Donald Peck (1930- ) studied flute with William Kincaid and woodwind ensemble with Marcel Tabuteau at the Curtis Institute of Music from 1949 to 1952. He interrupted his third-year studies at Curtis to finish the season with the National Symphony in Washington, D.C. He spent the following years playing in the Marine Band and as principal flute of the Kansas City Philharmonic before joining the Chicago Symphony flute section in 1957. He became principal flute after three months continuing until his retirement in 1999.
NOTE: Minor variances may occur between the audio and written transcript due to later text editing by the interviewee.
Interview with Donald Peck, principal flute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, in New York City, on November 4, 1977. Interviewed by Laurie Van Brunt
Laurie Van Brunt: Under what circumstances did you study with Tabuteau?
Donald Peck: I attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and Tabuteau was teaching ensemble class. I attended this class and studied with him there.
LVB: When was that?
DP: That was in the early fifties.
LVB: What was Tabuteau like in chamber music classes?
DP: Well, he was a wonderful musician and a monster. He frightened everyone. Some people couldn’t take it, and they dropped out, and they should, of course, because life in the musical world is not all roses. If you couldn’t take it in a school, then you should get of the business. He alienated many people by this approach which was far from kind, – very blunt. He expected a lot of you. If you didn’t do it, he didn’t hesitate to tell you in very clear terms that you were a fool or whatever it was. And a lot of people couldn’t take this either personally, or it rattled them so much that they couldn’t play their instrument. They had to drop, not only the class, but the school. And that’s fine; I think that’s not bad. It separated the men from the boys, so to speak.
But, those of us who survived I think we gained a lot, not only from that approach which did steel you against playing with anybody else after that, but, of course, he taught musically and ensemble-wise marvelous things.
LVB: Were there any classes when Tabuteau made you feel particularly good or particularly bad? Do you remember any specific [instances]?
DP: Well, Tabuteau was not, I think, an innately evil man. I think he rather enjoyed all of this, and he would make jokes. If things did go well, he didn’t hesitate to tell you. I remember the first year, the first class I ever had with him. We were all beginning at Curtis, and we were all quite young and very frightened. And most of us were also changing our playing, because this was our first year with these new teachers; (I was studying with Kincaid, and I had to change some things.) Of course, all year he just treated us terribly, mercilessly making jokes about our playing and laughing when we would do things badly – evil, sarcastic laughing. That was part of his humor, of course; he enjoyed that. But, it was later in the year we were starting to play better, and one time we finished playing something, I forget what it was, and he stopped and said, “Ah yes, I could almost tell what you were trying to do!” [laugh] He also was not always unkind – in my third year he wanted to do the Telemann Suite for Flute and Strings. We rehearsed it maybe one time, and then an opportunity came to go to Washington, D.C.; they needed someone to fill in for the rest of the season in the orchestra, and Kincaid asked me to go down. So, I left school, intending to come back at the end of April, but, in the meantime, Tabuteau had to go ahead with his program. He wrote me the nicest, kindest, sweetest, letter — I mean Tabuteau has never been called sweet by anybody – but it was a very kind letter, apologizing for not being able to continue with the Telemann, and how sorry he was… I kept the letter; it was out of character. [laugh]
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LVB: As long as we are talking about music, do you remember what other piece you worked on?
DP: There was a Hindemith Octet that had no flutes in it, but I would remain in the class and listen. We also worked on a piece by Pierne — and I cannot think of the name now – for double quintet or something like that, you may know it. [possibly Pastorale variée Dans le Style Ancien. Op. 30?] He spent many hours on just the opening bars of the Beethoven Quintet in E-flat – for pitch and blend. [Donald Peck added the Beethoven when he edited the transcript.] (I could think of a lot of things if I just sat down and put my mind to it.) He tried to get a mixture of string and wind chamber music as often as he could, but many times we would work on just wind pieces, quintets. Of course, that was wonderful, because the things I find now so often in the younger people coming out of the conservatories is that they play their instruments really well, but they have no ensemble feeling. They don’t know how to play with other people. They seem to come in when their part calls for it, and they play their part, and then they get out. And Tabuteau, of course, was strong on how to play with other people, take over their sound when you are taking over the tune from them, and then if you are giving the tune say to the clarinet, you should try to make a clarinet sound to give it to him. And the correct dynamics should be taken over; in other words, no one should know when the instrument changes. The tune should go on, but the color changes, not the instrument. He was very strong on blend – the blend of the flute and oboe, how you have to adjust for this in certain registers. He was very strong on general ensemble feeling of the whole piece of music, for example, you wouldn’t come in and play your tune one way, and when the music appears elsewhere, that person would play it differently. It had to be a continuity of ensemble. I really find this missing now in the players, and I feel we gained a lot from this; it maybe isn’t being taught now or not being absorbed.
Another thing that he did that was so wonderful is to play with different dynamics and still play beautifully. It seems that everyone today wants to have a big tone, which is desirable or not desirable depending on your point of view, but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t play softly. Tabuteau used to make us play very softly, which, as I say, was hard in those days, because we were changing our embouchures or whatever. But, he insisted that we play the dynamics on the page and not just with a dull, functional type of tone, but with a beautiful tone whether it was loud or “piano.” I don’t know, somehow I feel it helped me a great deal when I used to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra play after he would talk in class; Kincaid and Tabuteau would come in together or separately on something very softly, and it was exquisitely beautiful. It was always a projected type of playing. So that out in the hall you didn’t have the impression they were squeezing to play softly; it was just a beautiful, natural, soft tone.
LVB: Did he tell you how to achieve this or did he just ask for it?
DP: Well, the oboe players I imagine in the oboe coaching he told; he never tried to tell us anything technically, me about the flute, for example. But, he would just insist you do it. And then you would go off and experiment or ask your teacher…
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He was also interested in vibrato – about blending of vibrato. I remember the French National Orchestra came through the United States, (this was their first trip after war, it must have been eight years after the war ended), and the woodwind choir played with one vibrato. They all had at the time, (they have changed since), but they played with one very wide vibrato – whether the flute played alone or the oboe played alone it was a very wide vibrato. And then when they played together, they all played with this very wide vibrato. The bassoon player did too; you recall French bassoons sound a bit saxophonist to us. So there was quite an unusual sound of the wind choir, because this vibrato was pulsating away, but Tabuteau didn’t like that, because he hated the pipe organ. He always used to make jokes and laugh about the pipe organ where you’d push the button that says “flute,” and you’d get a flute tone, maybe something like a flute tone, and then you’d push another button that would say “vibrato,” and then you’d get that awful vibrato. So that’s what he compared the French National Orchestra [laugh] to at the time. But, of course, they have changed since then. He wanted the vibrato when you were playing with other people to be narrower. On your solo, perhaps, you would widen it–it would sound more lush if it were wider — but if it were too wide playing with other people, there would be no blend. The quickest way to end a blend, of course, is to play with a wide vibrato, which I think we all realize. It seems so obvious, but when we were students, we didn’t know and some of us wanted to be expressive. Some of the players would be souping it up, and he used to make fun of them. And when I say make fun, I mean he made fun – insulted them and embarrassed you, and then he would laugh with this terrible laugh after he had just said something awful to you. Again I think it was just a joke.
I remember that my first year there he smoked. He smoked through a filter which was a piece of cane, oboe cane. And he would spend ten minutes trying to get the cigarette [laugh] into the piece of cane; it didn’t fit quite right or he had no adaptor, I don’t know. And then he would smoke. Of course, in the Curtis Hall there were No Smoking signs all over. Well, the second year he had apparently been told by his doctor to give up smoking, and he would come in with this piece of cane that he had used for a filter, and he would just kind of suck on this filter throughout the whole class; sometimes he would even put a cigarette in, but never light it. And finally, he took to eating cherry gum drops, actually they were cherry cough drops – wild cherry, I don’t know the brand. They were kind of gum-droppy, but they were cough drops. And he would chew and suck on these and make noises all the while you were trying to play. And then he would make an elaborate production out of getting into the little box to get another one out, and crinkle the paper and toy with the box. And he would look around the room, and he would laugh, and he said, “It is no fun to eat wild cherry cough drops, because there are no signs that say, ‘No eating wild cherry cough drops!’ [laugh] That’s the only reason I enjoyed smoking was the signs that said No Smoking.” A purposefully perverse man.
LVB: Did he demonstrate with the oboe in the class or did he just sing…?
DP: In the wind class he never played. You know I got to him when he was at the end of his career. All the beautiful recordings I had heard and even a few times when I was a very small boy I heard the Orchestra when they were on tour, he sounded so wonderful. But, these last few years we have to admit that a man seventy is not the same as a man fifty. His playing was thinning out, and I guess he had to compensate for lack of muscle control, I don’t know, the reeds were easier to control. So his playing was not as exquisite as I believe it had been; it was a bit wilder maybe with this thinner reed;
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you are the oboe player, maybe you know. It was wilder; the tone was thinner; the pitch was inclined to vary a bit where maybe it wouldn’t have before. He was always trying new things which I admired him for on one hand very much; I hope that I too can keep my interest in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony after the umpteenth thousandth time, but he had gone beyond, [laugh] sometimes, the point of return. I remember hearing him do the Franck Symphony, and I literally could not tell what he was supposed to be playing. I mean, the notes were there, of course, the right pitches, but his phrasing had become so “experimental’ in quotation marks [laugh] that it was not Franck really. I don’t know what it was. He was probably bored with Franck, yet his great musical instincts told him he must do something. He couldn’t bear to do the same old thing, whatever it was, so he would try new things. And then, of course, Kincaid who was the epitome of good taste, the elegant, distinguished man of good taste, would come in with an exquisite phrase immediately after, and this just showed up in a sense of decline of Tabuteau. I am in no way saying this critically of the man, I mean he was a genius. He was aging, and it was showing. So, in the wind class he never demonstrated, and I don’t know how much he demonstrated in the teaching at that time. That was really towards the end. He talked a lot about the number system, which I’m sure you’ve heard about – intensity. He would sing to you in this terrible voice. The tune you were supposed to be playing he would sing in numbers. Of course then, intensity would grow or the number would get larger as the intensity grew, and you know how it goes.
LVB: You mentioned when you were talking about ensemble playing that when you played with another person you would use a narrower vibrato, did he also talk about different speeds of vibrato?
DP: Yes, again this number system somehow applied to vibrato. If you were increasing intensity, you might narrow you vibrato or even speed the vibrato up. It’s interesting that there is a distinction between a narrow, and a fast vibrato. Some people feel if it is narrow, it has to be faster, but that’s not true. Especially if you are going to blend with somebody, we said a wide vibrato would not be good, we agreed on that I hope, but also a fast one would not be too good, because it’s too scintillating, it’s too titillating on the ear drum of the listener to hear a fast vibrato; it captures away the tone quality of the other instrument too much. It makes you a ham in a sense you see – listen to me, listen to me. Tabuteau often would increase the intensity of his playing not only, in fact basically not with volume, but he would increase it by vibrato. The vibrato would narrow and become faster; the tone almost might thin down a bit up close, which also increased the intensity. I think that makes sense. If the same amount of air is going through a smaller opening, it must go through faster and therefore it will be more intense than the same air going through a large opening.
I can’t actually recall any specific occasions that he would say vibrato. I honestly think that he did things so naturally, but he also had a good sense of judgment, and he would listen to what he had done and then he would say, “Oh I did that. What did I really do. Why did I do it, and how did I do it.” So, if he were playing an f-sharp which was going to a g, he would probably naturally increase the speed of the vibrato on the f-sharp to push that leading tone into the g which would be the tonic, and the g would have a wider, more satisfied vibrato – a wider, fuller, more easy sound even. The f-sharp would be a tighter, narrower sound. I honestly can’t imagine he said, “I will do this, I will do this;” I think he did it and then judged later, “Oh yes, I did that and it’s wonderful, and that’s what it should be, the leading tone and the tonic.” Then he was able to tell us. That’s why sometimes some of his students could play very musically, but most unconvincingly. He could tell them: f-sharp you do this, g you do
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this, but they never really felt it, and it was not convincing. It was almost like a machine doing it. Sometimes that’s the problem with a very good teacher. He teaches too well, and the student himself has nothing and can’t ever teach himself later, so that when they got away from Tabuteau they couldn’t do it. So, in the wind class, either with volume or with the number system using intensity, he would sometimes show us how to phrase, and this would include speeds of vibrato. If it were too fast a vibrato on a C major chord (see, C major is a noble key) that would be not right. E major would be a faster vibrato key or B major a faster vibrato; that’s quite an angular key. Whether he felt these, I think he felt them first and then…
LVB: How do changes in color fit in with the number system?
DP: I’m not sure it does. I’ve talked to some people about what Tabuteau said and what Kincaid said too, and I find the understanding of these systems was variable according to the person. I think that’s the case, because each of us needed something at that time, and we took what we needed. The rest of it went over our heads or we didn’t listen carefully. In the case of Kincaid, who never said a word to me about vibrato, but I know another student that he talked to about vibrato a lot. So, I learned a lot from the other student; we’d get together and talk. So, I’m not certain that I have any feeling of tone color in relationship to number.
I do remember a comment though that Tabuteau made, and later Kincaid used to quote this of Tabuteau by the way; he said, “Don’t try and play loudly; the louder you play the less you’re heard out front.” He said, “The perfect tone is the intensification of a dolce quality.” Now, I have thought about that a lot, and I have written it down and read it sometimes. The season gets long, and my lip gets tired, and I just put the flute down for a day and come back the next day, and I’ll start out playing very softly and very light lipped, very easy lip, not too much focus and a lot of support. After a few minutes or a half an hour of easy gentle playing, dolce – I’m talking about a dolce quality – then I’ll start to increase the intensity, sometimes just mentally at first. If you wanted to use Tabuteau’s system you would start 112233 and build, and you can also do this by vibrato, but you try to do this by not using too much air. Whenever a player in class would start to play with one of these big fat, really romantic, voluptuous sounds, Tabuteau would not like that; it didn’t blend with anything; it was out of scope with everything else. He felt it wouldn’t project. Often that type of tone has not enough center. Tabuteau was big, and Kincaid too, on centering the tone. What it sounds like up here, won’t be what it sounds like out in the hall. He felt that if you blow too loud up closely, it wouldn’t carry. And I think we may agree on that. I’ve discovered that to be true. If you are playing alone, that kind of tone sounds wonderful, but in the orchestra in a big hall if you get a few French Horns mellowing, blending in the back ground and a couple of cellos blending, that kind of tone is lost; it doesn’t project out of the orchestra texture.
LVB: Do you remember him talking about up and down impulses?
DP: My impression of what Tabuteau meant by that is an extension of over the bar line phrasing. I had the feeling that he was trying to get away from the beat, and he demonstrated it in that Franck Symphony I mentioned earlier where I couldn’t tell what was happening. He carried it too far. The meter always has to continue underneath the melody, but we mustn’t hear the meter in the melody. And he would carry a phrase, I feel, not only over the bar line but over several bars maybe to a point. It’s a great feeling to think sometimes even with your hands, you just move them up with the palms upward,
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and you move the phrase up, up, up and then down, where the major climax of the phrase is, or the major relaxation of the phrase. Of course, the down part of the phrase is after the climax. I think I can tell you how this was demonstrated to me most clearly when I was in Norway once and bumped into Leopold Stokowski in the hotel lobby in Oslo. He had a concert that night, and he said, “Are you coming to my concert,” and I said, “No Maestro I can’t get tickets.” “Oh, I’ll get you two tickets.” So, he got me two tickets, and I went to the concert, and it was a terrible orchestra, absolutely terrible. Stokowski in his way was a genius, in the last movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony – They were beating it [singing every beat of the phrase.] So pretty soon he started beating only one beat per bar instead of two beats; so then it got a little better. So, he just looked around and pretty soon he was only beating one beat every four bars, and would give a huge beat and it was [singing]. And that is what to me the Tabuteau’s up-up system – during the four bars or eight bars that Stokowski was not beating the whole feeling of the orchestra was of moving up and moving beyond, away from this mundane, pedantic beat thing. They were playing that marvelous music to the next phrase, and then they started the down trend, and he didn’t beat again for four bars, but it was a down trend to the end of the phrase That’s what I understood by it.
LVB: You mentioned moving f-sharp closer to g and getting notes closer together. Did he talk about bending notes according to the tonality that you were playing in?
DP: I don’t have any great impression other than the facts that I do recall. You mentioned the up-down feeling, and first I thought you meant of the sound. Certainly f-sharp he would talk about leading to the g all right, but the g-flat would not be the same intensity note, it would be a darker quality. F-sharp would be quite bright going to g, but g-flat would be darker going back to f or lower; and again the vibrato would enter into it – I would say a slower deeper vibrato on the g-flat than the f-sharp. Now, you have to understand that all of these things that we remember him doing he may not have talked about too much, I mean, he probably didn’t say to me: do your g-flat da-da-da, but we listened to him, we listened to him play and Kincaid too (they were two of a kind and still distinctly different, but they had the same ideas), we would listen and then you absorbed it. In fact, you probably did it consciously at first. You said: “Oh, I am going to raise my c-sharp going to the d,” and you thought you were really being musical; but, then you started to feel this too or you may have felt it in the beginning and didn’t know what you were doing, and he merely verbalized it. So, all of these things now that we can attribute to him and to Kincaid were not all verbalized. A lot was gleaned from hearing them play and from hearing them talk to other people or hearing their students play or at that time the basic whole Philadelphia woodwind style of playing. It’s changed now, quite drastically since those days, but at that time that’s what we had. And I think when you ask me a question about Tabuteau saying this and that, it may be that I only gleaned it. And don’t forget that part of my perception is colored by own personality or my own neuroses and experience. I may be saying something that was not quite what he said, but it at least led me on to a path which has been successful. I’m sure this must be true with other people.
LVB: Did he spend a lot of time on balancing chords?
DP: Yes, very much. To this day I wish we had someone like that to do it. Again it’s the same bit of this no-ensemble feeling that I feel so many people coming out of the conservatories now lack. Where to place your note in the chord, (not only how,) what kind of tone and how to blend, and where,
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in the sense of volume. I mean something as mundane as how loud to play. If someone sees mezzo piano, mezzo forte, how loud do they play? Mezzo forte is a very ambiguous mark. When I used to play with Fritz Reiner, he was always shushing us, “Mezzo forte, softer, softer.” But Stokowski would come to guest conduct, and he would say, “Mezzo forte” [in a loud voice]. So what is mezzo forte? Mezzo forte in Roussel is triple fortissimo, but mezzo forte in Beethoven is not loud. So, it depends on the composer. In other words, he was teaching us to use our heads. If we had an accompanying note in a chord, obviously it’s not going to be as glamorous or as brilliant or as projected or as loud as the main note. He would talk sometimes about the color of sound for a solo instrument playing piano and the color of the sound for a non-solo instrument playing piano. I mean it’s so obvious when you think about it, and so many people don’t think about it or don’t do it. I needn’t even verbalize that – a blander sound for the non-solo, right?
LVB: What about articulation. Do remember any particulars about that?
DP: I don’t have vivid memories of any words on articulation as far as what syllable to use, but, of course, his big thing, I’m sure everyone must agree on that, was to play on the air. The air keeps moving, and you play on top of the air. It’s not that you’re using a different air for every note; it was on the one air. He would often sing and carry the phrase [singing] tu tu tu tu tu, and this would all be on top of a constant moving air stream. The air stream I’ve since compared to the bow. The bow keeps moving and you play on this; each note is not reattacked with the bow, just like each note is not reattacked with the air. Even sometimes if things were staccato you would somehow [laugh] carry the air between the staccato notes. It sounds like you can’t do that, but somehow you can; the air with which you left a note begins the next note with a small gap between. But it basically is the same piece of air with a small gap in the middle. I don’t know if that explains what I mean. But, it would be like really slurring it, and then you have the feel of the air moving, and you have the feel of the intensity of the phrase and the feel of the diaphragm supporting it all, and then you merely break up this one piece of air that is still moving – the air carrying the sound, not the air pushing the sound. Is that at all helpful?
Did he talk about varying lengths of notes, like if you had a tongued passage and it was going up in numbers or something, did he talk about playing perhaps short an the beginning and lengthening as you approached the climactic point?
DP: Yes, I think that school of playing was one of the first to try to get away from woodwind sounding “woodwindy” or flutes sounding “flutey.” He used to make fun of new students who would come in, they would have had a type of training that is now old-fashioned in which a staccato note is always played as short as possible, and with a terrible accent on every note [laugh]. And, of course, he would castigate them unmercifully and laugh at them and make jokes about them, teaching us that a staccato or even a non-staccato, just a tongued note, varies with where it is in the line –certainly the top note might be stressed a bit more than the bottom – or also with the type of music you are playing. A staccato in a March would be shorter than a staccato in a Serenade. These were all new ideas to us. And the length would vary and the attack would vary, which is something I feel people get confused about. They feel if the note is short, the attack must be crisp, or if the note is a long note, the attack must be softer. But, that’s not true. You can play a very short note with a very soft attack [End of side A of
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Donald Peck recording] , and you can play a very long note with a very hard attack. He wanted to make all of these devices available to us to use.
We were talking about balancing chords, and that somehow applies now with the tonguing you mentioned. I would never have thought before I went away to school not to attack a note. And, of course, now I often don’t attack a note. Some of the most beautiful chords are achieved with no attack on any instrument. You just breathe into them with your support from the diaphragm, and the embouchure set well, and then you start the air moving, and this gives a non-attack. And by the same token you can then taper exactly the same way that you enter with a non-exit attack, so to speak. This was my first exposure to that sort of thing. Of course, at that time the whole orchestra in Philadelphia was doing that, and maybe to the wrong degree, because everything sounded very schmaltzy just like the Berlin Philharmonic does now. But, it is very beautiful, and in the right place it is certainly a device we should use. Tabuteau was very big on that, entering with no attack.
LVB: Did he talk about slurs – any special technique about playing slurs?
DP: I don’t remember anything about that.
LVB: It seems that in his oboe lessons that he very much stressed the end of the slur, not chopping it off…
DP: As far as the slur and the tonguing and how you treat the slur, again I feel it was a further indication of his feeling that the air must keep moving all the time. And as you mentioned a minute ago, the end of a slur you wouldn’t necessarily cut off. You had two notes slurred into two tongued notes; as you mention, he would say, “tee long too too,” and it wouldn’t be tee lot too too. This again just meant to carry the air, because in a classical piece of Mozart you obviously play that second note of the slur much lighter [singing an example]. But, he didn’t want it to be da dut da da , because we had always been taught when the slur ends snap off, no. I mean, we had been taught a lot of very bad things from some teachers when we were younger. So, he did want that 2nd note to be carried.
I’m going to say one thing, however, which you may want to erase. Tabuteau played a lot of Baroque, and Kincaid too, but they were not Baroque specialists. They are not to blame. At the time that they were in their hay day, there was no such thing as a Baroque specialist in a player; that was musicologists only. And there was no such thing basically as playing with a style. I mean, Marcel Moyse played everything, and it sounded always sounded like Marcel Moyse. His Mozart sounded just like his Ibert, and they both sounded like him. He is not to be criticized for this; that was the style of the day. So when Kincaid played the Telemann Suite, it was absolutely fabulous and the most incredible flute playing you had ever heard, but it was not Telemann as the musicologists or as we now have learned it should be played. And Tabuteau also. The recordings of the Bach Concerto with Violin, for example, is certainly very far from what they would consider real Bach playing now. And you mentioned that he didn’t want the second note of the slur stopped, it must go [singing] da a da a or tee long tee long, but that’s really not true in Baroque. It makes sense to shorten that note in Baroque, not lighten it, shorten it [singing] dee dut dee dut, because that was the only way the harpsichord could phrase. And we are supposed to be matching that. Now in those days when Tabuteau played, they played everything in a rather romantic vein. And this tee long too too we’re talking about is a romantic way of playing two
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slurred and two tongued. So, I am not criticizing Tabuteau. It’s just the way things were done then and now things are done differently. We may revert back to playing everything in a romantic style. Kincaid once told me he would never write any books, because in twenty years there will be a different way of doing things and “we’ll look like idiots,” and he’s right. So, believe me I’m not criticizing Kincaid or Tabuteau, as I hope in some years people won’t criticize me. I’m only doing now what we are doing now; and they did then as was done then.
LVB: You mentioned Tabuteau’s great use of rubato in the orchestra. Was this something he stressed in chamber music classes as well?
DP: Tabuteau was an interesting dichotomy – paradox. On the one hand he was adamant that correct rhythm be played, and on the other hand he wanted you [laugh] to be very free. And I admit at the time I was perplexed, but I since then think I figured it out. He wanted you to be very free, but, founded on a firm rhythmic foundation. I remember two episodes; one time Stravinsky had been conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra, and Tabuteau came in absolutely ecstatic about the man. He said, “They should put this man in prison, capture him, and force him to conduct every orchestra!” He said the rhythm that this man had and the preciseness of the rhythm was astounding – the sixteenth note after the dotted eighth, and the triplet instead of a duple eighth, (a triplet eighth). He wanted us to play rhythms absolutely right. I mean a triplet eighth is not a duple eighth note, it’s a triplet eighth, and the sixteenth after a dotted eighth should not sound like a triplet, it’s too vapid, it’s too pastoral; it’s quite a difference. The full sixteenth is a very much more intense feeling, energetic. He insisted that we play correctly, and really if you have 104 men in the orchestra on the stage playing, it will not be together unless everyone is fervently aware of the rhythm, and abides by it and plays it almost squarely. But, it must never sound that way. It mustn’t sound like the orchestra is counting 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4. It had to sound natural, and he was very keen on these two things. On top of that he wanted a solo to be very flexible, but the basic meter of 1 2 3 4 would move on, and on top of that you would add a bit of flexibility, which is called rubato. You must always arrive at some point [laugh] with the rest of the orchestra or with your pianist or if you have a difficult chord change, you must arrive there with the rest of the orchestra. It can’t be so free that it is anarchy, obviously. I mean it is very obvious, and yet these things are done under the guise of expressiveness, particularly with players who perhaps are playing with only one or two instruments or maybe with just a piano. They feel, you know, let the piano just scramble along behind me. Does that answer your question?
Did he speak in terms of character of phrases or moods?
DP: Well, it would seem to me that he would have [laugh], I mean he was so aware of this, but I honestly can’t remember a certain thing. He used to pantomime moods, however. I remember him getting up and dancing around the stage in the Pierne piece, and strange I can’t remember the name – it has two flutes and two oboes and – but, [laugh] it was a scherzando, and he was pantomiming this. Other than that, it’s hard for to remember, but I feel he must have had; he was so aware of that in his own playing.
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LVB: I meant to ask, when you had performances at Curtis, did he conduct?
DP: Yes, he sat in a chair and conducted. And I must say for all of his showmanship at the rehearsals, he was quite subdued at the concerts. It was almost a matter of respect for the players that he had trained and we finally had come through. He didn’t get in the way too much. He genuinely seemed to enjoy his final product. He had weeks and weeks to work on one piece. Every week we would come in, and he would work on that same piece again. By the time the program arrived, I must say they were beautiful performances. You know when you are young like that, you have a lot of zest and a great desire to please and you love music, and it’s not like you are hacking out five concerts a week. It was glorious, and he seemed to appreciate that and made me respect him very much. He could be such a ham in the orchestra, but he just sat in a chair and made some indications usually with a pencil or with his piece of cane that he had for the cigarette holder [laugh]. He would just kind of conduct discreetly. Sometimes he would have to sing; he couldn’t contain himself. And he had that terrible voice and awful vibrato [singing imitating Tabuteau’s vibrato]. I’m sure that people have told you that when he spoke English, you couldn’t understand a word, because it sounded like French. How he got the French accent so strongly into the English, I’ll never know, but…
LVB: Were there any principles of Tabuteau’s that you consciously rejected?
DP: We have spoken of the Baroque phrasing and maybe even ornamentation which he used, which I didn’t reject merely because Tabuteau said that and I rejected it, but it’s that I studied and learned what I felt to be a more proper way, and therefore I rejected it. There would naturally have to be things in his presentation and in his playing that one would reject unconsciously, because, for example, even with Kincaid whom I admired more than anyone – incredible man, incredible mind, incredible flutist – but one has to finally be himself. I found at Curtis that the students so consciously emulating Tabuteau or Kincaid were, let me put it this way, somewhat less than convincing. And in no way does it detract from Kincaid that I might play something even consciously different than he would; it makes his approach no less valid, and I hope it makes my approach no less valid, but after all the training and the in-put which has gone in, I have come out being myself. And in fact, I think Tabuteau and Kincaid wanted this, because so many of the Tabuteau students have been out playing in the world and you hear Tabuteau in them, but they are still themselves. All the flutists around have studied with Kincaid or students of Kincaid (grand-students as Kincaid used to call them), and you hear Kincaid in them. You hear Julius Baker play; you hear the Kincaidisms in him, but it is certainly Julius Baker. When I play, I am astonished sometimes at a recording that sounds so much like Kincaid, and at other times I think Kincaid wouldn’t have done that at all. I don’t think this emulation to the point of self-destruction is good, and I don’t think they would have wanted it. So, to reject things is not to put them down. And in fact, Tabuteau might have appreciated hearing one of his students play something differently; I’m sure he would have said, “Oh, that’s not a bad idea, I’m going to try that.” He may well have. He was not a closed mind. He was a great man for life and living, I felt an incredible joie de vivre. And this showed in his playing and his teaching. He had to therefore have open ears and mind to everything. He, himself, would not have learned so much if it had been closed.
LVB: What do you think were the influences that shaped his ideas? Do you have any thoughts on that?
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DP: It always struck me very odd about that, because he was in Paris at the same time that [Fernand] Gillet was, who later went to Boston, and they came out so differently. And by the same token, Georges Barrere and Laurent, the flutists were at Paris about the same time and came out so differently. It does make you wonder, and I have often thought that Stokowski had a lot to do with this. I never talked to Tabuteau about it, but I spoke with Kincaid about it, and he used to laugh at his own playing, what it used to be in the early 1900’s. He laughed, he said, “You know at first we didn’t use vibrato,” and he said, “then we came here to the Orchestra and Stokowski wanted us to use vibrato.” He said, “It was so hard to use vibrato, and at first the only vibrato we could get was this very fast nanny-goat vibrato.” And the earlier recordings do sound that way; all the winds, the bassoon too, Walter Guetter, the bassoonist, played that kind of vibrato. Gradually Kincaid evolved a more natural, vocal type of vibrato; it sounded like a singer. I don’t know how much influence Stokowski had; Kincaid said he influenced them a lot and also influenced them as to balance and attack. Stokowski never wanted anything attacked, I mean a hard attack; it had to be floating in and out. Other than that I don’t know what Tabuteau’s influences were.
LVB: How influential do you think Tabuteau was in general, on woodwind players, on the Philadelphia Orchestra, on other string players…?
DP: We have to go back to the original influence, which we don’t know, do we? If the influence was Stokowski, then Tabuteau merely carried this influence through, and Kincaid too. If it came from elsewhere, we don’t know, then one must give Kincaid and Tabuteau the credit. I put the two together a lot; I don’t know if you have had other people do it.
LVB: Not so far, but I haven’t interviewed many flutists.
DP: Well, they had so many of the same ideas, and it was wonderful to hear them play together when they were in a good mood or getting along that day. So, where the influence exactly came from I don’t know, but let’s just say that Tabuteau, I believe, influenced not only wind playing, because he had string players in his class, in the ensemble class, who later went out and taught and played all over the world just like the oboe and flute players – all the wind players went out. But, of course, the orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, was influenced by Curtis, and at one point 80% of the Orchestra was Curtis graduates, or students of Curtis graduates. Now this is changed, I feel it has, but at that time that made an incredible uniformity of style. Even if you didn’t like the style, I think one had to appreciate the greatness of this marvelous orchestra all playing the same style. I think that was the glory of the Philadelphia Orchestra at that time – 20-30 years ago [late 40’s and in the 50’s]. So, he must have been very influential, this whole phrasing device. And, of course, it spread to other orchestras, because we were all around.
LVB: Do feel maybe that Tabuteau is more influential than Kincaid because Tabuteau ran the chamber music classes?
DP: I would say so, yes, and in that sense he was.
LVB: Would you say Kincaid and Tabuteau were equally influential as far as determining the phrasing in the Orchestra?
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DP: I would say so, because I remember hearing many performances of the same piece, and the two of them fed on each other. It was a matter of great collaboration and a matter of great competition. Kincaid would play something so exquisitely, and then Tabuteau would have to evolve something from Kincaid’s way of playing it, but add something to it; and then Kincaid would hear this.
They were both geniuses in their way, but very different. When Kincaid later took over the wind ensemble at Curtis after Tabuteau had left, it was not the same. Kincaid was not the flamboyant ham that Tabuteau was. I say that very admiringly of Tabuteau. Kincaid was a ham, but [laugh] in a different way; he was a more scientific type, he was a more intellectual type. And young students are impressed with the dramatic. And Tabuteau dancing around the room with his wild cherry cough drops — you see I remember all those things. Also I remember though the point of the music that went with that. Kincaid would sit there and be more pedantic, more gentlemanly, more elegant, more dignified. And at the lessons Kincaid would never harangue or harass us, or get excited, and he would merely say: listen to me or watch me do this, or try this or let me hear. And he would say, “I do this.” And he would have every answer to your problem, because he had been through all the problems, and he knew how to verbalize them. He was not a dramatist, except in his own playing, I think I made that point, but they were both influential. If you have talked to people in the Philadelphia Orchestra, other that wind players, the string players for example, I think you will find what I’m saying to be common opinion. The two of them together made a team, and yet they were incredibly different, and influential.