Talk:Elaine Shaffer

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Elaine Shaffer: gifted flutist & musician[edit]

Special thanks to John Solum for his additions and corrections.

There is much more to Elaine Shaffer's life story -- she was a truly gifted flutist and musician. She attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and was the prize student of William Kincaid, the "grandfather" of the majority of flutists in the United States. That he willed his platinum flute to her makes his regard for her evident. Amazingly enough, Kincaid was her only formal flute teacher; prior to that, she was entirely self-taught, according to an interview with her husband, Efrem Kurtz, published in the NFA Newsletter in the 1980s.

In addition to her tenure in the Houston Symphony Orchestra, she played for a season as second flute in the Kansas City Philharmonic from 1947-1948. The music director at the time was Maestro Kurtz, which was how they first met, though they were not married until 1955, after she had left the Houston Symphony. Apparently Ms. Shaffer wasn't shy -- she really didn't want to accept the position in Kansas, but had been recommended by an oboist in the orchestra, Lila Storch (sp?) -- she held out not only for more money, but to be allowed to fulfill another engagement prior to accepting the job, and a concerto appearance with the orchestra. She surprised the critics, the audience and Mr. Kurtz not only with her playing, but her artistry as well. This was in the 1940s; women had just begun to get positions in orchestras, so she was a trail-blazer.

After holding the principal flutist's chair in Houston for five years, she left to pursue a career as a soloist and chamber musician, another first for an American woman. She performed at many festivals in Europe, and worked closely with Yehudi Menuhin, Hepzibah Menuhin (the pianist), and harpsichordist George Malcom. Ernest Bloch dedicated two works to her, "Suite Modale" and "Two Last Poems...Maybe." She was also a friend of Marc Chagall (who did a drawing for her), Karl Barth and Herman Hesse.

The death of William Kincaid, her principal teacher, in 1967 apparently hit her very hard -- she had a special bond with him. She was selected to perform the world premiere of Aaron Copland's Duo for Flute and Piano in the early 70s which was commissioned by a group of students and admirers of Mr. Kincaid, and dedicated to his memory. A short while later, she was diagnosed with lung cancer, though according to Albert Weatherly (flute repairman/dealer in New York) she never ever smoked. She was able to complete two projects that were important to her: a concert of all of J.S. Bach's sonatas for flute, and the first recording of the Copland. A month after the recording was completed, she died in London in 1975.

I obviously am a fan -- I'm a flutist, and it was her playing that made me realize just how beautiful the flute could sound, and inspired my own career in music. She made only a very few recordings: J.S. Bach's Sonatas, Orchestral Suite #2, Brandenburg V, the trio sonata from The Musical Offering; Mozart's flute concerti, the Andante in C and the flute-harp concerto; Telemann's Suite in A minor for flute and strings, Schubert's "Variations on Trockne Blumen," op 160; Friedrich Kuhlau's Sonata in E minor, and a sonata movement by Franz Xavier Mozart (W.A. Mozart's son). Some of these recordings are now available on CD. She also performed the major standard flute repertoire including Hindemith, Prokofiev and Poulenc sonatas, the Ibert and Nielsen concerti. She gave the world premiere of Virgil Thomson's Flute Concerto and she gave performances with five Italian orchestras of a concerto by Manino for flute, trombone obbligato and orchestra.

Don Hulbert don.hulbert@verizon.net [1]

It's obvious that you know a lot about her. Why not add a lot of this (NPOV, of course), to the article? RickK 04:57, 2 Mar 2004 (UTC)

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