Exclusive: Berlin Philharmonic appoints principal flute

Exclusive: Berlin Philharmonic appoints principal flute

News

norman lebrecht

May 27, 2022

The audition for principal flute of the Berlin Philharmonic was won today by the Swiss artist Sebastian Jacot, presently solo flute with the Leipzig Gewandhaus.

Jacot, 34, has already been offered principal flute in the San Francisco Symphony but will presumably take Berlin as the most prestigious and challenging post.

Jacot succeeds Mathieu Dufour, who left the orchestra suddenly last December ‘for personal reasons’.

Comments

  • PaulD says:

    He’s Swiss, as is his predecessor and his co-principal Emmanuel Pahud. Is there something about Swiss flute players?

    • Axl says:

      I don’t know what is their secret, but there’s Aurele Nicolet, Peter-Lukas Graf, Dieter Flury (former Vienna Phil principal) and Pahud as great representatives of Swiss wind playing quality. And it’s close / well related to world famous French woodwind school which is best in my opinion!

      • M. Fitzgerald says:

        …perhaps the Swiss school of flute playing is so fine because in many ways it combines the best of the world’s schools of flute playing…

    • Gustavo says:

      Like with Swiss cheese it’s the holes that matter.

    • M2N2K says:

      His predecessor? Not really: Mathieu Dufour is French – not Swiss.

  • Axl says:

    Not surprice at all! He has called “The rock star of flute” and he was actually finalist in 2014 when Dufour got the job! Fun fact that his new spot is Andreas Blau’s former chair and like Blau – Jacot also prefer wooden flute (which he learn by his former techer Jacques Zoon).
    Anyways congrats to him but still… my two favorites to that post would be Silvia Careddu and Pahud’s former pupil (from his sabbatical time) Clara Andrada de la Calle.

  • chet says:

    “already been offered principal flute in the San Francisco Symphony but will presumably take Berlin”

    And that’s why orchestras should make “exploding offers”: sign in 24 hours or sayonara

    • Richard says:

      After you win the audition, most symphonies will ask you to sign immediately. If you do not sign that day, it goes to the next person who qualifies. They don’t wait, and they don’t mess, for the most part.
      I have only had one concertmaster job where I was given a week to ponder my decision.

  • TuttiFlutie says:

    Looks like a little competitive bidding from SF for a 1st class candidate was just what Berlin needed to make the decision!

    https://slippedisc.com/2022/04/san-francisco-swoops-for-leipzigs-principal-flute/

    • Tamino says:

      That’s not how it works in Berlin. In Berlin you play and the whole orchestra votes. Astonishing though, that they accepted his preference for the wooden flute, since Berlin is a very loud orchestra, quite literally.

      • TuttiFlutie says:

        Not astonishing at all. His predecessor in this position, Andreas Blau, played a wooden flute. Michael Hasel, in the section, plays a wooden flute. Just look at his official Berlin Phil photo – he’s holding it!

        If the votes come from the orchestra, this makes sense. My experience is that other woodwind players often appreciate a wooden flute because it blends so easily with the other winds. A wooden flute is more similar to an oboe or clarinet or bassoon than a metal flute.

        Modern wood flutemakers are now making flutes & head joints which can match, or at least come close to the volume & projection of precious metal flutes. Obviously, it’s a priority if they want to stay in business.

        And like most flutists, Jacot also has a fine precious metal flute he plays regularly. The wooden flute is not his only flute. As I recall, he used his prize money from winning the Nielsen Competition to buy a custom gold flute by French flutemaker Michel Parmenon.

        • Tamino says:

          Yes, you are right. Even though Andreas Blau didn’t win his position back in the day with a wooden flute. And it’s reasonable to assume, back then he wouldn’t have had a chance with the wooden flute. He only started to use it a few years before his retirement. After Karajan.
          Even after Abbado IIRC.

          Yes a wooden flute is a better match usually with the rest of the woodwinds. But also challenged against a 16 chairs 1st violin section of today’s top violins and players.

          • TuttiFlutie says:

            Yes, if there are criticisms of a wooden flute, they invariably come from string players. But in the music where a wooden flute is most effective – Mozart, Haydn, etc. – they are not going to be using 16 first violinists. Or a full complement of strings in any section. The projection is fine.

            As a note, Concertgebouw’s legendary Jacques Zoon used a wooden flute in all styles of music. He is a powerful player & he had no trouble projecting across any size of string section.

          • Sar Peladan says:

            Not true, he may have had volume, but 50% of the color is lost. Wood flutes only belong in the piccolo section.

          • Tamino says:

            …or together with gut strings.

      • Sar Peladan says:

        Having heard Zoon in the BSO, a wood flute is completely inappropriate nowadays.

        • TuttiFlutie says:

          Funny, I was specifically thinking of several BSO concerts I heard with Zoon when I made that comment.

          The first was Bartok Concerto for Orch. It was historically incorrect, but Zoon owned it. It was splendid. I also recall his excellent Brahms 4 with BSO.

          Zoon, unlike other flutists, never switches off to a metal flute. Always wood. It works now & it worked in Boston. There’s a reason BSO chose him & didn’t want him to leave.

          As to your comment on color, the beauty of a wood flute is its color. The thing is, you have to listen carefully. It’s a more subtle range of colors. Seasoned players & careful listeners can hear it.

  • Just A Flutist says:

    Not surprised, I first heard him when he won the Nielsen in 2014 and noted just how exceptional a player he was and at the time the thought crossed my mind that he should be a top candidate to replace the retiring Andreas Blau, and while he was a finalist, Dufour won the job. After 7 more years of seasoning, this must have been a shoe-in.

    On a side note though, while I know some people just love the wooden flutes and they’ve had a bit of a resurgence among top orchestra players here and there, I am personally not a fan of the color. Nothing wrong with it, just a matter of taste, and preferred Blau’s classic tone on his silver flute before he switched over to a wood one for the last five years or so of his career.

  • julie olbert says:

    still no woman has served as principal flute…

    • Anon says:

      Right. Which is why the 2 female flutists mentioned by a reader here earlier, both with strong personalities, would be a stretch despite being fine players. Shades of Sabine Meyer.

  • MacroV says:

    It doesn’t strike me as the obvious choice to take the Berlin Phil over SFO. I love the Berlin Phil, watch them on the DCH and everything, but SFO is a great orchestra with one of the most creative and innovative music directors, and San Francisco a great and fascinating city. I could see upsides either way. SFSO probably pays better, though the city is a lot more expensive.

    • Tamino says:

      There is a lot that speaks against living in the US these days, despite the higher orchestra salaries. If you have the choice.

  • Anthony Kershaw says:

    Interesting. Congratulations. I’ve spotted this wonderful player in the Berlin Phil subbing recently, and after noticing his playing at the 2014 Nielsen, where he was by far the most interesting and musical player against some stiff competition, am not surprised.

    You quoted a few weeks ago that he was offered the San Francisco job. It surprised me as I thought he’d walk into the Berlin job. I guess it was just timing.

    Also, the fabulous Matthieu Dufour left Berlin, was removed from the website, then reinstated on the site a couple of months ago. Merry go round.

    In any case, the Gewandhaus’ loss, is Berlin’s gain.

  • John Lovatt says:

    I thought Emanuel Pahud was the last incumbent of this post.

    • Gerry McDonald says:

      It’s a co / joint principal job, Pahud is still there!

    • TuttiFlutie says:

      Berlin has 2 Principal Flutes. Mr. Pahud is one of the 2.

    • A Pianist says:

      They’re possibly co-principals? It would have been big news if Pahud left.

      • Djeedoo says:

        No, in germany all the big orchestras have double solo players, they are both equal and never have to play together. That means 100% salary, 50% playing. A bit of a compensation to the higher salary in the US.

  • msc says:

    When did Pahud leave? His web site still seems to refer to him as a member.

  • M2N2K says:

    To “John Lovatt” and “msc”: why “was” or “leave”? Look at Berlin Phil roster – that orchestra has at least two principals in almost every section.

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    Let’s face it.

    Pahud doesn’t want a co-principal. He wants an assistant so he can go around and play solos while getting a BPO check to boot.

    Mathieu probably got sick of being a glorified assistant after being principal in Chicago. Cant blame him.

    • MacroV says:

      That’s not how the Berlin Phil works. Every section has two principals, equal in status, though sometimes one is more visible than the others (as a clarinetist I know well Karl Leister (principal 1958-93), but have no idea who the other principals were during his tenure). And three First Concertmasters.

      They alternate weeks (I assume by mutual agreement), leaving them time for other engagements (solo, chamber, teaching, etc.).

    • aleph says:

      I did notice that Pahud had all the glam concerts while Dufour had all the, well, non-glam concerts. I was wondering if it was a matter of seniority, or chance, or hazing….

    • music lover says:

      Dufour was off quite often too.The Berlin Phil principals have a lot of freedom to pursue other gigs.You can spot guest principals,often very well known ones from other orchestras,quite frequently.In this weeks (fabulous)concert under Paavo Järvi,they had guest principal bassoon,trumpet,and trombone.

      • Tamino says:

        It might have gotten a bit out of hand. Why should the Berlin tax payer fund even external extras covering for the contracted soloists? Or do the principals have to pay the extras out of their own salary, if they want to do gigs outside instead of their contracted job?

      • Adrian says:

        …. and horn.

      • Adrian says:

        … and horn.

  • Georg Becker says:

    Quad erat expectandum!

  • Georg Becker says:

    Quod..

  • Althea T-H says:

    This article ought to make it clear that there are two principal woodwind chairs for each instrument.

  • MacroV says:

    Interesting thing about orchestral pecking order here:

    Even though some folks (including people on this site) keep saying the Berlin Phil or overrated and not even the best orchestra in Germany:

    Nobody seemed to bat an eye that he would leave the Gewandhaus for San Francisco.

    Same people would be shocked if he would turn down Berlin for San Francisco.

    Ergo, pecking order:

    – Berlin
    – San Francisco
    – Gewandhaus

    • Tamino says:

      AFAIK he never said he actually wanted to leave Gewandhaus for SF. So no, your pecking order doesn’t make sense as far as SF is concerned.

  • TuttiFlutie says:

    I am curious if there was an actual audition for this position. Anyone know?

    I see that Berlin has had quite a parade of outstanding guest principal flutists, presumably on trial, but is that what constitutes the audition? Did they ever open it up to all applicants?

    It’s interesting to note that everyone being considered for this position – those being trialed & Jacot himself – are all pretty closely tied to Mr. Pahud. At least one ex student, French speaking colleagues and ultimately a fellow Swiss. No German flutists that I could see in the running.

    It makes me wonder if Mr. Pahud was choosing the candidates to be trialed, or if the orchestra weighed his wishes or style of playing as a priority in their decisions. Maybe that’s an important factor when choosing a coprincipal in such a top level orchestra.

  • Rosario says:

    Together with Jacot, they announced a couple of other new additions to the orchestra: Bertold Stecher as 2nd trumpet (formerly solo trumpet of Deutsche Oper), Tobias Reifland as tutti viola (formerly solo viola of the Bayerische Rundfunk) and Vincent Vogel as timpanist (formerly Staatskapelle Halle and Karajan-Akademie).

  • Sar Peladan says:

    Who would want to live in Berlin instead of San Francisco?

    • TuttiFlutie says:

      Maybe for the same reason many people like wood flutes. Personal choice. You have your opinion, the rest of the world is entitled to theirs.

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