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Performs On:

Boston Classic RH-9k Solid Gold Flute

Website:

marcgrauwels.be

Artist Bio

Marc Grauwels (Belgium)


"Grauwels uses a variety of tone colors that is a lesson in itself for flute players."
                                                                                     -Todd Gorman, American Record Guide


MARC GRAUWELS is undoubtedly one of the most sought-after flutists in the limelight today. His eclecticism as an international soloist has inspired some one hundred composers from all over the world to write especially for him. To name but a few: Ennio Moricone dedicated to him his "Cantate for Europe" while Astor Piazzolla did so with his "History of the Tango" in 1985. More recently, the Greek composer Yannis Markopoulos likewise dedicated his flute concerto to Marc Grauwels. This flute concerto served as the inauguration music for the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004.

Even before having finished his musical studies in his country he made his orchestral debute, aged only nineteen, with the Flemish Opera. He continued to study with, amongst others, James Galway and Jean-Pierre Rampal. In 1976 he joined the Monnaie Theatre in Brussels as piccolo solo (the Belgian National Opera House) which he left in 1978 to become first flute soloist in the Symphonic Orchestra of the Belgian radio and television. He stayed for ten years whilst being chosen for the same position in 1986 at the foundation of the famous "World Orchestra" directed by Carlo-Maria Giulini.

His career as a soloist soared in an impressive way from then on, which signaled his definitive departure from the orchestra in 1987. In the same period he taught for fifteen years at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels and today he holds the title of Professor at the Royal Conservatory of Mons.

In February 2001 following an Asian tour, the world management of Naxos in Hong Kong decided to confide to him a whole collection in their catalogue entitled "The Flute Collection". For the coming years this Marc Grauwels Collection will release thirty CDs. (Ten Naxos CDs are already available on the world market.)

Amply gifted with an enthusiastic character, he does not refrain from very diverse musical experiences and readily moves to and fro between e.g. Piazzolla and Mozart and between Bach and Ravi Shankar. And yet, this does not obscure his attention in keeping an equilibrium between seriousness and a vivid imagination in putting together his programmes. His latest world première recording devoted to works for flute and percussion is a good illustration of this stance.

Marc Grauwels participated in the recording of the sound track of the film Amadeus by Milos Forman,accompanied by Thomas Bloch and the Brussels Virtuosi Ensemble in the superb adagio for Glasharmonika, flute, oboe, viola and cello KV 617. He furthermore interpreted the youth sonatas, the quartets and the concerto for flute and harp of the integral works of Mozart offered in a single box containing 170 CDs. The case, the Golden Disk, is currently an unmatched commercial success with Brillant Classics for the 250th anniversary of Mozart (over 100,000 copies having been sold already).

With a minimum of a hundred concerts a year all round the world, more than 45,000 pages devoted to him on the Web and a discography listing more than 60 CDs as a soloist performer, Marc Grauwels has shown that the right artistic approach paves the way for a flutist's tremendous public success.  (Translation by Paul De Troyer)

Artist Interview

Marc Grauwels (Belgium)


We had the opportunity to ask Marc a few questions. Take a look at his thoughts on the recording process, preparing for an audition and/or competition as well as advice for upcoming flutists.

 

1. What is the most valuable lesson that the flute has taught you? 

First of all, modesty as well as trying to reach excellence while finding great pleasure in your work.  Especially considering that there are very few professions allowing you to express your own feelings.  Being an artist and playing the flute provides a state of mind makes where you are never bored...  playing on the stage or even at home is always a great pleasure!  In addition, playing the flute involves breath support as you must develop the ability to have a very large volume of air available, which involves the body deeply and represents a very important 'physical' exercise - let us say, “an everyday sporty entertainment”.  To achieve this, one needs to have physical conditioning be a part of their 'philosophy' of life.  Breath control is so important that, when I am on holiday and play a little less than usual, I generally don’t feel as on top of my game, mentally speaking but physically too...   


2.  What musician has had the largest influence on your playing? 

It is difficult to mention only one name...  But instead I would like to separate musicians into two categories: flutists and non-flutists. 

Regarding the category of flutists: As am part of an older generation, there are two flutists who were my primary influences. Jean-Pierre Rampal was a significant influence because of his great simplicity, his marvelous pure sound without an excess of vibrato, his extreme classicism, his extraordinary breathing and his natural articulation.  After all this time, I personally feel that of all the recordings of baroque and classical period music released through IMC, the style of articulation Jean-Pierre Rampal used  remains the best of all. 
  
Another important influence is James Galway for the extraordinary brightness of his sound. The brilliance and the energy of his sound have been a top reference for me in addition to the qualities of Jean-Pierre Rampal.  

Regarding the non-flutist category, there were of course a very large number of conductors during the time when I was Solo Flute of the Belgian Radio Symphony Orchestra (early 1980).  The Belgian violinist, Arthur Grumiaux, also influenced me greatly with his releases of some fantastic recordings of Mozart. The main quality of his playing that inspires me in addition to his lightness of touch is his way of reducing the volume in the high notes and increasing the importance of the low notes, especially in Mozart.   
 
Finally, the musicians playing on baroque instruments have influenced me even though I play a modern instrument. It is important for me to play with not too much vibrato and with a very clear articulation.   
 

3.  What musical qualities do you think are most essential to achieving excellence?
 
There are a lot and my answer is a combination of them.  
Without a doubt and most importantly, trying to find a comfortable balance between technical perfection, accuracy of intonation and precision of sound, and the most extraordinary articulation.  Having achieved those qualities, it is very important that the musician tries also to find his own personal sound. It is important that when people listen to a work on the radio, or via a recording, they immediately know who is playing.  It is most difficult to combine the accuracy of sound, the way of playing with finesse, maintaining focus and having a great personality in your playing with a very unique timbre and sound! 
 
It is also important for an artist to demonstrate great kindness, communication and establish good relationships with other musicians when playing in ensembles and orchestras while also presenting charisma on stage.  A soloist is not only a musician but also a true manager who has to understand and utilize the best qualities of everybody in an ensemble, understanding their limits perfectly well, and be able to efficiently prepare the highest quality musical event in a short period of time.
  

4.  What's the most important thing to teach an upcoming flutist/student? 
 
The answer is a combination of everything I have said above... For sure, trying to reach excellence... and therefore work, work, work! Also to be able to objectively & constructively criticize themselves for the betterment of their playing.    


5. How do you go about choosing the repertoire for your recordings?
 

In my opinion, there are three options to choose from when making a new record. The first and best option is to record only one composer at a time.  The commercial life of the CD will be much longer, which is very important. Also, having a single composer is better for cataloguing/indexing purposes so that it is easier to find one’s recording when flutists are searching any database. Of course with this approach, it is necessary to select a composer who has written at least 60 minutes worth of repertoire, which is the standard recording time for CDs nowadays. Choosing a well known composer makes this possible and it is also interesting to provide the opportunity for flutists to compare various performances of the same pieces performed by different flutists.

The second option is to record repertoire that has never been recorded before. This can be very interesting as it offers new and exciting options. Financially speaking, both options are good to consider. Some upcoming flutists may be hesitant to record lesser known works, however, they may find this approach to be more successful and gain more attention in the long run. With this in mind, I made a recording featuring works by Joseph Jongen, a post romantic Belgian composer who wrote works for flute and harp, a wonderful flute sonata and more. This has proved to be a very successful recording for me.
 
The third option is to focus on a specific instrumentation. For example: flute and percussion, flute and harp, flute and voice, flute and guitar, flute and orchestra, etc. It’s best if you can choose a combination that is less common, but in this case it can be difficult to feature a single composer. In this case, you should choose repertoire from the same period and/or style to present a strong homogeneity. For example, I made a recording for Naxos featuring flute and percussion works, most of which were dedicated to me (Piazzolla and many others that are not as well known.) Consistency is important. It is generally not a good idea to make a recording of works from Bach to Shankar.
 
 
6. How long does the process take from choosing repertoire to the final step where the cd is ready for purchase ?  

It takes a long time! Usually the process is like this: throughout my musical career, there have been pieces that I have held special in my heart and have wanted to record. I then try to build repertoire around this piece, respecting the homogeneity that I previously mentioned. This often entails researching many different sources, libraries, etc. to find the data needed to build the program of the new CD.  This can take a great deal of time. Generally, I perform the program in concert first because this experience helps to bring the pieces to maturity. I do not recommend recording a piece without having performed it first or at least giving it time to blossom in the way you intend.

In summary, choosing the repertoire, performing the works in concert(s), necessary recording time, the editing of the recording takes, as well as the technical processing to produce the records, the texts and photographs for the inserts, etc. requires a lot of time. It may take anywhere from 1.5 to 2 years from the initial idea to the final product.   
 

7. How would you advise flutists to begin practicing for an orchestral audition and/or competition?  

Generally speaking, I find that most students and/or young artist play everything too fast. When studying a piece, flutists should always play calmly, peacefully, and never immediately in the final tempo, especially when working the most difficult parts of the piece. They should be played very slowly, and gradually gain tempo while working with a metronome.

I strongly recommend attending master classes as often as possible, organizing private and/or public concerts. Performing in front of an audience can have a very positive effect.
 
For orchestral auditions, it is necessary to work on at least one of the Mozart concertos. It is important to remember not only to play it technically correct as well as with enough expression and musicality.  The musician who is chosen will  naturally be the one who not only has a brilliant technique, but also has the most beautiful sonority with the ability to communicate emotion. Listen to the recordings of the most famous orchestras and pay close attention to the exposed flute parts.   
 

8. What does a typical day look like for you?  

For me there isn’t a typical day. I am on tour all over the world 7 months a year. The only thing that is typical for me is to do very different things. I play often as a soloist with orchestras, but also in different instrumental combinations: duos, trios, with chamber orchestra, etc. I do not thrive on routine, and I deeply need to live an active life with spontaneity. This is probably not a good example to reference, but I’ve always been like this. I have worked on a large variety of repertoire, and the older I get the more experience I have to put into everything I play, new and old. Each day then is very different, and for me, makes it very exciting!


9. How did you come to choose Miyazawa as your flute of choice?  

I had been very interested in Miyazawa and watched the evolution of their flutes for a number of years. When they began offering the Brögger System, I made the decision that Miyazawa was the best flute for me as this mechanism is exceptional. I had been aware of the Brögger System as I know the Brögger family very well. I went to school with Thomas Brögger, the son of Johan Brögger, at the music university in Belgium. The Brögger System on Miyazawa flutes includes an advanced thumb key design and is a significant improvement over the older Brögger Mekanik.

I was also impressed by the people of Miyazawa - they are open minded and constantly looking for ways to improve the quality and standards of flute-making.  They really listen to feedback and are very efficient!  The flute they made for me is really “sur mesure.”


10. If you had one piece of advice to give for an upcoming flutist, what would you tell them?  

My first job was at the age of 19 when I began playing with the Brussels Opera orchestra (La Monnaie). After 5 years, I became Solo Flutist at the Belgian National Radio and Television Orchestra, which I did for 10 years. At that time, I began my career as a soloist, which I have been doing now for 20 years. I have to admit that in the beginning, I was not really happy with my playing. I constantly tried to improve my playing and with this in mind, I found a lot of benefit from singing and yoga. This helped me to relax, and most importantly improved my breathing which in turn improved my sound quality. With this in mind, I highly recommend singing and yoga because one of the biggest differences between flutists is their personal sound. Many of my friends who listen to the radio can recognize my sound immediately without any hesitation.

I also suggest practicing exercises from Marcel Moyse’s last book called ‘Big Slurs.’ I worked a lot with this book, particularly numbers one and five. His book ‘Art et technique de la Sonorité" is also very valuable. When playing, remember to connect the notes to create fluid phrases. Try not to only sound like a flutist, but also an excellent string player.

Miyazawa’s Artist Profiles