Like other DVDs in the “Private Music Lessons” series
that were shot between 1987 and 1991, and released under
the Harmonia Mundi label, ”Private Music Lessons:
Pierre-Yves Artaud” explores the teaching and musical
philosophy of a key pedagogue/instrumentalist of our
time. This 1988 film was directed by Roger Kahane.
Flutist Pierre-Yves Artaud (1946 – ) has been at the
forefront of the contemporary music scene since the
1970’s, researching and developing new flute performance
techniques, often in collaboration with composers. As a
result, many pieces have been written specifically for him,
and Artaud has established himself as the most influential
flutist of his generation.
Not long ago, I watched a 53-minute film in which he
coached three pupils, including Emmanuel Pahud (1970 – ),
who has become a member of the Berlin Philharmonic
Orchestra and a famed soloist in his own right. The other
pupils, Véronique Laurent and Clara Nováková, have also
gone on to successful careers.
Artaud first worked with Laurent on Claude Debussy’s
“Syrinx” from 1913. It is often considered to be the first
piece to introduce the flute to Modernism. He later
worked with Pahud and Nováková on “Synchronie” and
“Maya,” by Japanese composer, Yoshihisa Taira (1937 – ),
thereby allowing Artaud to address various issues
including breathing, multiphonics and percussive effects,
using the keys of the flute.
With his score in hand, noted British composer
Brian Ferneyhough (1943 – ) was then featured in the
studio with Maestro Artaud, as Pahud and Nováková
worked on “Cassandra’s Dream Song,” his composition
for solo flute. This piece requires many pioneering
techniques from flute players. A brief glance at the score
revealed an extremely dense and complex work, and it
was fascinating to watch this composer and
Maestro Artaud coach these players in tandem.
The DVD concludes with a Pierre-Yves Artaud performance
of Ferneyhough’s “Unity Capsule,” which was probably
dedicated to him by the composer. Prior to the
performance of this 11-minute piece, the narrator of the
film mentioned that it was considered to be the most
difficult solo flute work in the repertoire; a sort of
“musical obstacle course.” Artaud performed the piece
while reading the score, which had been spread out in a
semi-circular fashion over five different music stands!
By the way, both Artaud and Pahud also played the
bass flute during this film, and Nováková doubled on the
alto flute during one of the Taira pieces, which made
this DVD all the more educational and informative. It was
a fascinating glimpse into the world and repertoire of the
flute from a contemporary perspective, and helmed by
its foremost practitioner. This disc is available in French
with subtitle options, and I highly recommend it.