Nineteenth-Century Italian Flute Culture
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Italy is often neglected in the histories of the flute, where the focus is primarily on France, Germany, and England. Additionally, what little has been written about Italian flutes is almost exclusively in Italian. In this thesis, I aim to start bringing Italy into the conversation in what may be the first longer English-language study of Italian flute history. To answer questions about the existence of an Italian flute school, or lack thereof, and why Italy is so often neglected, I look into the flutists, methodology of teaching, institutions, repertoire, performance, and the physical instruments that Italian flutists played and developed. I also explore the impact Italy has had on modern flute culture. I concentrate on the situation from the 1830s through 1914, with a primary focus on Milan. This period featured the greatest number of changes in the instruments themselves. Additionally, during that time, Milan was the musical capital of Italy. In the nineteenth century, Italian music was dominated by opera. The influence of opera on almost every aspect of Italian musical life, including flute culture, is evident in everything from the repertoire to the method books to the Italian preference for wood, conical flutes over the cylindrical metal models starting to become popular in France and Germany. Other important aspects of Italian flute culture at the time included the rise of amateur musicians, the importance of bands, and the importance of Milan as a center of opera, flute-making, and publishing. Furthermore, the Italian flutists had a major effect on the modern flute world. Briccialdi's B-flat thumb key significantly impacted the flutes in use today, and a less direct influence comes from the Italian methods, which inspired the French method books that are widely used today. The impact of the Italian flute world, although smaller than that of France or Germany, is still noteworthy. Finally, I argue that due to the fragmented nature of the Italian conservatories, an Italian flute school never truly developed, but always remained regional. This research sheds light on a relatively unknown aspect of the flute's history, filling a gap in both the history of the flute and the canon of flute literature.