Georges Barrère and the Flute in America
By Nancy Toff
Paperback book; 80 pages
Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the New York Flute Club.
Georges Barrère (1876-1944) holds a preminent place in the history of American flute playing. As the most prominent early exemplar of the Paris Conservatoire tradition in the United States, he set a new standard for American woodwind playing. And he played a crucial role in the development of chamber music and the chamber symphony in his adopted country.
Soon after graduation from the Paris Conservatoire, Barrère founded the Société Moderne d'Instruments à Vent, which during its first ten years inspired and performed more than sixty new works for woodwinds. He was establishing a solid orchestral career in Paris when, in 1905, Walter Damrosch invited him to become first flutist of the New York Symphony Orchestra, a chair he held until the orchestra's demise in 1928. He taught at the Institute of Musical Art (later merged with the Juilliard Graduate School) from 1905 until his death, and as founder of the woodwind ensemble program at Juilliard trained a new generation of superior woodwind players. Barrère played a pivotal role in the universal adoption of the silver flute in the United States and also gained attention for owning the first platinum flute in this country.
As a soloist, recitalist, and member of numerous chamber ensembles, Geroges Barrère inspired major additions to the flute's solo and chamber repertoire, most notably Charles Tomlinson Griffe's Poem and Edgard Varèse's Density 21.5. His many premiere performances include the Hindemith sonata and the Roussel trio for flute, cello, and harp. As conductor of the Barrère Little Symphony, which he founded in 1914, Barrère presented concerts that were paragons of creative programming. Zealous in his advocacy of American composers, he also introduced audiences nationwide to rediscovered baroque and classical-era works. An urbane and witty man, Barrère was a revered figure at the Chautauqua Institution and the artists' colony in Woodstock, New York, and a fixture of the New York musical establishment.
The New York Flute Club, which Barrère founded in 1920, is the oldest flute club in the country. It is proud to sponser this exhibit, Georges Barrère and the Flute in America, in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Barrère's death and its own seventy-fifth anniversary.