Exclusive: Principal flute quits the Berlin PhilharmonicNews
The Berliner Philharmoniker has advertised an immediate vacancy for principal flute.
We have been informed that Mathieu Dufour has left the orchestra ‘at his own request for personal reasons.’
Dufour, 48, was appointed principal flute of the Chicago Symphony by Daniel Barenboim in 1999. After a brief spell with Gustavo Dudamel in the LA Phil he returned to Chicago until 2015 when he won the Berlin audition to succeed Andreas Blau, sharing principal duties with Emmanuel Pahud.
It is highly unusual for a principal player to leave the Berlin Phil in mid-career. Colleagues say that Dufour’s ‘personal reasons’ involve a degree of dissatisfaction with some aspects of the orchestra’s Covid precautions.
Auditions for a replacement are scheduled for the last week in May.
Having held principal positions with three world-class orchestras, he should have no problem finding work. He’s a wonderful player.
The beauty of the BP system, with co-principals who can both play at the top standard, is that it allows for a solo career on the side while having the job security of a government subsidized orchestra.
My guess is there are some issues with having to share the position with Pahud along with any necessary Covid protocols that include vaccination, worries by last desk string players who believe that flutes project spray in their direction, and the general unhappiness that tends to afflict most orchestra players around Year 8 when they realize they are just pawns on the chessboard of the Maestro.
Sorry but you have no idea why he left. He accepted the position knowing he would be co-principal but now suddenly you “guess” he doesn’t care for the arrangement? The year or so that Emannuel Pahud spent with the BSO was a weekly demonstration of superb playing and artistry.
In the BPO and other major European orchestras the two principals are joint principals and have equal status. They do half the work each and divide it up between themselves by mutual agreement, since there is enough glamorous stuff to keep both of them happy.
Apologies I was thinking of Jacques Zoon, not EP. At the risk of belaboring the point in the course of 7 years, a young Principal player goes from Chicago to LA back to Chicago to Berlin and leaves. Without knowing the person it is absurd to speculate why.
Dear Sir David,
Wondering about this, but when I think about it most of the principals in the BP share their position with at least another one. Perhaps it’s a matter of Covid fatigue as well…I did always enjoy his playing, though, and he always seemed to be a true pillar of the orchestra…
Year 8? Hahaha, subtract by 7 my friend.
Wow, you know your stuff! You sir have got this spot on. There is a realisation which occurs in most tenured orchestral players. Some ignore it some attempt to out wit it and others quit. Had we been given a short glimpse of the future I believe many would quit.
Principal flute with Chicago aged 26. Why does someone with such outstanding talent at such a young age choose an orchestral, rather than a solo, career?
I first wondered this when I read the autobiography of John Georgiadis, who led the LSO at the same age.
How many woodwind or brass players can you think of who have made successful careers as soloists on the concerto circuit? For a number of reasons, string players and pianists have vastly more options in this area.
Reliable paycheck and benefits that could be one reason why. Tenure!
Because there aren’t a whole lot of compelling solo flute works to make a career. After the two Mozarts, Nielsen, Ibert, and (my favorite) Rodrigo (which doesn’t get played much, though), it’s pretty slim pickings. A lot more satisfying musically for most to play in a great orchestra.
How about the Khachaturian, Jolivet and Reinecke flute concerti, Busoni Divertimento, Chaminade Concertino, Griffes Poem, the list goes on …
“Pretty slim pickings” . I don’t think so.
There’s a wealth of flute concertos from the baroque era till today. From Vivaldi to Pierre Boulez, from Karl Reinecke and Peter Benoit to André Jolivet, Blavet, Leclair, Kalevi Aho, Malcolm Arnold, Leonard Bernstein, Elliot Carter, Penderecki, Walter Piston, Rautavaara, Jean Francaix, Harald Genzmer, Mieczysław Weinberg, Arthur Meulemans, Christopher Rouse, Jean Rivier, Joan Tower, Isang Yun, Guillaume Connesson … etc., etc.
There must be many more in France, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Brazil, Chile, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands…
Nobody seems to care.
Nielsen’s concerto is quite impressive and original, Iberts and Rodrigos concertos are merely gentle & easy.
You’re not going to find many orchestras beating down any flutist’s door to program most of those, fine as some may be.
You’re guaranteed a steady income.
You’re guaranteed tenure.
You’re guaranteed health insurance.
You’re guaranteed retirement.
Successful wind soloists are exceptionally rare. Orchestras prefer to play wind concertos, if at all, using their own principal players…already paid for!
Only the very top pianists, violinists, and cellists can really sustain a solo career for life.
That’s only because of ignorance and discrimination by people who program concert series and audiences who don’t support anything other than a string quartet, or piano-based concert. For a while, in the blooming 1970s and 80s, there were a lot mixed ensembles, flute and harp duos, trios and the like, touring annually, especially through Community Concerts. Then string quartets hijacked the entire scene.
Why? Adolph “Bud” Herseth, principal trumpet with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for 53 years, had his reasons. The link is to a radio interview of him in 1997 while on tour with the CSO in Australia. He talks about this in the course of the interview.
Name one flute soloist who was paid to come solo in your town, other than Pahud or Galway (Rampal is gone).
Severino Gazzelloni (already gone I know).
Carol Wincenc, Paula Robison, and formerly, Ransom Wilson, Robert Stallman, to name just four outstanding American flutists.
All fine flutists, none a household name outside their own household. I recall reading an interview with Ransom Wilson 30 years or more ago explaining why he turned to conducting – and it was to the effect that after Mozart you get to Quantz or such and it’s just not good music.
The biggest star among solo flutists these days (and for the past 30 years) is Manny Pahud, moonlighting from his Berlin Phil job.
Honestly, Dufour does some things better than Pahud. Even Pahud knows this. Dufour is able a special type of “Ha” articulation (hard to describe) that allows the sound to ring and unfold in a way that I’ve simply never heard before. And they BOTH know that Denis Bouriakov has a technique that no living flutist, that we are currently aware of, can touch (although he isn’t exactly the most interesting artist around).
Robert Stallman was able to play a few nice phrases. But none of these people could come even close to Rampal, Pahud, or Dufour. Wincenc shouldn’t even have a career. Did you ever wonder what a vacuum cleaner (assuming that it is waterproof) would sound like if you dropped it in a swimming pool while running? Well you don’t have to because we have Carol Wincenc.
Who are some modern flute soloists with successful careers?
Nearly every orchestra engages their own principal flute to play concerti and solo pieces. Almost never is an outside flute soloist engaged for anything.
What’s overlooked is that there are so few wind jobs available and the talent pool so deep that the orchestral wind players are the cream of the top. The BP violin section alone has more players than the entire flute sections in the top 9 or 10 orchestras.
This is very true
Because there ain’t enough good flute concertos in the repertoire. Duhh.
Mozart No. 2 was originally for oboe and “suffers” as an arrangement both tessitura and range. So that leaves Mozart No. 1, along with Ibert (double winds and some brass in the orchestra) and Rouse (larger orchestral forces) in modern times.
James Galway still casts a long shadow in terms of audience reception of flute concertos. Many not ready yet for next round.
There is Nielsen, you know….
We do, but you can’t make a career of the Nielsen.
Quite. Sorry not to have mentioned it.
So, you never heard of K. 299, the concerto for flute and harp? Or Panufnik’s Sinfonia Concertante?
Yes. Of course I have.
Galway and Nielsen mentioned in different comments. I saw him give a splendid performance of the Nielsen, but instead of allowing the audience to digest this splendid performance of a wonderful concerto over the interval, he came back on stage and destroyed the digestive process by playing an Irish jig as an encore. I’ve avoided his performances ever since.
What a pattern. A few years back there was another principle flute who also walked away from the Berlin Philharmonic. He was quite independent in his thinking and even wore Def Leppard T-shirts to rehearsals. There was also the principle flute incident in Baltimore last year.
Is a principle flute one who has principles beyond his role as a principal section leader???
Who was that “other principal flute” at the BPO who walked away? Pahud has been in the orchestra since the early Abbado years (with a little break) and the principal flute Dufour replaced was Andreas Blau who joined at the age of 18 and stayed there until retirement.
If Dufour wasn’t happy about the Covid regulations, I guess we can assume he was among the 4 percent of members of the BPO not vaccinated. Say what you will about their rules but they haven’t had a positive Covid test among their members and were one of the few orchestras who played through all this time, even if it was just for streaming.
Very good points. These are times which are un charted and we can not understand the situation of another.
What’s a principle flute?
Obviously, both highly principled players…
I have great respect for anyone wearing Def Leppard t-shirts to rehearsal.
On a potentially more threatening note I had never considered the dangers of being too close to a flautist in full flow and am not sure that I would volunteer for the position. I would be most interested to see some lab tests of whether flutes are indeed viral projectile launchers and what their range might be, but I suspect those qualified to run such a test might have better things to do.
Not difficult to erect some kind of acrylic or perspex barrier between flautist and neighbour though, but not much of an issue if the flautist has all the necessary jabs and daily testing as would be prudent.
We are mostly crazy, to some extent.
That principal player that walked away from Berlin was Pahud, who returned the next year, and in the year that he took off, his chair was filled quite well by Jacques Zoon.
Are you talking about James Galway?
It must be a matter of principal.
That crazy lady in Baltimore has nothing in common with these players, except for playing the same instrument. That’s not a pattern.
James Galway walked away from the Berlin Phil in the mid 1970s., but I don’t suppose he wore Def Leppard T-shirts. As for the Baltimore SO flute, didn’t she get sacked, rather than leaving of her own accord?
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Galway wore DL teeshirts. He wasn’t quite the flute’s answer to Nigel Kennedy in those days but not far from it!
My guess is that it was not a good idea for the fellow to wear the T-shirt when Raymond Leppard was conducting.
I’ve never played the flute but I just applied. Who knows, with a dash of luck.
COVID protocols something to quit over? Well, he knows what he’s doing. He’s an extraordinary flutist but there are a lot of great flutists out there, so they’ll eventually find a good replacement.
Dufour is an exceptionally fine player. One can’t appreciate one principal player from another until one hears an exceptional one.
I never really understood why he left Chicago, he had gotten to a place where his contract, one infers, not only gave him the right to play a concerto every year (he was playing more concertos than the concert master!), but even to open the season with a flute concerto (unheard of!). There was a lot Berlin could offer him, but there was no way Berlin was going to offer him what Chicago offered him. (Not to mention salary: so way a European state orchestra could afford what a private American orchestra can offer in salary.)
Best of luck to him. He really is a fine player.
“There was no way Berlin was going to offer him what Chicago offered him”.
Except a far superior orchestra and the opportunity to work with the best conductors in the world and record for the top labels on a regular basis.
Musicians tend to care about that.
Berlin is not superior to Chicago in any way. Nor is any other European orchestra.
I suspect you have not listened to Chicago recently. Don’t think Solti Chicago, or even Barenboim. These days, they sound like a carillon in the second hald of its charge time.
I suspect you are the one who hasn’t listened to the CSO recently. Too enthralled by carillons?
Dufour suffered a lot in his early CSO days because of the cruel old timers in the woodwind section who were simply set on having things their way. They really didn’t appreciate Dufour very much at all…proof that they were all deaf. Unfortunately, Dufour’s perfectionism is a double-edged sword. Only the mediocre do quite well in Chicago these days.
Hardly anybody has a solo flutist career – only a handful at any given time. The repertory is not ample and all first desk flutists can handle it.
That is so not true. In France alone, there was Rampal, Larrieu, Debost and others. Prior to that, Moyse, LeRoy, Kincaid, Baker, etc.
Baker and Kincaid were orchestral players and teachers primarily, with a little solo work on the side. Other than Rampal, the others were primarily teachers.
Adam Walker is having a shot at it having left the LSO for non-musical reasons
Let’s be serious, Chicago is no longer world-class, no matter how one looks at it. It has slipped into Tier 3. The Italian Stallion has sucked all the blood out of the orchestra which is now the despondent, mummified shadow of its former self. No wonder they have not recorded anything of significance in a long time, Muti has been scared of recording in Chicago since the beginning.
Dufour had the foresight to see Chicago’s decadence and leave the place. Hard to imagine one can do better than BP, curious as to where he will go.
That’s just moronic; there are many excellent orchestras, but the CSO is still one of the greatest in the world, even if you don’t like the Muti tenure.
He certainly did his worst to the Philadelphia Orchestra, which has never fully recovered. If you want to hear the Philadelphia Sound, you have to listen to the orchestra of the Curtis Institute of Music.
sick of your (at-best) tier 3 commentary lmao
Let the truth be told!
I pity ignorance. You are ignorant. Take off the blinders when it comes to Muti and actually attend a concert. DO you even know where they perform???
The Rise of the Young Flautist
Soundtrack by John Williams
Berlin! What a “modern sewer”, with the crazy people living there.
Good for him, to get away from those goody-goody-two-shoes wimps, who live in utter conformance and don’t have any own opinions, but bow down to dogma; and push guilt on anybody who does not also loudly conform.
What is “M, F, D, X”? Might this, in part, explain this musician’s antipathy/departure? I’ve grown increasingly tired of the BPO and its virtue signalling, having ceased my subscription to the DCH as a result. I don’t have to pay for that!!!
Appreciate your regular virtue signaling on SD–saves me a trip to Berlin.
Not sure where you’ve been for, well, many years now, but a general statement of equality in hiring practices is standard boilerplate in job postings for any halfway reputable organization. Knowing that, I guess you’ll also now have to quit your banks, your insurers, your medical providers, your grocers, your utility services, your television and newspaper subscriptions, and probably everything else too.
“M/F/D(/X)” = German legal requirement for any job advertisement a.k.a. Germany arrived in the 21st century, in difference to you apparently.
By the way, I hope you never listen to any Austrian orchestra ever again either – because it’s not only the law in Germany but in Austria as well that any job advertisement must include the third gender.
Huh. I thought you were paying for the music.
A great player- we miss him in Chicago.
We miss him in Chicago.
Did the colleague say if the dissatisfaction is with the Covid precautions being too strict or too lax?
Just take a job and stick with it. Who honestly wants to hear solo flute?
‘Dissatisfaction with Covid precautions’ – what does that mean? Are they too strict or not strict enough?
Three different world class orchestras in 20 plus years? Sure he’s great. But maybe it’s not the situations in each orchestra but maybe it’s him. Ego? Not enough deference? Wrong field? Maybe he should focus on being a soloist and not part of an ensemble which seems to be a challenge for him.
Not an ego. Nobody mentioned Covid-19’s protocol. Nobody. I do understand him very much l play in an orchestra for 32 years. There’s no ego after such a long time. But there’s character. Personality. I do think that he won’t play in an orchestra anymore. I know that the orchestra job is the best payed job but if you are that good there is a freedom also
And I just found Albrecht Mayer’s bio missing on BPO webpage of musicians. Any news about that?
Mayer appears on the German language page. No idea why the English and German pages differ.
or in English:
so, no “news about that”
Thanks. It’s back now. Maybe they were updating the info the time when I was checking.
He played last night. He is also still listed in the German version of the website. They’ve had issues like that before – I think it was Guillaume Jehl who went missing on their website for a couple of days as well last year.
Missing Albrecht Mayer’s bio? See: https://www.berliner-philharmoniker.de/orchester/musiker/albrecht-mayer/
He played the New Years Eve concert yesterday, so I assume nothing is amiss.
I think you followed a stale link from the wikipedia page, perhaps.
still works, and he is still listed in the oboe section.
Very strange! He does appear to be missing from the English list of musicians, though he is still there on the German list. Seems odd!
Now his bio is back. Thank God!
When Berlin Phil replace their old website in 2016-2017 – it has lot’s of problems in the musicians roster. Many times I’ve spotted e.g. viola player in double bass section and musician X listed in German side but not in English side.
I would say that remember always check both language sides
I have been a professional musician my whole life and have always believe all that air did something to your brain
Is this a video still? I’d love to hear the duet. . .
Berlin, Chicago and LA are all better off without his diva antics.
He may be an exceptional musician but his dissing of the LA Phil was cruel.
No me sorprende en absoluto. Ya había abandonado Chicago y Los Ángeles.
Not surprised at all. He had already dropped out from Chicago and LA.
Nice photo! It looks as though the shepherd is singing along with him.
This makes me sad because Dufour was an absolutely stellar star in their woodwind section. It can hear e.g. in performances of “Pelleas & Melisande” and “Symphonie Classique”.
But I know who can might be a perfect successor for him: Ms. Silvia Careddu. Principal in Berlin Phil would be more than perfect job for her