The flute-playing that flourished--in both quantity and quality--in the last decade of the 19th century in France lifted the status of flute music from an inferior solo instrument to one of sought-after desirability. Such talent and ability needed to be shared, and the--giants of the modern French school looked to their neighbors across the Channel: the British.
The modern French school, led by Paul Taffanel (1844-1908) in the late 19th century, is the most influential of any in our flute history. During this time, the flute entered a period of activity not seen since the baroque era, the "golden age" of the flute.
The 19th-century tradition of flashy airs and variations (full of pizzazz but lacking in substance) had reduced the flute to a solo instrument inferior to the piano and violin. Taffanel, motivated by his professor at the Paris Conservatoire, Louis Dorus, sought to restore the flute to the position of high esteem it had earned through the works of Hotteterre, Boismortier, and Telemann. Maintaining an active performance schedule--almost weekly solo performances in addition to his orchestral responsibilities--Taffanel brought the works of Bach, Couperin, Mozart, and other baroque and classical greats back into the performance repertoire. Furthermore, he persuaded his contemporaries to compose new flute works that highlighted the instrument's expressive musical abilities, not simply the showy technical prowess of its performers. These efforts led to repertoire contributions by (among others) Gabriel Faure, Camille Saint-Saens, and, of course, Taffanel himself.
In 1879, Taffanel formed the Wind Instrument Chamber Music Society to continue his efforts not only for flute but for all wind instruments. Upon becoming the flute professor at the Conservatoire in 1893, Taffanel instilled these performance values in his students, who then pursued active careers throughout Europe and the United States. Led by Philippe Gaubert, Louis Fleury, Georges Barrere, and Marcel Moyse, the following generations of flutists became used to a repertoire of the past mixed with the increasingly steady production of new works by current composers such as Debussy, Poulenc, and Jolivet. Both Gaubert and Fleury published flute methods based on the notes Taffanel left behind after his death, and Moyse was prolific in his publication of flute studies and etude books, all still in use today. Our repertoire, pedagogy, and performance practice all bear witness to the work of Taffanel and his students.
Across the Channel, Great Britain provided a favorite place to perform. The English Musical Renaissance (c. 1840-1940) established by Prince Albert and the English elite as a drive for a more defined and mature English musical culture had led to an exceptional amount of concert activity. London and the cities of the provinces had their own orchestras and choirs, and summer music festivals filled the calendar in between regular performance seasons. Continental musicians were welcomed, with masters such as Franz Liszt, Clara Schumann, Camille Saint-Saens, and Joseph Joachim making frequent performances.
Many Europeans chose to establish their careers in England. Flutists alone represented Norway (Oluf Svendsen), the Netherlands (Edward de Jong...