Emmanuel Pahud. If you don’t already know his name, take note because you’ll be hearing a lot from this talented flute player. Emmanuel Pahud is the principal flutist for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the same seat that Sir James Galway held before launching his solo career. In addition to his orchestral responsibilities, Pahud maintains an extensive international touring schedule as a soloist. On top of that, he has built up an impressive discography covering much of the standard flute repertoire plus a little jazz and a number of new compositions. I believe Pahud is poised to be the major artist in the flute world in the coming decades.
I’m very excited about Emmanuel Pahud’s emerging popularity. It’s been a long time since a flute player has launched a solo career that has been as successful as his. It’s been thirty years since Sir James became a household name within the flute community. I don’t think anyone has come close to Galway’s success in the decades since. The world may be full of talented professional flutists, but most spend their careers anonymously in the wind sections of the great orchestras or teaching at major universities. That’s unfortunate for us amateur players in need of role models.
Emmanuel Pahud was born in Switzerland but was truly a child of the world. His family lived in Geneva, Baghdad, Paris, Madrid, Rome and Brussels all before his ninth birthday. While living in Paris, he heard his neighbor playing the flute and decided he wanted to play as well. At the age of four, his parents bought him his first flute for Christmas.
A flute for a four year old seems extraordinary to me. Were his arms long enough to reach the keys? Did he have to contort his neck to reach the embouchure? What four-year-old can even produce a sound on a flute? Logic tells me that an instrument for a pre-schooler is ill advised, but what do I know. It appears to have been a life changing gift for young Emmanuel.
Pahud studied first with his fifteen year old neighbor for a year then with his neighbor’s father for an additional three years. At that point his family moved to Brussels where he studied at the Music Academy of Uccle. At age 15 he won the National Competition of Belgium. Two years later he finished his A Level and moved on to the Paris Conservatory to study with Michel Debost.
During his years at the conservatory, Pahud won numerous competitions and established himself as a rising star in the flute world. Prior to completing his studies, he took on the position of Principal Flute for the Basil Radio Symphony, a position he held from 1989 until 1992. He was also Principal Flute for the Munich Philharmonic. At the age of twenty, Pahud completed his studies at the Paris Conservatory, obtaining the Premier Prix. He continued to study with the great Aurèle Nicolet for the next two years. His studies with Nicolet culminated in first prize at the Geneva International Music Competition and his successful audition for principal flute of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, both at the age of 22.
Emmanuel Pahud has been with the Berlin Philharmonic for nearly two decades, with an 18 month sabbatical in 2000-2001. He assumed the position once held by his teacher, Aurèle Nicolet and later by Sir James Galway prior to starting his solo career. Unlike Galway, Pahud has taken on a solo concert and recording career in addition to his responsibilities with BPO. His discography is already extensive, covering much of the standard repertoire and more including some jazz, new composition and less familiar repertoire.
One of these days, the Emmanuel Pahud tour is going to come to the Twin Cities and you can count on my being in the audience. There is nothing quite like being in the same concert hall and connecting with a great musician in a live performance situation. These opportunities are rare, so I hope that you are able to take advantage of them when they come along. Until then, enjoy his rich and extensive collection of recordings.
Hope to see you soon in Minneapolis, Mr. Pahud.
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