On This Day
27 January: Emmanuel Pahud Was Born

Swiss flautist Emmanuel Pahud has been hailed as the finest flautist of his generation, “admired for the purity and subtlety of his tonal colours, his imaginative phrasing and his command of a broad range of styles.” Pahud auditioned for principal flute of the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra, securing his appointment at the unbelievably young age of 22.

Emmanuel Pahud Performs Fauré’s Pavane

Early Travels

Emmanuel Pahud

Emmanuel Pahud

Emmanuel Pahud was born in Geneva, Switzerland, on 27 January 1970, but he spent his early years constantly on the move. Since his father worked for a U.S. company, the family moved house repeatedly. When he was only six weeks old, his parents moved to Baghdad for one year. Next, they moved to Paris, where his younger brother was born, and then onward to Madrid for two years.

In every single interview, Pahud is asked if all that moving around as a child subsequently influenced his life as a musician. As he explained, “I haven’t thought about it yet and basically don’t see a connection. Of course, childhood experiences shape you, and I came into contact with music early on through traveling with my family. However, perhaps I would have discovered music sooner or later. But this is how I came into contact with the flute at the age of 5 through our neighbours in Rome.”

Frank Martin: Ballade for Flute and Piano (Emmanuel Pahud, flute; Francesco Piemontesi, piano)


Emmanuel Pahud

When the family was temporarily settled in Rome, Emmanuel had his first flute encounter. The son of the Swiss-French Binet family lived next door and he practices Mozart’s first Flute Concerto. Pahud was only four, and he recalled, “I could hear the flute, the violin, the cello, the piano. I don’t know why I chose the flute but maybe it was because the eldest son was playing it, so he was the one playing at the best level at that time—or because the father was also a flute player, so there was a kind of authority there.”

Pahud was adamant that he wanted to play the flute, and particularly the Mozart concerto his neighbour was practicing. That Christmas, he received his first flute, and he began lessons with Philippe, the boy next door, and with his father, François. Philippe was only 15 years old but François had been a flautist who studied in Zurich and Paris but stopped performing in later years.

Francis Poulenc: Flute Sonata, FB 164 (arr. M. Berkeley for flute and orchestra) (Emmanuel Pahud, flute; Orchestre de Chambre de Paris; François Leleux, cond.)


Emmanuel Pahud

The family was soon again on the move, and when Emmanuel turned eight in 1978, they moved to Brussels, Belgium. He studied with Michel Moinil from 1979-1985, and he became more determined and focused on playing at a higher level. As such, he studied with Carlos Bruneel, the principal flautist of the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie opera house in Brussels.

He won his first competition, “Le concours National de Belgique” in 1985 and first performed with the National Orchestra of Belgium. On the programme was the piece that inspired him 11 years earlier, the Mozart Concerto K. 313. He received additional lessons from some of Europe’s finest players, including Peter-Lukas Graf in Basel, and he decided to move to Paris to finish his schooling.

Emmanuel Pahud Performs Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 1, K. 313


Emmanuel Pahud

While studying at the Conservatoire de Paris, Pahud continued to take lessons with Michel Debost, Alain Marion, Pierre Artaud, and Christian Larde. And he quickly won second Prize at the International Scheveningen Music Competition, which led to an appointment of principal flautist in the Basel Radio Symphony.

His meteoric rise continued with an appointment as the principal flautist at the Munich Philharmonic under Sergiu Celibidache. After graduating with the Premier Prix, Pahud continued advanced studies for the next two years with one of France’s greatest flautists, Swiss-born Aurèle Nicolet. He prepared him for a number of competitions and his audition with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Pahud always attributed his appointment to the instruction he received from Nicolet.

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Emmanuel Pahud Performs Debussy’s Syrinx

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