Moyse - 24 Little Melodic Studies

Some introductory comments from Mark Xiao (Australia):

"These simple 'exercises' are beautifully written and deceptively difficult and I can imagine spending the rest of my life trying to master them, so I'll probably have to record them all again in 10 years! I will also attempt to record each one on a different flute, from beginner flutes all the way up to the Custom Handmades. I think this will make for an interesting comparison, not to mention give my embouchure an added workout!

I asked my former teacher, Trevor Wye to write about his experiences learning these studies from Marcel Moyse himself and he was kind enough to oblige. I'm certain you will find his introduction below interesting to read and also be sure to look out for his instructions on each individual Study, how to tackle them and his tempo suggestions."


From Trevor Wye:

"The Twenty Four studies are well known for their usefulness by many teachers. When we come across a musical problem, it is so easy to use one of these (or the Twenty Five) to correct a problem. Teachers know that the young player tries to fix musical problems (if they are even aware of them) by practicing the repertoire, a mistake. These studies help lay the foundations of musical discipline, the principal ingredient of solo playing, chamber music and orchestral playing.

On my first visit to the legendary Marcel Moyse master classes in Boswil, Switzerland in 1965, I listened for several days to players performing repertoire pieces. One afternoon, Moyse said, ‘Nobody is playing studies, only pieces’. After a long silence, he pointed to me and said ‘My Twenty- Four studies. You! Tonight!’

At the evening class I began with No.2 imagining that a few studies would be enough. After the lesson on it, he said ‘Next!’. This continued until, after more than one and a half hours, I arrived at number 24. When I had finished it, he said, ‘Now the difficult one!’ We finished with No.1.

In the 1920’s Moyse often deputised for Philippe Gaubert at the Paris Conservatoire, who was occupied in composing and conducting as well as performing on the flute. Moyse found that the students often failed to understand the fundamentals of music making and phrasing:- The dominance of the first beat of the bar; the meaning of the slur; the proper way to play syncopation; clarity of articulation; the meaning of the appoggiatura; how to phrase...etc. He wrote these small studies to illustrate these points and to help the students to overcome any difficulties. They were not written for beginners but for Conservatoire students!

I have used these studies constantly since about 1961 in my teaching and have never tired of them. I have used them both for young players and Music College students. After playing them, I often heard him teach them at other classes.

Below, I have bracketed the letters, CPE, after some comments. They refer to the teaching of CPE Bach, set out in his book ‘The True Art of Playing Keyboard Instrument’. CPE Bach was said by Mozart to be the ‘The greatest teacher we have ever had. Anyone who doesn’t believe that is a ****! (Mozart was rather prone to bad language in his letters!) Let’s be clear: Moyse was, as far as I know, unaware of CPE’s book but taught his principles, seemingly by instinct. They are simply common musical sense. They were also the basics of the teaching of Moye’s teacher, the great Paul Taffanel.

When you have practised these studies, you may realise they are ‘…music making in the natural way…’ Most of the 16 bar studies follow the common melodic construction pattern of 2 bars, 2 bars and 4 bars repeated. To help you, I have added a metronome mark in square brackets for guidance which sometimes seems at variance with the instructions, but not with the atmosphere!"

Moyse - 24 Little Melodic Studies: No. 1

(Recorded by Mark Xiao, Australia, November 2020)

"No. 1: A deceptively difficult study written for phrasing, intonation and to communicate to the listener the simplicity of this lovely tune. The first bar makes a crescendo only to piano. ‘A slur is a diminuendo. It is always a diminuendo…except sometimes!’ The second bar is an appoggiatura with a diminuendo to the second note. Notice the piano chord underneath. (CPE). In the 6th bar, there is no diminuendo as the phrase goes on.

Var. 1. A slur with dots below is equivalent to a series of upbows on the violin and often used in French flute music to encourage spaces between notes but also continuity of the phrase. [66]"

(Trevor Wye)

Moyse - 24 Little Melodic Studies: No. 2

(Recorded by Tomomi Matsuo , Australia, April 2021)

"No. 2 - The lips hardly move for the first two notes resulting in a smoothness of tone: in the second bar, it should sound the same. [69] The third bar is harder. Don’t anticipate the octave.

Variation - refer to Study No. 1 [69]"

(Trevor Wye)

Moyse - 24 Little Melodic Studies: No. 3

(Recorded by Tomomi Matsuo , Australia, April 2021)

"No. 3 - In three-four time, if the second note is longer than the first, the first is played even shorter, even when there is no staccato. It does make sense and sounds better that way, but the second note then sounds accented (CPE). That makes for a problem in establishing the correct ¾ rhythm so care must be taken (CPE).

Var. 1 - A slur means a diminuendo (CPE).

Var. 2 - The 1st and 2nd beats need emphasising to show the tune - but not the third. [88]"

(Trevor Wye)

Moyse - 24 Little Melodic Studies: No. 4

(Recorded by Tomomi Matsuo , Australia, April 2021)

Study No. 4, like many in this book, is deceptively tricky. A very simple but beautiful melody, held together by dotted slurs - one can often play each note either too long, losing the feeling of separation, or too short and risk losing the sense of phrasing. When you find the right balance though, a whole new way of expression is made possible!

"No. 4 - The slur and dots again, exercising your ability at keeping a continuity of the melodic line without too many silences.

Variation - The second note to be played softer than the first. A slur is a diminuendo (CPE). [60]"

(Trevor Wye)

Moyse - 24 Little Melodic Studies: No. 5

(Recorded by Tomomi Matsuo , Australia, May 2021)

Make sure to stick around afterwards for the Outtakes!

"No. 5 - A light and happy staccato study! Be sure that the relationship is rhythmically correct between the first and second notes and that the groups do not become a dotted quaver followed by a semi quaver. Once again, phrase clearly despite the staccato notes. [100]"

(Trevor Wye)

Moyse - 24 Little Melodic Studies: No. 6

(Recorded by Tomomi Matsuo , Australia, May 2021)

A simple melody, with infinite potential to push one's expressive capabilities during soft playing, Study No. 6, like so many in this book, prove that Moyse was capable of not just writing countless invaluable exercises, but also some absolutely gorgeous melodies. I always loved that brief moment of hope and bitter sweetness during the Bb Major bars, before returning to mournfulness and despair.

"No. 6 [60] - An opportunity to show changes of tone colour between the first phrase (G minor) and the second (Bb major). The second bar is an appoggiatura, as is the eighth bar. An appoggiatura signifies stress on the first and a diminuendo to the second note. (CPE)"

(Trevor Wye)

Moyse - 24 Little Melodic Studies: No. 7

(Recorded by Tomomi Matsuo , Australia, June 2021)

"No. 7 [80] - A happy tune. Very little phrasing marks and the usual 2 bars, 2 bars and 4 bars. Don't forget to develop such a simple phrase and try to do something different the second time around!

1st Variation [69] - Dotted notes: these are usually better slightly over dotted rather than under (CPE). The line over the note indicates a light accent, but tenuto, common in the music of Taffanel, Gaubert, Hue etc. Avoid triplets. The first is long, the next two staccato.

2nd Variation [69] - Staccato first note, with the emphasis on the second note. Take care with the rhythm."

(Trevor Wye)