Interview with András Adorján

by Yulia Berry

The goal of all musicians is to communicate with the world without language and cultural barriers – just through music!

András Adorján

If you love the flute, you have heard the name of András Adorján! In the world of the flute, there is no such field of activity that he does not touch and does not illuminate with his talent. This international star flutist has performed worldwide as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral player, has made over 100 albums, taught many brilliant flutists and music professionals, discovered and rediscovered lost pieces and inspired a new repertoire, expanded and published the flute literature, advised flute masters, and provided ongoing support and inspiration to flutists from many countries.

You can imagine my joy and excitement when I had the opportunity to talk to my flute hero and record our conversation for The Babel Flute readers.

Yulia: Dear András, I first heard your playing many years ago on a recording, when I was a student in Saint Petersburg. It was not easy to find Western recordings in Russia at the time. It’s hard to imagine, but YouTube didn’t exist yet. Of course, YouTube now has a lot of incredible recordings and videos of yours that flutists can access and learn from.

Living in Russia before YouTube and other video and social platforms took off, we felt some isolation from the rest of the world, so your playing was a breath of fresh air and a touch of the sublime for the younger generation of flutists. I remember how I was struck by your sound, your musical expression and virtuosity. I want to thank you for making me feel so inspired, joyous and motivated in learning the flute.

You were born in Budapest, grew up in Copenhagen, and have been living in Munich since 1974. It seems to me that you, like no one else, can answer my first question:

Do the French, German, Italian (and so on) flute schools still exist?

András: I am not quite sure what you mean by “Italian (and so on) flute schools,” but of course I do know the French and German flute schools. As I experience it, there are no different flute schools today. Flute playing has become very similar all over the world. It is difficult to say whether this is an advantage or a disadvantage.

Yulia: What specific qualities/identities did these schools have in the past? What differentiated them?

András: I may not be the right person to ask such a question, as even though I now belong to the seniors in my profession, I am too young to have had the chance to hear flutists from different flute schools. Of course I have had quite an international life, born in Hungary, raised in Denmark, studied flute in France and Germany, still everywhere everybody always wanted to sound just like disciples of the French flute school. 

Yulia: In your opinion, do you consider the flute to be more of a French or a German instrument?

András: Does any instrument have a nationality?

Yulia: What skills or qualities should a flutist have in order to be not only a virtuoso, but also a real deep musician?

András: Musicality is nothing you can learn, but you can learn to develop your musical talent and musical taste. You don’t need to be a virtuoso on an instrument to show that you are a true deep musician, but on the other hand you must master your instrument extremely well to point out your musical talent.

Yulia: Is there any flute piece that is special to your heart?

András: Because there is not much first-rate music written  for the flute by great composers, we really cannot be too choosy. However, if you do insist, my favorites are the CPE Bach D-minor Concerto (Henle Edition), Berio Sequenza, Debussy’s Sonata for flute, viola and harp, the Schubert Variations and Mendelssohn Piano Trio in D-minor, opus 49 in the composer’s own version with flute instead of violin (Henle Edition). And with a twinkle in my eyes I would also like to include here the flute version of Mendelssohn’s E Minor Violin Concerto, Opus 64 (Editions Billaudot).

Yulia: Do you often play the wooden flute?

András: Actually, in 1996 I did record all the CPE Bach Concertos (Tudor 7026 and 7039) on a wooden flute, still „often“ may be a bit exaggerated. As I started to play the flute on a wooden instrument and loved the sound of it, it always remained a big attraction for me. Until some years ago, flutists were not interested in playing on wooden flutes and thus flute factories had stopped producing them. When little-by-little modern flutists started to look for wooden instruments – perhaps initiated by the revival and success of period instruments – I was one of them and immediately urged several flute manufacturers to build wooden flutes. They followed my advice and didn’t regret it! It gave me the possibility playing and recording music, which composers had written with the sound of a wooden flute in mind, on a new wooden flute.   

With the conductor Alexander Rudin at a concert performance of a CPE Bach Concerto © Private, Moscow 1996

Yulia: What is your concept of sound?

András: For me it is important to have a projecting – not just a loud – sound. 

Yulia: October 16, 2021 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Franz Doppler, flute virtuoso, composer, conductor and teacher with whom you share Hungarian roots. Do you feel a special connection with him because of this?

András: Being of Hungarian origin, I do feel a special connection with the Doppler brothers, but not because of Hungarian “roots” as they had Austrian parents and were born in Lemberg. Very early I fell in love with the flute music of Franz  and when I looked up the composer in a lexicon I actually found two of them (!) and also a special connection to them when reading about  some similarities in our lives.  Of course I am neither a famous composer nor a conductor, but like them I play the flute and did also move from Hungary and now live and work in a foreign country. I became eager to learn more about their life and work, conducted research in libraries and antiquarian music shops and even succeeded in finding their descendants in Stuttgart and Vienna.

Yulia: In 2018, you and Emmanuel Pahud recorded the amazing album Doppler Discoveries. The title is intriguing and exciting! You both sound incredible! What have you personally discovered in Doppler’s music that sets him apart from other romantic flute composers?

András: Well, the title of this album refers to pieces, which I by chance discovered recently. It was like a miracle to find hitherto unknown Doppler compositions for flute again – just like about 50 years ago, when I found the manuscript of the Double Concerto in a chest in the attic of the house of Carl Doppler’s grandson in Stuttgart. These compositions also turned out to be very attractive, as they are written with a wonderful balance between instrumental „show-off“ and cheerful catchy melodies, mostly including „all‘Ongarese“ elements.

With Jean-Pierre Rampal and the flute of Carl Doppler at the recording of the Double Concerto © Erato, Monte Carlo 1976

Yulia: Doppler music is loved by all flutists and is an important part of our repertoire. The flutists are very grateful to you for the discovery of the unknown Double Concerto for Two Flutes and the Sonata by Franz Doppler. Do you think it is still possible to discover lost Doppler music?

András: I am very pleased to hear that flutists are grateful for my discoveries, as it has always been my aim with my editions to make unknown or hard-to-access pieces available for everybody as fast as possible. Éditions Billaudot in Paris has published many of my Doppler editions and my new discoveries can be found at Schott Music and at the very innovative young Danish Svitzer Edition.

In fact, I think that there may be more Doppler flute music to discover because on some of the concert programs of the brothers I have noticed titles of still unknown compositions. For example, on their very first concert as a duo in 1852 in Pest, they performed a set of variations on Hungarian tunes composed by Carl. Where are these variations?

This chapter is not closed – yet!

The first concert of Franz and Carl as a duo, Pest, March 28, 1852.
5) Duo on Hungarian tunes for two flutes; composed by chorus-master Carl Doppler, performed by the composer and Mr. Franz Doppler.

À propos of my affinity for the Doppler brothers I am very happy after long and hard negotiations with the authorities to have obtained permission to place a memorial plaque for Franz and Carl on the house where the Doppler family used to live – in Lviv (Lemberg), the city of their birth.

Memorial plaque in Lviv @ Private, April 2021

For the occasion of his 200th birthday, I have also initiated the rededication of the grave of Franz Doppler in Vienna as an honorary grave and have just received the Mayor’s approval for it.

Birthday serenade with Birgit Ramsl at the (now honorary) grave of Franz Doppler at the Vienna Central Cemetery on October 16, 2021 © Private

Yulia: What are your most recent recordings? How did you choose the program and the pieces for them?

András: I was lucky to have been asked to record much of the standard literature early in my career and also very lucky to have found the right people who trusted me and supported my wish to record my discoveries of so many „new“ pieces by little-known or unknown composers. Please allow me to name these open-minded people who have believed in me. Chronologically, the first was Peter Willemoës at FONA, than Michel Garcin at ERATO, Helene Steffan and Friedrich Welz at the BR (Bavarian Radio), Yoshiharu Kawaguchi at DENON / NIPPON COLUMBIA, F. Axel Mehrle at ORFEO, Wladek Glowacz at TUDOR, Denis Verroust at TRAVERSIÈRES / PREMIERS HORIZONS and most recently Felix Gargerle at FARAO.

In his time, Georg Abraham Schneider (1770-1839) was a famous horn player, conductor and composer. He wrote a large amount of good music (concertos and chamber music) for the flute, including many flute quartets. Of these I recorded two in 2010 with my sons – the violinist Gabriel and the cellist Dávid – tells the proud father! (Phil.harmonie 06009)

Editions Billaudot in Paris published both quartets at the same time.

The wonderful Polish composer Krzysztof Meyer (1943) has composed several pieces for the flute, among them an important Concerto, opus 61 which asks for a different flute (from piccolo to bass flute) in every movement. It was a challenge to record it in the presence of the composer in 2006. A very demanding concerto – a must in the repertoire of every flute soloist –  the CD was released in 2017 (CD DUX 1408) and the music is published, like most of Meyer’s works, by the Sikorski Music Publishing Group in Hamburg.

Between 1991 and 1993 I recorded all 14 Concertos and a Sinfonia Concertante for two flutes of „le Mozart français“ François Devienne (1759-1803), a familiar name, of course, but only a few flutists are aware of the fact that he has composed more than a 7th Concerto in E Minor! (Tudor 1620)

From this period is also my CD „Fantaisie hongroise“, paying tribute to my Hungarian roots with music by composers including Bartók, Kocsár and von Dohnányi.

In 2004 it was followed by the CD „Salut à la Hongrie“ with more all’Ongarese music by Arma, Doppler, Schubert, Andersen, Monti and Brahms. (Traversières 210/286 DDD)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 6_Salut-a-la-Hongrie-1024x920.jpg

Among my most recent recordings there are three CDs with a large number of extraordinary chamber and concertante music of another compatriot of mine, Ferenc Farkas (1905-2000), who to most flutists is only known for his „Antiche Danze Ungheresi“. (Toccata TOCC 0230 / 0379 / 0440)

Later with the CDs „Dannemark, Dannemark“ and „Capriccio danois“

I also documented my connection to my second homeland. The first CD (Premiers Horizons REF. 070.150) includes virtuoso pieces with reference to Denmark, which are all published by Edition Svitzer, and the second one is an homage to my first flute teacher in Denmark, Johan Bentzon, the dedicatee of most of the excellent but little known pieces on this recording. „Capriccio danois“ somehow completes a circle, as it includes a remastered version of my first – by now „historic“ – solo recording from 1969, the Sonate for flute alone by Vagn Holmboe!(Premiers Horizons REF. 070.170)

With the world premiere recording of Six Concertos by Ludwig August Lebrun (1752-1790), a composer otherwise in the possession of oboe players, a very old project of mine was finally realized in 2013 and 2014. Lebrun, a famous virtuoso oboist, was highly admired by Mozart, and his concertos became so popular that arrangements were made for flute by Carl Friedrich Ebers (1770-1836) and published by André in Offenbach, the same music publisher who shortly before had published the original edition for oboe. Surprisingly, Ebers didn’t just „arrange“ the concertos, he actually more-or-less rewrote the entire solo part. Instead of the calm and easy solo part for the oboe, the flute now has tons of virtuoso cascades to play. As a bonus, another transcription of Ebers is included: the premiere recording of his audacious flute version of Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D Major! (Premiers Horizons REF. 070.161. / 070.162)

The music is accessible in a modern edition by the US music publisher Classical Wind Press.

Finally, I would also like to mention the documentation of a very special and dear souvenir. Recently the French label Premiers Horizons has released a not-so-recent „live“ recording by the Bavarian Radio of a duo recital in Munich from 1978. Together with Jean-Pierre Rampal and the harpsichordist Hedwig Bilgram, we played the three Bach trio sonatas, BWV 1028, 1029 and 1039, Leclair’s „Deuxième récréation de musique,“ a Telemann Scherzo and two unaccompanied pieces for two flutes by Hindemith and Petrassi. (Premiers Horizons REF. 070.171)

Yulia: What an interesting and unique collection of recordings you have made. I sincerely hope that they are all still available?

András: The recent ones should still be accessible, but becoming myself somewhat „historic“, I fear that many of my earlier recordings may not be in shops or catalogues anymore. But isn’t it one of the (few?) advantages of the internet, that such lost „treasures“ can quite easily be found?

Yulia: Do you have new recording projects?

András: In fact I do!

I would very much like to realize some „audacious“ and out-of-the-ordinary projects. These are two arrangements. One is an arrangement for winds of the „Goldberg-Variations.“ Ever since I first heard the string trio version of it, I have wished to have one for wind instruments. I finished my arrangement in 2014, scored it for flute, two oboes (ossia oboe d’amore and cor anglais) and two bassoons and have played this divine music several times in concert – with an almost sacral pleasure. I hope to have the chance to record it soon and am just waiting impatiently for a producer to take the bait.

My other project is the recording of an adaptation for piano, flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon of Mozart’s heavenly „Gran Partita,“ K. 361. By rescoring a period arrangement by C. F. G. Schwencke (1767-1822) for piano, oboe, violin, viola and cello, I have intended to render the oboe, clarinet and bassoon as much of their original parts as possible – and to include the flute as well. 

Yulia: I sincerely hope that your projects can soon be realized. It will be a great pleasure for us to hear you play the „Goldberg-Variations“ and the „Gran Partita,“ and we also look forward to seeing your editions of them. 

As I know, you like to research and write about flute composers such as the Doppler brothers. Could you please let me know, if you have done research on other flutists and could you perhaps tell us something hereabout?

András: Next to my never-ending occupation with the Doppler brothers, by chance some years ago I found in a library the documentation of an extremely interesting, surprising and quite funny episode in the life of Wilhelm Popp. He was a flutist, who – as it turned out – had a very questionable character! I edited the story and it has been published by Flöte aktuell, the journal of the German Flute Association.

Another object of my interest has become the Danish flutist, conductor and composer Joachim Andersen and his equally fascinating flute-playing brother Vigo. A couple of years ago my friend and colleague Kyle Dzapo asked me for help with a video presentation of Joachim and Vigo, and when I began to conduct research on them, it turned out to be so successful and substantial that Kyle, who already in 1999 had published a book on Joachim Andersen, has now started to write a new book about the Andersen brothers.

Of course I am aware of the fact that none of these composers is among the „best“ of their species, however, they have all contributed many highly appreciated and often played pieces to the flute literature. Furthermore with my preoccupation with them I have – as a dilettante musicologist – succeeded to honor all three of my homelands and hence wave a „Salute“ to Hungary, Denmark and Germany again!

Yulia: This is fascinating! You have done so much!

How are your emotion before and during a concert? Are you using any exercise to control them?

András:  Being well prepared can help you enjoy yourself before and during a concert. This is the best remedy to control stage fright.

© Instrumenta; Eva Lépiz, Oaxaca 2012

Yulia: How do you organize your practice session?

András: I don’t have any special practice ritual.   

Yulia: What are your favorite ways to warm up at the start of your practice?

András: Long notes in crescendo and diminuendo are always helpful (Moyse: De la sonorité).

Yulia: How many kinds of staccato can you suggest for good articulation?

András: Here I would like to refer to Quantz “On Playing the Flute” (Northeastern University Press, 2001). Have a look and you will be amazed to see the variety of possibilities.                                           
You can also find answers in a new book by Philippe Bernold “La Prononciation – Exercises for mastering the art of Articulation for Eloquent and Expressive Flute Playing” (Éditions Billaudot, Paris 2021)

Yulia: Is it important to play from memory in a concert?

András: For the understanding of the music, it is crucial to know the music by memory. However, whether you actually play it by memory or not in a concert is up to you and not really important.

Yulia: Do you usually write and play your own cadenzas in Mozart concertos?

András: Yes, I do. I have composed my own cadenzas for the Mozart concertos (as well as for other classical and baroque concertos) and always play them.

Yulia: What advice do you have for a teenager who wants to devote himself to music?

András: If you had asked me this question two years ago, I would certainly have given you a different answer. Today I would advise teenagers rather not to devote themselves to music. Covid has taught us a very depressing lesson.

Yulia: You have greatly expanded the flute repertoire, re-discovering lost and forgotten pieces, inspiring composers to write new music and editing existing repertoire. This work has such an important and educational value for all flutists. What prompted you to engage in the research, discovery and reproduction of novelty in all its forms?

András: Early in my musical education I discovered how little “good” music we have for flute. Of course there are over 10,000 pieces (see the Catalogues by Vester and Pierreuse), but among them are very few masterpieces. I began to look for the missing masterpieces, found good compositions, played, recorded and published them, but soon discovered that unfortunately there are no lost chef d’oeuvres. Fortunately my discoveries may have some educational value. Another way to enrich the flute literature was to ask contemporary composers to write new pieces. I asked many composers and received – I believe – worthwhile pieces. However, whether there is a new masterpiece among them, only the future can decide.

Yulia: You have inspired and performed the music of contemporary composers such as Georges Barboteu, Gunnar Berg, Edison Denisov, Paul Engel, Jindřich Feld, Ferenc Farkas, Lars Graugård, Wilfried Hiller, Vagn Holmboe, Jan Koetsier, Noël Lee, Miklós Maros, Krzysztof Meyer, Alfred Schnittke, Sven Erik Werner, and Jörg Widmann. Meeting what composer do you remember most? And do you have any memorable stories about collaborations with them?

András: I have wonderful memories of meeting both Denisov and Schnittke at a reception at the German Embassy in Moscow in 1988 – still in the Soviet Union. I asked both of them to write a piece for flute ensemble for a gala concert in Munich in honor of the 200th birthday of Mozart. They agreed and I received two great pieces of these giants of contemporary Russian music: Edison Denisov „Variations sur un thème de Mozart“ for 8 flutes (1990) (Éditions Billaudot) and Alfred Schnittke „Moz-Art à la Mozart“ for 8 flutes and harp (1990) (Sikorski). At my request Schnittke even made a version for two flutes (instead of 2 violins) of his Concerto Grosso Nr. 1 in 1988 and Denisov also wrote a Concerto for flute and harp (1995), a Sonata for two flutes (1996) and cadenzas for the Mozart Concerto for flute and harp (1996) for me.

I also recall the back-then 19-year-old Jörg Widmann, a classmate of my son Dávid, absolutely wanting to write a piece for me. When in 1993 I received his „Badinerie“ for flute alone I was a bit skeptical about its quality and its technical demands. But when I first played it in concert in Mexico as an encore after a performance of the Nielsen Concerto, it was such a huge success that nobody even mentioned my Nielsen afterwards. For many years when I announced it to the public I made a point of predicting a great career for Jörg. My prediction came true a short time later – he is today the most often-performed contemporary German composer! Becoming my favorite encore, I have played it more than 100 times. 

With Alfred Schnittke at the premiere performance of his „Moz-Art à la Mozart“ © Private, Salzburg 1990
With Edison Denisov and Marielle Nordmann, at the reherasal for the premiere performance of Denisov’s Concerto for flute and harp © Private, Paris 1996
Jörg Widmann: Badinerie, 1993 (beginning of the manuscript)

Yulia: In 2008 you edited and published the incredible encyclopedia “Lexikon der Flöte” with over 900 pages. Do you plan to translate and publish it in English? Or offer an online version?

András: This is one of the tragedies of my life. My “Lexikon der Flöte” still exists only in German and can thus only be used by a minority of flutists in the world. It really is a “must” to have it translated and published in English. Because I am not a friend of online versions, I have addressed many publishers around the world – but haven’t yet found the right one. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a reader of this interview had an idea about whom to approach about this? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me!

Laaber Verlag, 2008

Yulia: You have edited works for Bärenreiter, Billaudot, Breitkopf, Henle, Musica Rara, Schott, Sikorski, and Edition Svitzer. What can you say about your experience as editor and do you plan to do more of such work?

András: Editing music has also to do with my curiosity and wish for more and better pieces to play. By publishing my “discoveries” I want to share them with the flute community and regret that the young generation doesn’t seem to be as curious as we were when we started our careers.

Sheet music is less and less in demand, publishers suffer, and the same “good old” pieces are played again and again. It is a quite a negative trend but I haven’t given up the hope that this may change again and do still have many intriguing projects for new editions. The latest ones are published by Edition Svitzer, a wonderful young and daring edition, owned and directed by a dear friend and colleague of mine, the flutist Henrik Svitzer and his son Johan, who both have the curiosity and trust for new and unusual ideas and publish their music with an extraordinary tasteful lay-out.

With Henrik Svitzer in Zagreb, November 2021

Yulia: You are the President of the German Flute Association, which offers a magazine and many events, programs and projects for flutists of all levels and ages. How active is it in the Covid era?

András: The Covid era has truly been a disaster for all of usand it is certainly not over yet. We have had to postpone our festival several times and the next one is now planned to take place in 2023! Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Flöte (DGfF) has been quite active on the Internet. Our organization has created a virtual flute festival, online workshops and “Flutynars,” which are all available online and very highly recommended.

Yulia: What suggestions for cultural life and music education programs could you give to governors / politicians?

András: It is extremely important that they continue to support the arts. We need their support no less than soccer players!

Yulia: As you know, the goal of The Babel Flute is to unite flutists from all over the world under the roof of one platform, where we can understand each other without language or cultural barriers and share our knowledge and experience. What do you think of The Babel Flute project and its concept?

András: I think you have a wonderful concept and your goal is 100% in line with the goal of all of us musicians who want nothing more than to understand each other and communicate with the world without language and cultural barriers – just through music! I wish you great success!

Yulia: Thank you so much! Those are wonderful and encouraging words!

We are approaching holidays soon. What are your plans and hopes for the next year?

András: It doesn’t sound like much, but I do at least hope that I can make plans for the next year!

Yulia: In Russian tradition, we make a wish for the New Year, while the chimes strike 12 o’clock, and it almost always comes true! If you decide to try, what would you wish for?

András: I hope and wish that we may soon get back our freedom and that we will appreciate it more than before the pandemic.

Yulia: Dear András, thank you so much for this opportunity, your time, and a wonderful conversation. The Babel Flute team, our readers and I are wishing you a wonderful and happy New Year!

© P. A. Balmer , 2018

András Adorján

András Adorján was born in Budapest, grew up in Copenhagen and lives since 1974 in Munich. After obtaining a dentist diploma in Copenhagen in 1968 he completed his musical studies under the auspices of Jean-Pierre Rampal and Aurèle Nicolet.

As a laureate of international flute competitions (Montreux 1968, Paris 1971) and the principal flutist of important European symphony orchestras in Stockholm, Cologne, Baden-Baden and Munich, he was in 1987 appointed professor for flute at the Musikhochschule in Cologne and continued 1996-2013 teaching at the Musikhochschule in Munich. In 2018, he became Honorary Professor at the Schnittke-Institute in Moscow.

With more than 100 recorded albums for the labels DENON, ERATO, ORFEO, RCA, SONY, PREMIERS HORIZONS, TUDOR, and FARAO CLASSICS and as the editor of a unique and extensive encyclopedia “Lexikon der Flöte” published by Laaber Verlag in 2009, he is today one of the best known and most prominent flutists of his generation.

In 1988, he was honored with the Prize of the Deutsche Schallplattenkritik, in 1996 with the Doppler-Ring of the Hungarian Flute Society and in 2007 by the Premio di carriera of the Italian Falaut-Associazione. He has received in 2018 the Lifetime Achievement Award of the American National Flute Association (NFA), in 2019 the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Chinese Flute Association (CFA) and in 2021 the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Croatian Flute Association (HDF).

Selected flute works, edited by András Adorján and published by Edition Svitzer:

(Click on the covers to read more information)

Yulia Berry

Yulia Berry is founder of Web Flute Academy, The Babel Flute, The Babel Flute Courses and New England Flute Institute, creator and developer of the popular “All about Flute” Mobile app and the First Global Game for Flutists, highly experienced flutist and mentor teaching at all levels, with a Doctor of Music Arts degree focused in Flute Performance, Pedagogy and Music Education from the Saint Petersburg State Conservatory named after N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov (Russia).

She has performed as a soloist and chamber musician in prestigious venues around the world, and has been praised for her virtuosity, musicality, and expressive playing.

Yulia Berry is known for her expertise in flute pedagogy, innovative and effective teaching methods, which emphasize technique, musicality, and artistry, and her dedication to helping students achieve their full potential as flutists.

She wrote many articles on the connection of the flute with art and the role of the flute in the arts and cultures of different eras and cultures.