Benoit, Peter


Benoit, Peter

Symfonisch gedicht voor fluit en orkest


Peter Benoit

Symphonic Poem for flute and orchestra (1865)

(Harelbeke, 17 August 1834 – Antwerp, 8 March 1901)

The number of flute concertos from the nineteenth century is rather restricted: while after the technical innovations of Theobald Boehm the new techniques and expressive capacities of the instrument were utilized to the fullest embedded in orchestral music, the flute kept struggling to manifest itself as a concertante solo instrument in its own right. This was mainly due to the fact that it was diffi- cult to let the orchestra completely expand itself without interfer- ing with the flute sound. Furthermore the timbre of the flute always runs the risk of saturating the sense of hearing rather rapidly. In his Nouveau traité d’instrumentation (1885) François-Auguste Gevaert therefore wrote: ‘Except for the music written by virtu- oso composers there is for the flute a conspicuous paucity of great concert solos with accompaniment by the orchestra. (…) The nat- ural place of the flutes is in the orchestra, both for concerts and for the lyric theatre.’And in the chapter ‘The orchestra associated with the instrumental solo’ in his Cours méthodique d’orchestra- tion (1890) Gevaert emphasizes that the possibilities of wind in- struments are generally not varied enough ‘to hold the scene for a long time in their own right; wind instruments are suited only for rather short pieces, conceived in a vocal style, romances or songs without words.’ And finally: ‘The entrance of a flute, of an oboe, of a bassoon after a pompous tutti is absolutely grotesque’.

With his flute concerto, composed in the last months of 1865, Benoit has managed to refute those assertions, contributing a par- ticularly original and felicitous piece to the concertante flute reper- toire. It was quite a feat for Benoit to offer full scope to both the flute and the orchestra: the latter is allowed to fully unfold its po- tential without however restraining the flute. Moreover there is a continuous, strong dialectics at work between the solo instrument and the orchestra. And what’s more, with a view to providing ad- equate variation in the sound, he changes the tessitura of the flute as much as possible…

Full preface / Komplettes Vorwort (Flemish / German / English) > HERE

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