute event FLAUTANDO in Boswil, Switzerland.
The classically trained flutist explores sound worlds with his flutes, known as FLUTE TRENDS by Stefan Keller.
As a musician and composer, as well as sound designer and „sound – image – designer“ of baroque – classical – avant – garde – jazz and improvised music, Keller has found his own language. He has been honored several times by the Aargauer Kuratorium for his innovative artistic work and attended further education at the „Cité Internationale des Arts“ in Paris and at the Aargauer Atelier in Berlin. His unique musical projects such as „under water“, „Sound – Castle – Hallwyl“, „Concert in the factory hall“, „carpentry“ as well as the collaboration with visual artists have made him known in Europe and Japan.
Keller plays Alto and Bass flute, Contrabass flute as well as Subcontrabass flute, Gemshoerner, Kalimba and various Bamboo flutes, acoustic and with electronics.
As a musician and composer, Keller moves in the area of baroque – classical – avant-garde – jazz and improvised music.
As an looper, he has been working with the latest live sampling techniques for 25 years. He uses a specially developed surround – loop software, which offers unbelievable sound possibilities.