Improvising on the flute in nineteenth-century Italy: Pedagogy and performance practice
Improvisation has always been a key aspect of musical practice. In Western classical music improvisational practices have varied considerably from place to place and have evolved with time. Flautists have included forms of improvisations in their performances. Because aspects of Italian life and arts involved improvisatory elements, improvisation tended to be a more prominent feature of Italian music than that of other European countries. Italian musicians were especially renowned throughout Europe as great improvisers. In the nineteenth century, however, for a variety of reasons, the importance of fidelity to the notated score increased. Performers emphasized the accurate rendition of a printed “work,” and while performing standards increased, the musician's scope for personal expression became more limited. However, as I will show, non-prepared aspects of music performance survived into the twentieth century, by which time improvisation was no longer a thriving practice, and had become, at best, a highly specialised art. The practice of improvisation among singers, and string and keyboard players has recently attracted some scholarly attention. Despite the continuing importance of flute improvisation in the nineteenth century, we find relatively little critical examination of its contexts and practices in this period. My research reviews the performance contexts in which flute improvisation was applied in the nineteenth century, a time that saw many changes in the lives of musicians, which had an impact on the practice of and attitudes towards improvisation, and the forms of improvisation and techniques that flautists had at their disposal. In what follows I explore the basics of improvisation pedagogy as applied to the flute in nineteenth-century Italy. I demonstrate how students learned to improvise and how they shaped their improvisations. A variety of formulas was available to them; these formulas were learned and memorised from flute methods, but students were also taught how to incorporate them into a coherent, yet spontaneous sounding form. From a variety of sources we learn that flautists, in the nineteenth century, acquired improvisational skills in a similar way to jazz or blues musicians. A more detailed comparison of nineteenth-century pedagogical strategies with those used in the twentieth century is included in the second chapter of the thesis, which I use to draw out parallels and differences between the various approaches of teaching improvisation. Throughout this thesis it will also be obvious which techniques and aspects of improvisation are particular to the flute. The comparison of flute improvisatory techniques with scores written for other instruments helps to focus on aspects particular to the flute, which techniques flautists used and how flautists exploited their available tools to attract the attention of the audience. Published scores and historical recordings provide documentation of how performance practice was applied by professional flautists. In comparing these sources with flute methods, etudes and daily exercises, I look for parallels which might point towards a more precise understanding of the art of improvisation in this context. The insights gained from this research are put into practice in the recording included with this thesis.
Advisor: Deruchie, Andrew
Degree Name: Doctor of Musical Arts
Degree Discipline: Music
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Improvisation; Flute; Performance Practice; Nineteenth-Century Music; Italian Music; Music History; Flute Pedagogy; Flute Methods; Flute Repertoire; Giuseppe Gariboldi; Giulio Briccialdi; Emanuele Krakamp; Vincenzo De Michelis; Giuseppe Rabboni; Preludes; Cadenzas; Fermatas; Theme and Variations; Cesare Ciardi; Saverio Mercadante
Research Type: Thesis