Flute Journal readers will be familiar with Elizabeth Walker as one of our writers, after her thoughtful and insightful reviews of recordings by Michala Petri and Nicola Woodward. But Liz is much more than that, as a quick look at her website will reveal. An International Artist for Pearl Flute, Liz studied the flute and recorder as a junior at the Royal College of Music, where she was awarded the Sally Wainwright woodwind prize in 1985 and later at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, studying modern flute with Kathryn Lukas, Baroque flute with Flute Journal Editorial Board member Stephen Preston, Renaissance flute with Nancy Hadden and recorder with Philip Pickett. During this time of study, Elizabeth was also involved in a number of Early Music recordings with Decca for the New London Consort and in Holland with Frans Bruggen’s orchestra. Elizabeth currently teaches the flute at the specialist music school in Wells, England, and, in pandemic-free years, runs Flutes in Tuscany, an annual flute course in Italy.
In addition to the above — something I was not aware of — Elizabeth has also won the National Flute Association Award for Best Flute Method, not once, but twice, in 2015 and again in 2017.
Her 2015 award was for Baroque Flute Studies. As a leading authority on historical performance practice, Liz Walker has produced a remarkable method book by creating exercises with specific problems of the baroque instrument in mind, and then reinforcing this by selecting passages from Baroque literature — J.S. Bach, W.F. Bach, Telemann, Boismortier, solos, duets, etc. — that test and further develop the techniques in question. We can quote a description from the Wonderful Winds website, from where the book can be purchased. As they report, Liz “. . . presents a ‘through the keys’ approach to baroque flute technique, with the chapters exploring the characteristic colours of each key. As well as tone exercises, studies, solos, duets and trios, the book includes fingering and trill fingering charts, a chapter on ornamentation, and orchestral excerpts in each key, including most of the regularly encountered J.S. Bach repertoire. This book is an indispensable resource for baroque flautists as well as being a useful study book for modern flautists wishing to further explore the baroque flute repertoire.”
I quote this with confidence for two reasons: a) I have direct experience of Liz Walker’s thoroughness, both as her editor but also after having taken a master class from her in Liverpool and b) because I do have a copy of the book which won her the 2017 NFA Best Flute Method award, Baroque Studies for Modern Flute. And it has been a pleasure to work with it.
“Do you need to add ornaments to a baroque piece,” reads the publicity for this book, again from Wonderful Winds, “or wonder how to get a Menuet to dance off the page? Following the enormous success of Elizabeth Walker‘s first award winning book Baroque Flute Studies, help is at hand” from this volume.
From the time I have spent working with this book — interrupted by an injury that has caused a layoff — I can report that it is put together with great thoroughness and attention to detail. Walker eschews lengthy explanations, concentrating instead, as the title suggests, on presenting studies, many or most direct from the literature, to open up issues that are often a cause of misunderstanding or confusion for modern performers. Liz demistifies such issues as the key techniques used in baroque performance and interpretation, and the many symbols and unwritten practices of baroque music for the modern flute player. There are exercises on tone, style and articulation, and, when they are needed, full explanations of ornaments, all coupled with carefully chosen examples from the repertoire, including solos, duets, trios and orchestral excerpts. For example, I have been using her presentation of the Allemand from J.S. Bach’s Solo Flute A Minor Partita, finally replacing my ancient copy.
Again, from my own experience, I agree with the Wonderful Winds description: “Elizabeth is well known both as a Baroque flute specialist, and also for her interpretations of the baroque repertoire on modern flute; this unique perspective guarantees a book that is not only informative, but one that will also enhance the enjoyment of playing baroque music for every flute player.”
If playing baroque music is important to you, or even just more fully understanding the genre — and how many flutists do not have at least some Bach, both J.S. and C.P.E., and some Handel in their repertoire — then certainly this book, probably both of them, belong in your collection.
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