With domestic music so much a part of everyday life, musical performance in Regency Britain served not merely to entertain but to convey the essence of taste in action. For men, perhaps above all social activities, flute-playing embodied taste and sensibility in the manner, tone, and expression of its executants.
Thomas Lindsay's Elements of Flute-Playing According to the Most Approved Principles of Modern Fingering (London, 1828-1830) provided the first synthetic treatment of the flute-playing technique of the 1820s. The method, by an otherwise obscure music-shop proprietor rather than by a famous performer, incorporates and quotes not only from earlier English works by Gunn (c1792) and Nicholson (1816, c1821), but also from influential French ones (including one published in London) by Berbiguier, Devienne, and Drouët. Lindsay’s instructions amplify and add perspective to those in tutors by (in order of publication) Gunn, Monzani, Beale, Keith, Nicholson, Kuffner, Alexander, Weiss, Bown, and Dressler, as well as amplifying commentary in periodicals and other publications with a detailed view of exactly how Nicholson’s contemporaries heard, evaluated, felt about, and imitated the highly distinctive styles vying for their attention. Lindsay's repertoire of exercises and examples. National Airs, arrangements, and original compositions by Lindsay himself, as well as by Berbiguier, Devienne, Drouët, Farrenc, Gabrielsky, Gebauer, Hugot and Wunderlich, Kuhlau, Mayseder, Mozart, Pasquali, Rossini, G.A. Schneider, Storace, and C.N. Weiss, are annotated with comments on tonality, accentuation, and “sensitive” intonation, as well as on particular applications of fingering and expression.
Richard M. Wilson's commentary on this facsimile edition examines the techniques most deeply implicated in contemporary English evaluations of “judgement and good taste”: articulation, including extensive coverage of accent and emphasis as well as the controversial double tongue; fingering, with special attention to “modern” techniques including harmonics and “sensitive”, or supersharpened, notes; facility in the most “pathetic” flat keys; and a “full, bold, and commanding Tone”. Ardal Powell's Introduction presents Lindsay’s tutor as revealing modes of hearing and of feeling musical expression that cannot be gleaned from other sources such as musical notation and commentary on performance. The essay discusses Lindsay’s acute awareness of the English flute world, the controversies over Charles Nicholson and the contrasting classical style of continental visitors, and the role of amateur flute-playing in the construction of British middle-class musical taste.
Ardal Powell holds an MA in English and a PhD in Music from the University of Cambridge, and a Certificaat in Baroque Flute Performance from the Royal Conservatory, The Hague, The Netherlands.
Richard M. Wilson:
Professor of Mathematics at Caltech
as well as a collector of, performer on, and authority on
historical European flutes.