Moshe Aron Epstein (Germany)
"An impressive and virtuoso concert with Trio Gabriel. The musicians sounded as if they were melting with each other. Their delicious and immensely devoted performance tore the audience from their seats."
- Hamburger Abendblatt, 2005
"Moshe Aron Epstein gave a convincing performance of Mozart's D-Major concerto, showing virtuosity and stylistic purity. His interpretation of the slow movement was glorious, it shone with a most expressive legato."
- Westdeutsche Zeitung, 2001
"His encore was fabulous – a glazed Bach-Sarabande."
- Rheinische Post, 2001
"It left a deep impression thanks to the beauty of the instrumental solo part of Moshe Aron Epstein on flute and his elegant expressiveness."
- Die Rheinpfalz, 1999
"What Cesar Franck demanded from the violin, Moshe Aron Epstein amazingly produced on his flute. Epstein expressed the magnificent scent of the pastoral, which he carried on to Syrinx with a moving simplicity."
- Der Bund, Schweiz, 1994
"...Moshe Aron Epstein is not only an artist of the flute, but also is an enthusiastic and exciting conductor who produces a brilliant and warm sound from the orchestra along with vitality and tenderness."
- Al Hamishmar, Israel, 1994
Moshe Aron Epstein shares his solo and chamber music career with his professorship of flute at the Hochschule (Academy) of Music and Theater in Hamburg, which he held from 1999-2011. As a soloist he has performed with major Israeli orchestras and several European orchestras such as the Berlin, Ljubljana, Frankfurt and Hamburg. He has been invited to play for many music festivals including the Bregenz and Hopfgarten in Austria, "Bach a Bartok" in Italy, Kfar-Blum in Israel, Festspiele in Berlin, Mozart Festspiele in Schwetzingen, Schloss-Kirche Concerts in Mannheim, the Mozart Festival of Skopje, Macedonia, as well as the festivals of the English, Slovenian, German and American Flute Societies and more. Master classes with Mr. Epstein are internationally sought after and he has taught worldwide. He has taught in the US, Japan, Germany, France, England, Finland, Slovenia, Moldavia, Italy, Hungary, Estonia, Macedonia and Israel.
Moshe Aron Epstein began playing the flute in 1960 at the age of 8. He studied flute with Dr. Uri Toeplitz at the Rubin Music Academy of Tel-Aviv. While there he also studied orchestral and choral conducting as well as music theory. He graduated in 1975 "magna cum laude," and his Artist Diploma followed a year later. During his years of study he was awarded scholarships from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation. After winning 1st prize at the Music Academy in Tel-Aviv's flute competition, Mr. Epstein studied in Switzerland with Marcel Moyse. Later on he was a guest of the Artist-Home Boswil with Aurèle Nicolet. Upon returning to Israel in 1981 he became principal flutist of the Israel Sinfonietta, where he frequently appeared as soloist in numerous subscription concerts and in the Israel Festival. He toured with the Israel Sinfonietta to Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain and France.
The same year Prof. Epstein joined the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance he also served as head of its Wind Department, chair of the Orchestra Instrument Department, and dean of the Faculty of Performing Arts. He also was music director and conductor of the Academy's chamber orchestra (1996-1999). Before his arrival in Hamburg Mr. Epstein conducted such orchestras as the Israel Chamber Orchestra, the Israel Sinfonietta, the Israel Kibbutzim Chamber Orchestra and the Tel-Aviv Symphony Orchestra.
In 2002 he established the Trio Gabriel with Bettina Pahn (Soprano) and Wolfgang Zerer (organ/harpsichord). "Sweet Silence," a CD of the trio containing arias and sonatas of the baroque period will appear in October 2006 by AMBITUS. From 1992 - 1995 he directed and narrated the Chamber Music Series at the Auditorium of the Ted and Lin Arison Israel Music Conservatory in Tel-Aviv. A CD with M.A. Epstein, containing pieces by J.S. and C.P.E. Bach appeared in 1991 in Germany. His practice book "Mind your Fingers" was published by Zimmermann Edition in 1999, and a version for the oboe was published in 2005.
Moshe released a CD featuring works written and arranged for flute and organ. This unique combination of flute and organ (Wolfgang Zerer, organist) creates a special acoustical ambience unlike any other. Works by Reinecke, Debussy, Dukas, Poulenc, Saint-Saëns, Franck, Alain, and Martin.
"The pieces recorded on this CD express romanticism and nostalgia, tragedy and hope. One flute and thousands of organ pipes join together to perform music, which, as I once learned from Marcel Moyse, expresses deep sadness and sorrow but always leaves some room for a glimmer of sunlight, of hope." - Moshe Aron Epstein
Please visit http://www.ambitus.de/ in order to purchase a CD. You may also purchase CD's through Flute World and The Carolyn Nussbaum Music Company.
Moshe Aron Epstein (Germany)
We had the opportunity to ask Moshe a few questions. Take a look at his thoughts on studying with Aurele Nicolet, what he emphasizes the most in his teaching, as well as advice for upcoming flutists.
1. What does a typical day look like for you?
The more years I play the clearer it appears to me, that what we flautists are simply doing is blowing air through the mouth and moving our fingers. It may sound like a little joke but I don’t really accept it as such: it is indeed what we do!
I think I do it most of the day, even in night time and during sleeping: my brain in continuously busy with playing. I do not often need my flute with me; I can practice it riding on a bus, in the line to the cashier of the supermarket and anywhere else. I endlessly play the flute…
All other parameters may change from day to day and they are all typical to me: packing, taxi, airport, flight, landing, taxi, hotel, unpacking, blowing/fingers – this is one typical day. Breakfast, blowing/fingers (rehearsal), lunch, blowing/fingers (concert), hotel is another.
There are even more variations, none is extremely interesting. Just this blowing/fingers thing is what matters, a real privilege, a fantastic content of my typical day.
2. What is the most valuable lesson the flute has taught you?
The most valuable lesson I learned from the flute is listening. Listening not just with the ears – listening with all senses – sight, smell, taste and touch, listening with the soul, listening through feeling myself and others, listening to the world, listening. Listening made me observe tone quality, intonation, dynamics, rhythm, style. It brought me to understand how others are playing and being able to imitate at least parts of their qualities. But moreover: listening in its widest meaning makes it all meaningful, worthwhile…
3. What musical qualities do you think are most essential to achieving excellence?
I like to distinguish between excellence and success (or career). There are a bunch of qualities needed for both: talent, good teachers, appropriate environment, a lot of hard work and more hard work.
On top of all these, success needs determination and much luck.
Excellence may end up with success but not necessarily. I’d say that it is possible to be successful without being excellent (happens frequently!) but one may be excellent without having success…
Excellence requires an inner need to always find more about yourself, the composer and his piece, a need for a continuous development and to purify the means of performance. It often demands to forget yourself and let the playing just stream through you. Excellence is achieved in the rare moments, when the triangle: player-composer-piece makes a new entity summing all three parts up. The result is very personal, even intimate, often mysterious.
4. Who were/are your biggest influences on your flute playing?
I was very lucky to have learned from and study with several great flautists and musicians. One of my first teachers was Ms. Yael Nathansohn, now Reindorf, in Israel. Yael played with the Jerusalem Symphony, then with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in Tel-Aviv, later as principal flautist of the Haifa Symphony. Yael herself had two teachers, both in Switzerland, with whom she had learned and enriched her inner music world: Aurèle Nicolet and Marcel Moyse. What names! I am speaking of the late 50s and early 60s of the previous century in Israel, and one needed to be quite a pioneer in order to study abroad at all, not mentioning with such prominent figures. When Yael returned to Israel, she brought the French-European flute school with her and contaminated me with this special flair, which I did not so well understood but could feel. I put that feeling deep into my fantasy and memory – it became a basis for some important developments in my flute playing.
When I was 14 Yael Reindorf left for Haifa and I changed to Israel’s “number one” flute teacher at that time – Uri (Erich) Toeplitz. Mr. Toeplitz (who dared call him “Uri” then…) was the principal flautist of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra almost since it was founded in 1936. And he was not only a fabulous flautist, he also was a great musician. I believe he would prefer me to accentuate him first being a musician, then flautist. He was a serious man with immense knowledge of music, from Baroque to the first half of the 20th century. He played the piano quite well and often accompanied his students when a piece became near to ready. Mr. Toeplitz influenced me so strongly that I keep considering him as “my teacher” in spite of all other teachers I had, all were fantastic (soon you’ll read about them…). Toeplitz taught me intonation, the beauty of the flute sound and the interpretation of the different styles; but more important: he taught me to respect the music and to humbly serve it. He really understood me with all my complexities and brought me to combine knowledge with expression. How often I was deeply touched and moved by musical moments with him!
In the summer of 1975 I took the move and went to Boswil in Switzerland in order to participate in one of the master classes given by Marcel Moyse. I have to explain, that a year before I was released from the army, in which I served in the medical corps. The last half a year of my service I spent with wounded soldiers and their families – the outcome of the 1973, Yom Kippur war. It was terrible for all Israelis, to me too; when I left my service I was indeed depressed. I could function, I completed all my duties, but happiness left me; a thick gray, bitter layer concurred my inside. The encounter with the great master, Marcel Moyse, changed my life and brought my happiness back to me. It was the idyll in Switzerland, the cool weather (Israel is hot in summer) that calmed me down; but it was the fantastic energy of Moyse, his endless love to the flute, its sound and expression that totally captured me. God, how happy I was during those three weeks with Moyse in Boswil! I played 3 times for him and listened to numerous lessons of others. The man was 86 years old (!) but still the youngest among us all! How he sang, shouted, moved, jumped and danced in front of us! And when it was a lady student to play for him – double as much! One day Moyse came with his flute and demonstrated how to play the first exercise of his “de la sonorite”- a moment I’ll never ever forget. The old man took his flute to his impossible shifted lips (terrible side embouchure) and produced sounds that penetrated all hearts and caused many to silently cry. There was a special spirit over the old church of Boswil, where it all took place in, a spirit of beauty matched with simplicity and true love to life and music. In his tone I found a solution to my inner conflicts: I met and heard a very old man, who never gave up. His tone expressed his life philosophy, according which, so was my interpretation, in every dark matter there is a corner full with hope, with a shimmer of sunshine, with a touch of love. And that corner is all a human being needs in order to survive! Moyse gave me my musical and general reason d’être!
When I learned with Aurèle Nicolet later – 1979-80 – I was already 27 years old. Nicolet listened to me and said (in free language): “listen, your sound is nice, you are very musical and you control your flute quite well. My duty with you is one: I wish to make you so stable and concentrated, that even under the hardest condition you will play very well!” And so it was. I needed to prepare etudes of 4 – 6 pages (Altes, de Lorenzo) – and even the slightest mistake near the end ended with a buzz coming out of Nicolet’s mouth; he then explained the buzz: “it’s not me, it is the tone engineer from downstairs; he says: ‘I’m sorry, we can’t cut here, you need to play it all from the beginning.’” His recommendation was to play a difficult, long piece three times after each other without the slightest mistake. If one does occurs even at the end of the 3rd time – again three times… It was quite a challenge for me being actually more emotional and full of fantasy in playing the flute. But totally essential! Day by day I am thankful for what I’ve learned from him; the stability I have while on stage and my self-confidence are based on his work with me.
And last but not least: back to my younger years as flautist. I was maybe 12 or 13 when I heard, over the radio, the suite in G major for cello solo by J. S. Bach. It was played by a cellist, whom I then did not know of, Gregor Piatigorsky. I could listen to the first movement only, the Praeludium. The music fascinated me, this unbelievable intelligence of Bach, his “talking music” combined with the sounds coming out of the cello played my Piatigorski struck me. Not far from the end of the Praeludium the music goes down to low register, with Bach you may say to the fundament of life, to earth, even to death. But then, after a moment of unclear thought, the music starts slowly but firmly to climb, step by step, tone by tone, until it comes to the high G, which repeats in several broken chords and concludes the movement. The sound of Piatigorsky and his cello – high cello register with right amount of vibrato – was so emotional, intensive, strong and beautiful. It discovered new worlds to me, opened new horizons. That was the moment when I knew, how I wanted my tone to sound like. You may say that I have learned my flute sound from a cellist! I like to play the praeludium as encore in my recitals and always hope to someday reach that wonderful, heart-moving sound of Gregor Piatigorski.
5. Performing many solo pieces with orchestra, what advice can you give to those with upcoming performances as far as nerves/performance anxiety are concerned?
Playing solo with an orchestra is probably the highest, most demanding moment in a player’s career. It is difficult enough to perform with piano or with a chamber music ensemble, but playing with an orchestra behind you is “the real thing”.
Several reasons for that: there are dozens of super-professional musicians siting there behind you, and if you are not terribly experienced, you tend to demonize them: “they all, one by one, know exactly what good playing is and are going to criticize me and discover all my weaknesses!”. And there is the conductor – will he be helpful? Will he accompany me? Follow my tempi? And there is the acoustical issue: hearing yourself in your own room playing alone, or in the classroom and even while playing with a piano, you hear your sound well and strongly. With an orchestra, usually in bigger halls, you may, at first, become panic, as if your sound is tiny, “nobody can hear you”! You might get stressed and try to push your sound louder than you actually wish (and need); very frustrating situation.
Rule number one: come to the rehearsal extremely well prepared, better than ever before! If you normally are 95% prepared for a rehearsal and concert with piano or chamber group, for a concerto you must be at least 120% prepared! Which means: when all is fine, all passages are known and you succeed to play the piece well at home or for your teacher, be alarmed: it is not enough. Work more on every detail, make every note and passage absolutely conscious and leave absolutely nothing for the chance!
Even if you find yourself on stage having some inferior feeling, keep strongly to your own performance! Stay “in yourself!” Don’t forget: you are the soloist and “they” expect you to show them a clear and self-conscious interpretation! There is a funny (or tragic?) equation happening while playing with an orchestra: if you feel weak and your sole cries for help (voicelessly), they might not stand on your side; but the moment they notice that you know what you do, they love and support you. That’s (stage) life!
Same rule for the acoustic issue: under usual-normal circumstances your sound is loud enough and will be well heard in the hall. Take someone you trust with you to tell you, what the balance between you and the orchestra is. At any case, don’t push your sound more than you normally do, it NEVER helps! It frustrates you and makes you tired. Stay within the borders of your sound and know, that you now play in a different acoustic environment and trust, that your playing is heard well. If the composer was good and wrote his piece well, and the conductor knows his job, all is fine!
And one other word: as with any piece you play, learn well the parts of the other instruments you play with, be it a piano, harpsichord, chamber-music group or an orchestra. The flute part, which you play, is only a humble part of the whole. When you know what the others are playing, you are much more relaxed. Learn as much as you can from the score and often listen to the piece played by others and yourself (recordings). Find time to sit comfortably at home and go over the entire piece in your imagination, even with closed eyes, several times. Make the music you are about to play a part of your inner world. Afterwards, when on stage, you can converse with the other musicians around you – conductor and players – not let them just passively accompany you. Not only does it elevate your self-confidence, it makes you happy and the whole performance a great experience!
6. What do you think is the most important thing for you to emphasize in your teaching and in your own playing?
Playing a musical instrument, the flute included, is a rare discipline that combines technique, spirit, body and soul. I have been teaching flute for almost 42 years (a frightening figure, isn’t it?!), from beginners through professionals. I spend endless time and effort on the physical side of playing: from posture to breathing, from intonation to finger technique, dynamics to sound quality and of course to shape, style, and musical phrasing etc. But above all I look for the special encounter between the player and the composer and the message to be delivered through musical means. I put an emphasis on the fact that we should serve the music - be like a vessel through which the great music is flowing. The better the technique, the more subtle it should become.
I’d say it takes about 15 years for one to learn how to play the flute. After that, one should learn how to (in a way) forget it and instead activate the huge knowledge through spiritual-emotional triggers and use it for the sake of music making. This is what is so important for me to emphasize while teaching. When I play, I hope to achieve that state of mind, which is not always so easy but most rewarding when it happens.
7. Can you give me any insights into your experience studying with Auréle Nicolet?
I came about studying with Auréle Nicolet in 1979 when I was 27 years old and already a so called “professional flutist.” I studied with him at his home in Oberwil, near Basel, Switzerland. I had received a scholarship from the “Artist Home Boswil,” the place where Marcel Moyse used to give his master classes, which I participated in the year of 1975.
Nicolet first listened to me play for a while and then told me in German with a slight Swiss-French accent, “I see you know how to make music pretty well and have learned quite a bit over the years. But you are not so young anymore. I’ll try to make you a solid flutist - one who can deliver a high level of respected playing even under the most difficult conditions.”
Nicolet then taught me what concentration really means: how I could work with my mind, my thoughts and focus so that the management of playing with all its levels and unlimited demands is efficient. That it is there, ALWAYS there, existing and present.
It was an unforgettable lesson for me. Over a period of seven or eight months I learned from him what can happen deep within myself when I put my whole being under the command of concentration. What happens when I, while playing, surrender the regular state of mind for the sake of a different level of functionality of a higher division of attention - essentially making my body do what my spirit commands.
Nicolet, who unfortunately is now very sick, was a great thinker who expressed his immense intelligence and profound philosophy through the flute.
8. How did you come to choose recording a CD with the unique combination of flute and organ?
I was born in Israel and lived there most of my life. There are very few organs in Israel and before the time I had spent in Switzerland, I had never heard of one in my life. This changed immediately upon arriving in the Artist Home in Boswil, as the organist in the nearby little town of Muri, Mr. Egon Schwarb, asked me to join him and play several Bach sonatas in services. We then played concerts in the magnificent Baroque church with an equally magnificent organ. I truly fell in love with this monstrous instrument (which is no more than several thousands of flutes…)
In Hamburg I met my colleague, Prof.Wolfgang Zerer, who also became one of my closest friends. Wolfgang is an organist with such a high level of musicianship, which is a continuous challenge for me. I am so lucky to have him as a collaborator in concerts for flute and organ when playing baroque as well as romantic music. Especially with music that was included on the last recording we produced entitled, ‘Romantique.’
The organ, if well registered, is a wonderful sound partner for the flute and opens completely new possibilities and dimensions for performances. There are a few (almost) original pieces for this combination, like Frank Martin’s ‘Sonata da Chiesa’ and Jehan Alains ‘Aria.’ However, there are so many adaptations and possible arrangements from harpsichord, piano and orchestra parts that can be very successful.
9. How did you come to choose Miyazawa as your flute of choice?
As it happens for all of us who have made the flute their profession, I’ve tried numerous different flutes of all makers and models. There are many good makers nowadays.
But the very first time I tried the Miyazawa heavy wall Platinum flute it hit me like a bolt of lightning! The sound was so rich in overtones, unlike any other flute I had ever played. It allowed for the brightest dynamic as well as the most extensive color palette I could ever dream of.
And it has remained this way ever since, more than 4 years ago!
10. If you had one piece of advice to give an upcoming flutist, what would you tell them?
The professional life of a flutist has become quite difficult in our present time. Getting a job is a nightmare. Please do not fall into the trap of devoting yourself so much to the efficiency of playing up to a level of becoming a wonderful human-machine.
Keep a good, healthy and true balance between the outer demands of the modern world and your own inner voice, soul and spirit. In a humorous way, with some Yiddish flavor it would be: In spite of the fact that you are, or want to become a flutist, be a MENSCH!