Flutist, composer Louis Moyse, 94, dies


Tuesday, July 31
BRATTLEBORO -- World-renowned flutist Louis Moyse died of heart failure early Monday in Montpelier, two weeks shy of his 95th birthday.

A co-founder of the Marlboro Music School and Festival as well as the Brattleboro Music Center, Moyse played a prominent role in the classical music world through his final days.

Moyse spent his last year completing an arrangement of Rossini's "The Barber of Seville," which was performed just last week by a group of his students at the Unitarian Church in Montpelier.

"He was so anxious to conduct it and have the master class because he knew it would be his last," said Janet White Moyse, his wife of 33 years. "He wanted to do it, and he did make it."

Moyse was best known as a member of the Moyse Trio, along with his father, renowned flutist Marcel Moyse and his former wife, Blanche Honegger Moyse.

In addition to playing the flute, Moyse was an accomplished pianist, composer and teacher. The author of more than 170 works, he is believed to be the most prolific flute composer known.

"He was a wonderful artist and carried on the tradition of the flute from his own father. The legacy continued with him," said Moyse's son, Michel. "He was also a wonderful composer through his compositions and his flute studies. Students came from all over the world who were dedicated to working with him."

Born in the Netherlands while his father was on tour, Louis Moyse grew up in France and trained under the elder Moyse.

"He was his father's son. He was playing the flute in the very same style -- vibrant, energetic, lyrical and most of all modeled on the human voice," said Philipp Naegele, an emeritus music professor at Smith College and a friend of Moyse's.

"But he made a place for himself beyond being a wonderful flutist and teacher by being a wonderful composer and pianist," he said.

Following World War II, the Moyse family emigrated from France and lived briefly in Argentina before settling in Brattleboro. In 1951, they joined Adolph and Herman Busch and Rudolf Serkin in founding the Marlboro Music School and Festival.

The seven-week, community-based summer program is thriving today, said co-administrator Frank Salomon -- thanks in no small part to Moyse.

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"All of the founders and people who were senior members in the first 10 or 15 years made an enormous contribution in sharing their artistry and their ideas and their passion for music with the younger musicians here at Marlboro," Salomon said. "And Louis was one of them. He had a passion for music."

According to Anthony Checchia, also a co-administrator at Marlboro, "He was very charismatic -- a good musician and composer. His legacy was helping to develop the woodwind department here."

Louis and Blanche Honegger Moyse founded the Brattleboro Music Center in 1952 to promote the performance and instruction of chamber music in the area.

"They somehow managed to bring in professional musicians from New York and Boston when the time came to put together serious concerts," Naegele said. "They worked very hard to build audiences and an interest in classical music in the Brattleboro area."

According to Naegele, the family played a large role in fostering Windham County's appreciation for music and the arts.

"They brought a great deal culturally speaking to the community because they wanted to build on this side of the ocean what they were used to having in Europe. That's basically what all refugee artists did," he said.

After the dissolution of their marriage, Moyse left the area and subsequently lived in Ontario, upstate New York and finally Montpelier. In 1974, he married Janet White.

"We never left each other's side for 24 hours in 33 years," she said.

Moyse performed on the flute for the last time at a concert in 1987 in Washington state. He devoted the rest of his life to teaching and composing.

"He always preferred to be the best it's possible to be, and when he felt he was getting too old, he wanted to stop performing at the peak of his career," said his wife.

In addition to Janet, Moyse is survived by four children from his first marriage, four stepchildren, a sister, several grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Though there will be no funeral service, a memorial service is planned for a later date.

"I think he died way, way too young," Michel Moyse said. "He was only 94."

Paul Heintz can be reached at pheintz@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.


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