4 Nov 2019

Q&A with Samuel Coles, the Philharmonia’s Principal Flute


4 Nov


Philippe Herreweghe is well-known as an expert in historically-informed performance. What are the main differences between modern flutes and those Beethoven and Schubert would have known?

The flute used at the time of Beethoven and Schubert was very different from the one I use today. The main difference being the flute was conical and made of wood as opposed to the modern flute, which is cylindrical and most frequently made of metal. The flutes of the early Romantic era have a much less powerful sound, making them impossible to play in a modern orchestra.


You performed under Herreweghe earlier this year. Does he ask the orchestra to change its sound to become more authentic for the period, and if so how?

My impression from our last collaboration with Herreweghe was that he was not trying to fundamentally change the sound of the orchestra. He was quite happy that the orchestra should use vibrato. He was more focused on phrasing and balancing the different sections of the orchestra.


Schubert’s Fifth is perhaps less well known compared to his Unfinished (Eighth) and Great (Ninth) symphonies. What makes it special?

Schubert’s Fifth Symphony in terms of its form and structure has its roots firmly in 18th-century style, perfected by Haydn and Mozart. The later symphonies run to almost twice the length. Schubert uses a lighter orchestration, not using clarinets, trumpets and timpani. The prominent flute part also contributes to the sunny nature of the symphony, and makes it such a pleasure to play.


What are you looking forward to most about this concert?

I am looking forward to the programme as it really is my favourite music to perform. With such a marvellous conductor at the helm, all the ingredients are there for a wonderful evening.


Philippe Herreweghe will be conducting a programme of Beethoven and Schubert in Leicester (Wednesday 20 November) and London (Thursday 21 November).