William Kincaid and Marcel Moyse

Flutists Who Changed the World — by Thomas Wolf

This article was originally published in the Fall 2022 issue of the classical music online quarterly, Liner Notes. I have been given permission to reproduce it by the editor and founder of the magazine, Joe Moore.

With much appreciation to Joe, enjoy Thomas Wolf’s wonderful examination of the lives and careers of two of the most influential flutists of the 20th Century. Also, please consider subscribing to Liner Notes for only $20/year: https://www.joffewoodwinds.com/woodlinks/liner-notes.


William Kincaid and Marcel Moyse
Flutists Who Changed the World
by Thomas Wolf

Introduction: Musical Geneology and the Flute

Great instrumentalists generally have distinct musical personalities. Such is certainly the case with William Kincaid and Marcel Moyse who many regard as two of the greatest flutists of the twentieth century. Through their performing and teaching, individuals of such stature establish unique playing traditions that are carried forward by their pupils into subsequent generations. Often, a lot can be gleaned by considering their forebears as well—those who teach great instrumentalists like Kincaid and Moyse. One can learn much about how musical style, technique, and repertoire selection came about. Differences in traditions and performance practice were definitely more prevalent a hundred years ago before recordings led to more uniform ways of playing. But recordings have been extremely valuable in documenting traditions laid down in earlier eras and happily with Kincaid and Moyse and even some of their teachers, there are plenty to choose from. Looking back, we can actually trace musical lineages. But with these two great flutists, there is a certain irony. Given how different Moyse and Kincaid were as musicians, it is hard to believe that they emanated from a single musical tradition associated with a definite country, a certain city, a particular conservatory, and specific influential teachers.

Two giants at the Paris Conservatory—Paul Taffanel (1844-1908) and Philippe Gaubert (1879-1941)—established the modern French school that was to be a dominant influence on players for decades. In the case of that particular tradition, however, musical descendants of these legendary players themselves developed distinct branches. Taffanel and Gaubert did not only produce students who became slavish imitators of their masters. By the mid-twentieth century, emigré flutists in the US who had reliable Parisian pedigrees had developed differing refinements and approaches to the instrument and there were others in Europe. In America, one approach was characterized by the playing of Marcel Moyse, a French- born student of both Taffanel and Gaubert. Though Moyse’s career had flourished in France and he had disciples in Europe, he had emigrated to the US after the Second World War and settled in the state of Vermont where he became a sought after teacher. The second branch was characterized by the American flutist, William Kincaid, who had studied with George Barrère, himself a protégé of Paris Conservatory instructors. Kincaid taught for decades at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. In time, the influence of both Moyse and Kincaid would be felt well beyond the United States and would have an impact on playing throughout the world.

A Contrast in Approach

I had the benefit of studying with both Kincaid and Moyse and the differences in their approaches to the instrument were so profound one might hardly believe that both of their musical bloodlines traced back to Paris. First, there were the divergent approaches to tone and timbre. Moyse’s sound could be described as penetrating, sometimes sweet, always active, and with a rapid vibrato. Some have described it as distinctly French. Kincaid’s tone was large, warm, and dark, and his vibrato (especially on low notes) could be very slow and it came to be known as the American sound. If one were to liken their differences in sound to types of wine, Moyse’s would be like a young Beaujolais Nouveau—fresh and ebullient. Kincaid’s would be like an aged Bordeaux—rich and sumptuous and noble.

There were differences too in their choice of repertoire and the pieces one studied with them. Both men emphasized the classics, of course— the sonatas of J. S. Bach and the concertos of Mozart. But Moyse was far more dedicated to French repertoire and show pieces of composers that I often had never encountered before like Jean-Louis Toulou (1786-1865), Benjamin Louis Paul Godard (1849– 1895), or his teachers, Taffanel and Gaubert.

Moyse had premiered the flute concerto by the French composer Jacques Ibert (1890–1962) in 1934 (a work dedicated to him), and the virtuosic concerto would become a staple of his French repertoire as well.

ABOVE: Gramophone L-1013. Marcel Moyse’s pioneering and unsurpassed account of Jacques Ibert’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra, recorded with conductor Eugène Bigot and the Orchestre Symphonique at the Studio Albert, Paris, on 2 December 1935. This is available on CD from Parnassus: PACD96069 – click here to view.

Kincaid on the other hand, had his students explore much of the non-French repertoire including lesser-known American composers like Kent Kennan (1913–2003), Charles Griffes (1884-1920), and Arthur Foote (1853- 1937). Two pieces composed for him—the concerto by Louis Gesensway (1906-1976) and the Poeme by Frederick Woltmann (1908-1965)—were written by men who spent most of their lives in America. Another work, the Suite Modale by the Swiss-born American composer Ernest Bloch (1880-1959) was written for Kincaid’s student Elaine Shaffer (1925-1973). Toward the end of his life, Kincaid added this to his repertoire and had us study it. I never once heard Moyse refer to any of these pieces. Technically both men were giants—they could play virtually anything—and they were able to learn difficult music easily and quickly. (Moyse claimed that he learned the devilishly difficult Ibert concerto on a train without having the benefit of the flute in his hands while Kincaid learned the equally difficult Gesensway concerto lying in his backyard hammock.) But there was a difference in their approach to technique. Moyse was a virtuoso who often appeared as a soloist, where displaying flashy technique and occasionally being a showman was coin of the realm. Some of his recordings—like the 1927 recording of the “Carnival of Venice” Variations on the Gramophone Disque label—are astonishing.1 Kincaid’s technique was more laid back. You always knew the capability was there and could be drawn upon when needed. But as primarily an orchestral flutist (he was principal flutist in the Philadelphia Orchestra for 40 seasons), his task was to be part of an ensemble. His approach carried over to his chamber music playing (especially in the Philadelphia Woodwind Quintet made up of Philadelphia Orchestra first-desk players) and also in his solo playing. He performed as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra over 200 times and one can get a sense of his solo playing in his recording of the Griffes Poem on Philadelphia’s “First Chair” recording. Keeping a sense of showmanship in reserve in no way diminished the impressiveness of Kincaid’s performances, which were often profound.

Pearl GEMM CD0206 “Flute Fantastique”.
“First Chair” on Columbia ML 4629, featuring principals of the Philadelphia Orchestra. William Kincaid can be heard in Charles T. Griffe’s Poem for Flute and Orchestra, recorded at the Academy of Music on 5 April 1952.

Reconciling Contrasts in Interpretation

It was in the area of musical interpretation, phrasing, and style that the differences between Moyse and Kincaid were perhaps most marked. Kincaid’s approach to phrasing had been developed in conjunction with his Philadelphia Orchestra woodwind colleagues, most especially first chair oboist Marcel Tabuteau (1887-1966), who had presided over the woodwind class at the Curtis Institute of Music before Kincaid took it over. Their approach emphasized the long, smooth musical line. Students were instructed not to stress the beat but to think of units of phrasing beginning after a beat. We were to mark sixteenth note passages not 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, etc. but 4-1-2-3–4-1-2-3–4 etc. with the phrase units always ending on the first sixteenth and the next phrase unit beginning on the second. So important was this “playing over the beat” that most of Kincaid’s students never forgot it and it infused our initial thinking about a multitude of phrases as we learned new pieces. Furthermore, Kincaid was often quite mathematical in his approach—when he taught a cadenza, he had computed exactly how many beats to hold each note in a free-flowing ritard.

Moyse on the other hand was the master of inflection, the jeweler for whom every note had its own brilliance and meaning. Whereas Kincaid often talked about how violinists would play a certain passage (“up bow, down bow”), Moyse’s inspiration was the human voice. He had been influenced as a young man by the work of singers [he had toured America with Nelli Melba (1861-1931) in 1913 and joined the orchestra of the Paris Opéra-Comique]. He could recount with crystal clear memory how a particular singer would emphasize a high note and inflect it with emotion. He published a book of opera excerpts that was an essential teaching tool, entitled “Tone Development through Interpretation.” To this day, when I attend opera performances, there are certain arias that I can only hear with Moyse’s crooning voice in my mind as he imitated the dramatic approach to a musical line or note. I also remember his own playing of some of these arias in lessons and masterclasses—when he came to a particular special moment, there would be an extreme rubato, his brow would furrow, and his sparkling eyes would become large as he extended the phrase and reached for a note with special coloring.

Melba concert notice, with participating artist M. Marcel Moyse, published in the 4 January 1913 edition of the Derby Daily Telegraph.

One might think that such different philosophies would be confusing to students who studied with both men, but in fact I believe it freed us to find our own way to play. In some cases, I could only imagine playing something Kincaid’s way, and to this day I often become impatient when I listen to performers torturing a musical line with all sorts of innuendos and bits of expression that don’t seem to belong. But when it came to displaying musical emotion, Moyse’s approach was obviously right. I have always believed that it is the fortunate student who has the benefit of studying with two master teachers who have strong and contrasting ideas. That is what the combination of Moyse and Kincaid offered.

There was a generation of flutists who were exposed to both of these musicians to their great advantage. This accident of multiple master teachers was partly due to the fact that Kincaid was an active conservatory teacher from September through May and largely took the summer off, retreating to his rustic home on Little Sebago Lake in Grey, Maine.

William Kincaid sparring with something other than the flute – at his home situated on Little Sebago Lake in Grey, Maine, 1960s (photograph by Billy Wolf).

Moyse, on the other hand, was a founder and was subsequently active with the summer program at the Marlboro Music Festival. Many gifted students would spend winter months taking lessons with Kincaid and spend one or more of their summers at the festival where Moyse was not only a chamber music coach but where he held masterclasses for flutists and often gave private lessons. Others would make the pilgrimage to Vermont whether or not they were participating at the festival. Still other flutists steeped in the Kincaid tradition, who had studied at places like Juilliard where Kincaid disciples like Julius Baker and others taught, also wanted to learn from the French master. Finally, as Kincaid aged and his problems with alcohol became more extreme, he began to lose interest in his students. He continued to teach anyway as this was his main source of income after he was forcibly retired from the Philadelphia Orchestra at the age of 65 due to a policy which no longer is in place in symphony orchestras but was at the time. Some of Kincaid’s private students reluctantly left him to study with Moyse who was at the height of his teaching career as Kincaid’s was declining.


One would have to travel a third of the way around the globe to get from Moyse’s birthplace in Saint-Amour, France to Honolulu, Hawaii where Kincaid spent some of his formative years from the age of four onwards. Moyse was born on March 17, 1889, Kincaid just six years later on April 26, 1895. Moyse’s birthplace was a tiny town of under 3,000 people while Kincaid’s was the large city of Minneapolis and his family continued to enjoy a semi-urban lifestyle after moving first to Hawaii and later to Charlotte, North Carolina. But neither man grew up in what might be regarded as a musical capital.

Moyse’s early musical influences may well have been a grandfather who was an avid and accomplished amateur singer though a bit later it was an uncle who was a professional orchestra cellist. Kincaid’s early influences had little to do with his ultimate career as a musician. He always claimed that the greatest boon to his subsequent flute playing was his instruction in swimming from Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku, a famous Olympic swimmer who was native to the Hawaiian Islands.

The legendary Olympic Gold Medalist swinner and surfing pioneer Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku (1890-1968), also known as “The Duke” and “The Big Kahuna”. Among his other amazing exploits, he appeared in the 1955 John Ford film “Mr. Roberts”. Kincaid credited this larger-than-life personality with formative lessons in breath control.

Kincaid told stories about diving for pennies when the cruise ships came into the harbor. This, he would say, explained his remarkable breath control. Whether apocryphal or true, there was no question that he could play long lines of music easily without taking a breath. But he never talked about his earliest flute instruction and to my knowledge no one seems to know who his first flute teacher actually was. When asked, he would explain that he had become entranced and fascinated by a local fisherman’s expert whistling, and spent two summers going out with him in his boat, asking many questions about how he breathed and what he did with his air when he whistled, and his varied use of vibrato.

Above: The two commercial recordings of William Kincaid playing Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. At left, Columbia ML 5112 and at right Columbia MS 6077, both made with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The former was taped at the Academy of Music, on 18 December 1955, the latter at the Broadwood Hotel on 14 March 1959.

Kincaid once recounted to the author how, in an earlier era, Stokowski — with his incredible ear for sound quality — had convinced Kincaid to place a handkerchief over his fingers to muffle and achieve the mystical quality of sound in this work.

Kincaid Establishes His Career

Indeed, there is a gap in Kincaid’s musical biography that picks up in earnest in 1911 in New York where he became a student of George Barrère at the Institute of Musical Art (which ultimately became the Juilliard School). Three years after arriving in New York, Kincaid received his first diploma and was already playing beside his teacher in the New York Symphony conducted by Walter Damrosch. He was now not only sitting next to a world-class flutist but in an environment occupied by woodwind superstars. Damrosch had successfully fought the American Federation of Musicians some years earlier in order to bring Barrère and other French woodwind players to his New York orchestra and his principal woodwind instrumentalists were considered among the best now playing in America. It was an important experience for Kincaid who chose to stay in New York and continue additional studies, availing himself of other performing opportunities like the New York Chamber Music Society. He finally finished his schooling in June of 1918 at the age of 23, and despite a brief stint in the US Navy, he was widely sought after as a very promising and dependable young talent.

Kincaid’s first big break in establishing a career outside of New York came during the mid-season of 1921 when Leopold Stokowski, conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, fired his principal flutist and turned to Barrère for advice on who to hire. Take Kincaid, Barrère advised, and so began the young flutist’s long and successful tenure as principal flute of one of the great orchestras of the world. But there was a second big break that was a crucial part of the Kincaid story, something he had little to do with initially but which would cement his impact on flute playing for nearly half a century and beyond. It had to do with the events that led to his long tenure as a teacher at the Curtis Institute of Music.

The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia as it appeared in 1924. Here, for over four decades, William Kincaid would teach legions of flute students, including most of the first chair players of major American orchestras (photo kindly provided by the Curtis Institute of Music).

The philanthropist and music lover, Mary Louise Curtis Bok, had decided she wanted to establish a world-class music conservatory in Philadelphia. She was encouraged in this effort by Stokowski who saw this as an opportunity to offer additional employment to his principal players, thereby making their jobs more attractive. Mrs. Bok’s first effort in 1924 was rather unimpressive—few people realize today that the early days of Curtis proved largely unsuccessful in terms of the quality of its faculty and students. But when Bok hired the legendary pianist, Josef Hofmann, to direct her school a couple of years later, everything changed. Hofmann fired most of the faculty, scoured Europe for prominent teachers, reduced the student body by more than half, recruited gifted foreign students, eliminated tuition requirements so as to entice the best students including those from other conservatories, and greatly enhanced the quality and prestige of the institution. At the same time, Stokowski held fast and got his way. Most of his principals in the Philadelphia Orchestra would continue to have jobs at the Institute. Thus, Kincaid’s timing was impeccable. He was not only principal flutist of a great orchestra but part of the faculty of what would become one of the most prestigious music schools in the world with an opportunity to teach very talented students.

Dutton CDBP 9734
Marcel Moyse, flute
Eugène Bigot, conductor
Orchestre Symphonique de Paris

> recorded at the Salle Pleyel, Paris, on 26 January & 26 February 1931.

Also available on:
EMI Références 2C051-73.056
Pearl GEMM CD 9118

Note: In the First and Third Movements, Moyse plays the cadenzas of his teacher, Claude-Paul Taffanel.

Listen on YouTube

Columbia MS 6451
William Kincaid, flute
Eugene Ormandy, conductor
The Philadelphia Orchestra

> recorded at the Broadwood Hotel, Philadelphia, on 24 April 1960.

Also available on:
Sony SM3K 47215 “Mozart Legendary
Interpretations” (3CD set, out-of-print)

Listen on YouTube

Moyse Establishes His Career

At about this time, Marcel Moyse was beginning a highly successful career in Europe. His origins had been humble. An illegitimate child whose mother died when he was still an infant, he was raised by his grandfather, a clockmaker, in Besançon. By the age of fourteen, having shown no particular aptitude for any profession but displaying a gift for music, he was taken under the wing of his musician-uncle who lived in the Montmartre district of Paris. Living in a professional musician’s home was critical to the young man’s development. His uncle could teach him how to practice, could give him a sense of what it meant to make a living in music, and could introduce him to a wide circle of artistic colleagues. One of those colleagues was Moyse’s first important teacher, Adolphe Hennebains (1862–1914). In a short time, with this teacher’s guidance and encouragement, Moyse auditioned and was accepted in Paul Taffanel’s class at the Paris Conservatory in 1905 at the age of sixteen.

Moyse in an undated inscribed card.
Source: The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

If Moyse’s musical development as a youngster had been sluggish, his subsequent progress made up for lost time. He was soon the talk of the flute class and more broadly the Paris flute world. He qualified for a first prize at the Conservatory after only one year and played in a variety of ensembles. Soon after his Conservatory years, he would become associated with several iconic works and composers. He would play Debussy’s L’Après-Midi d’un Faune under the composer’s direction and was invited to play in the orchestra of the Ballet Russe where he was involved in such important premieres as Stravinsky’s Petrushka, Le Sacre du Printemps, as well as Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. At the same time, he was pursuing a solo career and playing chamber music (he was also involved in the first performance of Stravinsky’s Wind Octet) and he was increasingly in demand.

Parnassus PACD 96069 (2CD set) “Marcel Moyse in Person”. It includes, among other fascinating recordings, Moyse (père et fils) in Cimarosa’s Concerto in G Major for Two Flutes & Orchestra – recorded with Eugène Bigot and L’Orchestre Lamoureux at the Studio Albert, Paris, on 13 January 1949.

It is somewhat unclear when Moyse joined the orchestra of the Opèra-Comique. In one of his masterclasses years later, he chided me for bringing him a Mozart concerto when I was only sixteen, claiming that he, Moyse, was far more modest musically-speaking at my age. As evidence, he said he had been appointed to the Opèra-Comique’s orchestra at age 19 and, despite that honor, he still did not feel ready to play that Mozart concerto for another five years. Whether or not he had knocked a couple of years off the age of his appointment for dramatic effect (such stretching of the truth was not uncommon as he aged), he was certainly very young for so important a position. A bit later, he would win an audition to play first flute in the more prestigious Opèra, but given the more flexible schedule of the Opèra-Comique, he declined. This turned out to be an important decision allowing him to build his reputation as a soloist.

Columbia DFX 194.
Moyse plays Pierre-Octave Ferroud’s Trois pièces pour flûte, recorded in Paris on 19 April 1934.

Moyse’s son, Louis, was born in 1912 and it was perhaps inevitable that he too would become a musician and his Conservatory career involved both flute and piano, with his father as one of his teachers. Less predictable was Moyse’s friendship with the Swiss-based Honegger family and through them with the German Busch family, but these relationships would prove seminal musically and personally both for him and for Louis. Blanche Honegger (1909-2011), a violinist, collaborated with Marcel and Louis Moyse in a chamber ensemble. She eventually came to live with the Moyse family and Louis and Blanche would marry a few years later. The trio became well known and toured extensively with each of the three musicians also pursuing successful independent careers. There were numerous musical collaborations with Adolph Busch (1891-1952) and his brother Hermann Busch (1897-1975) as well as with Adolph’s pianist son-in-law, Rudolf Serkin (1903-1991). These fortuitous relationships would change Moyse’s life for the better after the Second World War.

The War had been devastating to Moyse’s career and personal life. In the years leading up to it, Marcel had been at the pinnacle of his performing career and had been teaching at the Paris Conservatory for some time. But in 1940, the family decided to wait things out at their summer home in Saint-Amour and after the Germans entered Paris, Moyse declined to return to his position at the Conservatory. Son Louis, who had been invited to join the Boston Symphony, had been conscripted into the French army and the position in Boston evaporated. Professional opportunities dried up and it eventually became evident why that was the case: Moyse had been denounced as a Jew by a jealous colleague leading to his arrest and brief incarceration. Though eventually released, his reputation had been severely damaged. Domestic life became difficult, food and money was scarce, and Moyse became quite depressed. After the War, he was not invited back to the Conservatory to assume his old position and his general bitterness about France in general and the Parisian music scene in particular was still evident years later when he would speak about it to his students. When the Serkin and Busch families invited the Moyses to come to America, it did not take a lot of persuasion. The family settled in Vermont and with Rudolf Serkin and the Busch brothers, the musicians would establish the Marlboro Music Festival, a crowning achievement.

Above: Flutist Marcel Moyse, a larger-than-life personality, in a series of candid shots from 1968 (collection of author).

In America, Moyse no longer seemed intent on re-establishing a performing career. He decided his future was as a teacher and indeed, he would become one of the most influential pedagogues on his instrument on the planet. As he aged, his reputation only seemed to grow and in his late years, he travelled internationally, giving clinics and masterclasses throughout the world. Despite occasional ill health, his energy seemed boundless but he was easily offended and his ego could be bruised when his earlier greatness was not recognized and celebrated. It is true that at one time, he had been one of the most famous performing flutists in the world. Now others had assumed the mantle. At Marlboro, his fame was eclipsed when Pablo Casals was in residence and conducted the orchestra. The loss of his wife and the divorce of Louis and Blanche only added to his feelings of loss. Only his students, loyal to the end, gave him the admiration and pleasure he craved.

Innovation in Flutes: Another Area of Contrast

In contrasting Kincaid and Moyse, another area to explore is the actual instruments that they chose to play. Many people have claimed that Kincaid’s secret weapon when it came to his large velvety tone was his platinum flute. During the early part of his career, the great majority of professional flutists played flutes made of silver, though Kincaid’s teacher, Barrère, had played a platinum one for which Edgard Varèse famously wrote Density 21.5 in 1936. Two years later, the flute maker Verne Q. Powell in Boston was commissioned by Engelhard Metals to make a platinum flute for an exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair. Flute number 365, with a platinum body and silver keys, was completed just as Kincaid was visiting Powell’s shop and when the flute maker suggested that the flutist should try it, Kincaid was completely captivated by the beauty of the sound and the ease with which he could lay out his famously smooth musical lines. He waited patiently during the course of the World’s Fair and purchased the instrument immediately after the exhibit closed down. It would be his flute for the rest of his career.

William Kincaid playing his platinum Powell flute, which he would leave to his pupil Elaine Shaffer (1925-1973). Below that is a telegram he wired her congratulating Shaffer on a recent successful performance.

On hearing the beauty of the instrument, others were interested in having Powell make them a similar flute but the flute maker had been frustrated by the process and refused. On one of my visits to his shop, Powell told me jokingly, “I learned a whole new branch of profanity working on that instrument.” Nevertheless, what he and other flute makers were willing to do was to make platinum head joints (the head joint is the top section of the flute on which the mouthpiece sits and which is responsible for much of the quality of sound as well as resistance to the column of air blown into the tube). Soon, two other flutists in the Philadelphia Orchestra were playing with platinum head joints on their flutes (one of which I borrowed when I performed as a soloist with the Orchestra in 1962). Another section player was experimenting with a gold flute that would become his regular instrument. The section’s unique dark sound, led by Kincaid’s playing, was partly attributable to the flute material.

Today, flute makers work in different metals and flutists may even choose to play certain repertoire on a flute of one metal (say heavy orchestral works with gold or platinum) and other pieces (like a Mozart flute quartet) with a silver flute that plays lighter and is more responsive. There is also experimentation with different metals for head joints and flute bodies. Much of this experimentation was, I believe, engendered by the success of Kincaid’s platinum flute, an instrument that he left to his student Elaine Shaffer upon his death. Sadly, she died of cancer at the age of 47 only a few years after he did and eventually her husband, the conductor Efrem Kurtz (1900-1995), put the flute up for auction. So iconic was this particular flute at the time of the auction in 1986, it sold to a collector for $187,000 including buyer’s premium (over $475,000 in today’s dollars) when other platinum flutes could be had for as little as $18,000. By 2009, though, when the flute again went to auction, it realized less than $40,000. Many fewer people remembered the instrument and the player who had made it famous.

The Marcel Moyse Couesnon Flute, designed by the French firm in consultation with the great flutist.
A July 1930 Couesnon instrument price catalog.

Predictably, given his lighter approach to tone production, Moyse played a silver flute. It was made by Cousenon in France. It was not a particularly special instrument though Moyse did make some changes in its construction that were more of a technical nature for ease of fingering and a more accurate scale. He would later endorse the company’s flutes, especially its specially branded “Marcel Moyse model.” But unlike Kincaid, he did not believe that an instrument should be made with a “built-in quality of tone,” according to his son Louis Moyse: “that is, flutes with so fine a basic, characteristic sound that a young player is fooled into thinking he or she is responsible for producing it and goes no further to develop personality and variety.”2

Once again, the contrast between the two men was significant. Today, the Kincaid philosophy about the crucial importance of the inherent tone quality of an instrument’s material and construction dominates over Moyse’s assertion that tone is entirely in the control of the player. On at least one occasion, during his guest appearances as principal flutist during the summer season of the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood in 1938, Moyse’ instrument caused some problems for him. The Orchestra maintained a very high pitch. René Rateau, another Frenchman who played second flute that summer, realized that he would have to substitute an American-made Powell to play in tune, but Moyse continued to play his Couesnon and the reports were not favorable as to his success with the Orchestra that summer.3


To understand the legacies of William Kincaid and Marcel Moyse, it is important to define the dimensions of any comparison. On the one hand, Moyse’s name is widely known today and his death has in no way diminished his fame. An excellent, well-researched biography appeared in 19944, with a discography and filmography running over 30 pages in length. Many of Moyse’s recordings have been reissued. There is a Marcel Moyse Society, established in 1988, with a website and a store. Much Moyse-related sheet music—including studies and edited solos—is still in circulation. In comparison, beyond the flute world in general and the Philadelphia music world in particular where his name is still revered, Kincaid is less well known.

There are many explanations for this dichotomy. Kincaid died in 1967 with his active performing career ending in 1960 and his teaching ending a few years thereafter when he was felled by a debilitating stroke. Moyse lived until 1984, teaching and giving masterclasses almost to the end of his life. Those roughly two decades of Moyse activity after Kincaid became inactive allowed many important and influential flutists to experience the Frenchman’s gifts—musicians who were not old enough to have encountered Kincaid.

“Marcel Moyse-Voice of the Flute” by Ann McCutchan – published by The Amadeus Press, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, 1994; with photos, illustrations, discogrpahy, filmography, and index.

There are other explanations for the differences in name recognition and fame. Moyse published, Kincaid did not. Moyse was a star flutist in Europe before he came to America and he taught many distinguished flutists there before coming to America. His fame was international whereas Kincaid’s was limited primarily to North America. Moyse’s career encompassed extensive solo, orchestral, opera, and chamber music playing (including the very successful family trio with son Louis and daughter-in-law Blanche). By comparison, Kincaid was primarily an orchestral flutist (though he did play solos with the orchestra and perform on occasion with the Philadelphia Woodwind Quintet). While both men recorded extensively, most of Kincaid’s recordings are as a principal orchestral flutist without name recognition on the album. Even his wonderful quintet recordings are branded with the ensemble’s name, not his. Moyse’s name appears prominently on the great majority of his recordings while Kincaid’s name is the featured artist only on a handful of memorable recordings with his long-time pianist, Vladimir Sokoloff (1913-1997).5

Finally, Marcel Moyse was an incredibly colorful character whose personality was extraverted in the extreme. There is not a Moyse student who cannot fill a listener full of wonderful anecdotes, memorable quotes, and flamboyant descriptions of the man’s ebullient nature. Kincaid’s personality was more reserved. He was quiet, he kept to himself (except for a small circle of friends mostly from the Philadelphia Orchestra), he had no children, and he did little socializing, especially as his problems with alcohol became more severe. To his students he was a giant of a man and musician, but it is perhaps noteworthy that when one of those students and Philadelphia Orchestra colleague, John Krell, wrote a book about him,6 it focused far more on Kincaid’s approach to technique and tone production than it did on the man’s biography.

On the other hand, there is one critical dimension where Kincaid’s legacy may well outshine Moyse’s. Today, at least in the United States, flute playing has overwhelmingly been influenced by what many call “the American school,” characterized initially by the playing of George Barrère and promulgated by his most famous student, William Kincaid. According to one scholarly study, it was estimated that 91% of all living professional players in the United States in 2003 could trace their lineage through a series of teachers back to Barrère while approximately 87% could trace a more recent heritage to William Kincaid.7 Kincaid’s “descendants” have occupied many of the most prestigious positions in American orchestras; they have held teaching positions in important conservatories; and to the extent that serious flute students from abroad have come to America to study and then have returned to their home countries, one can observe the impact of this tradition of playing spreading widely internationally. It is one of the ironies of fate that many who end up indirectly as Kincaid acolytes are unaware of the man who has had such a profound impact on the way they play.

Author (and pupil) Thomas Wolf with William Kincaid at his home in Grey, Maine, circa 1960 (photo by Billy Wolf).

There will be endless debates about who was the greater flutist or teacher – William Kincaid or Marcel Moyse. Happily, some of us who were profoundly influenced by both men don’t have to choose. We are the lucky ones.

— Thomas Wolf

1. As of 2022, this recording can be found on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcNsA-HLjPk&index=2&t=613s the fourth selection. [return]

2. McCutchan, Ann, Marcel Moyse: Voice of the Flute, Portland, Oregon, Amadeus Press, 1994, page 228. [return]

3. Ibid, page 149. [return]

4. Ann McCutchan, op. cit. [return]

5. Sokoloff’s daughter Laurie studied both with Kincaid at Curtis and later with Moyse. She had a long career as flutist and piccolo player in the Baltimore Symphony. I am grateful for her additional memories that were incorporated into this article. [return]

6. Krell, John, Kincaidiana, GET 2nd edition publishing information [return]

7. Fair, Demetra Baferos (2003). Flutists’ Family Tree: In Search of the American Flute School (DMA thesis). Ohio State
University. Retrieved May 31, 2022 [return]

NOTE: I am grateful to Gregor Benko, Christine Moulton, and Barbara Benedett for their assistance on this article.

Kincaid & Moyse in Photos

William Kincaid with Marcel Tabuteau, from whom he inherited the Curtis Institute woodwind class when the oboist retired. Photographed in 1942 by Adrian Siegel.
The young William Kincaid, photographed in 1920 by Kubey-Rembrandt Studios, Philadelphia. From the Library of Congress archives. View online.
Kincaid in rehearsal with composer Virgil Thomson and the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1959. On the program, Thomson’s Flute Concerto – photograph by Adrian Siegel.
William Kincaid, Principal Flutist of the Philadephia Orchestra. Undated photograph by Adrian Siegel, kindly provided by the Curtis Institute of Music.
Undated picture of Marcel Moyse. Photographer unknown; image kindly provided by the Curtis Institute of Music.
Marcel Moyse rehearsing with his son Louis (1912-2007) – himself a fine flutist, pianist and composer – and his daughter-in-law, Blanche Honegger-Moyse (1909-2011). The latter was a superb violinist and conductor. She and Louis were among the co-founders of the Marlboro Music Festival. The Moyse Trio performed and recorded together for some 20 years. Photo kindly provided by the Marcel Moyse Society.
William Kincaid with Marcel Tabuteau. Photo reproduced by the kind permission of Danna Sundet (from the John Mack Collection) and Marcel Tabuteau First-Hand.
Standing (left to right): Ferdinand Del Negro, bassoon; Marcel Tabuteau, oboe; Anton Horner, French horn; Seated: (left to right): Rufus Arey, clarinet; William Kincaid, flute. Formal photograph taken in 1923 by Kubey-Rembrandt Studios, Philadelphia. Photo reproduced by the kind permission of Dr. Jacques Budin and Marcel Tabuteau First-Hand.
1938 drawing of Marcel Moyse with his pupils at the Paris Conservatoire (artist unknown).

The Editor would like to thank Mr. Marc Mostovoy of Marcel Tabuteau First-Hand for his generous assistance.

Kincaid & Moyse Further Listening

Columbia ML 4995

Philadelphia Woodwind Quintet, et al.
with Rudolf Fikušny, piano*
with Leon Lester, bass clarinet**

Janácek: Concertino*
John de Lancie, oboe; Anthony Gigliotti, clarinet;
Sol Schoenbach, bassoon; Mason Jones, horn;
Jacob Krachmalnick & David Madison, violins;
Samuel Lifschey, viola

> rec. at Columbia 30th Street, Studio, New York, on 17 May & 23 June 1954

Janacek: Mládi (Youth Suite, 1924)**
William Kincaid, flute; John de Lancie, oboe;
Anthony Gigliotti, clarinet; Sol Schoenbach,
bassoon, Mason Jones, horn

> rec. at Columbia 30th Street, Studio, New York, on 17 May 1954

Award Artist Series AAS-706
“William Kincaid Plays the Flute (Volume 2)
with Vladimir Sokoloff, piano

Mozart: Flute Concerto No. 1 in G Major K. 313
Bach: Flute Sonata in E-flat Major BWV 1031
Fauré: Fantasie for Flute Op. 79
Kennan: Night Soliloquy
Chaminade: Flute Concertino Op. 107

> recorded late 1950s

This small, New Jersey-based label features rare recordings especially made as part of an educational series, sometimes in repertoire the artist did not set down commercially. Other instrumentalists in this series included NYPO clarinetist Robert McGinnis, NYPO French hornist James Chambers, saxophone virtuoso Sigurd Rascher, and “Dean of the Accordian” Charles Magnante.

Above: Among the earliest recordings of William Kincaid as soloist, in Telemann’s Suite in A minor for Flute and Strings TWV 55:a2, recorded with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Academy of Music on 15 March 1941. It is available from the ever enterprising Pristine Audio PASC 605 – click here. At right a side from RCA Victor DM 890-2.


Above: Moyse played Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune under the direction of the composer. He also recorded it for French Columbia LFX 30 with conductor Walter Straram and his Orchestra at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées on 24 February 1930. Warner Classics has released it – available as a download from PrestoMusic.com.

“Our epoch possesses in Marcel Moyse a god of the flute as it possesses in Casals a god of the cello, in Kreisler a god of the violin”

– Jean Richard Block, Paris

“Moyse has the poetry for playing his flute that Glück lavishes on his musical compositions…. I have heard Taffanel, Philippe Gaubert, flutists of great renown, universally celebrated, but who has the tone which Moyse draws from his chosen flute as if his soul were none other than that of Marsyas who aroused the jealousy of Apollo? ”

– George Pioch, Paris

Marcel Moyse Records M-103 “Marcel Moyse Flutist”
This was one of a series of semi-privately published LPs by friends of the flutist. The cover art reproduces a detail from an artwork by Moyse’s own hand: Montbenoit (Doubs) Franche-Comté, dated 1967. This particular album draws upon commercial recordings Moyse made over the years. Documentation is fairly sparse, mostly consisting of press testimonials, a brief biographical sketch and a fascinating sketch showing Moyse supervising a flute class at the Conservatoire National de Musique de Paris – see the following page. The contents / discographic details of this LP are provided below.

Mozart: Flute Concerto No. 2 in D Major K. 314, with Piero Coppola conducting L’Orchestre Symphonique de Paris

> recorded for the Compagnie Française du Gramophone at the Salle Pleyel, Paris, on 28 March 1930

Bach: Trio Sonata in G Major BWV 1037 for Flute, Violin & Keyboard, with Marcel Moyse, Blanche Honegger-Moyse & Louis Moys

> recorded for The Gramophone Company, Ltd. at Studio No. 3, Abbey Road, London, on 21 July 194

Mozart: Rondo, from the Flute Concerto No. 1 in G Major K. 313, with Eugène Bigot and L’ Orchestre Symphonique de Paris

> recorded for the Compagnie Française du Gramophone at the Salle Pleyel, Paris, on 26 January & 26 February 1931

Gluck: Orpheus, Dance of the Blessed Spirits, with pianist R. Delor

> recorded for the Compagnie Française du Gramophone in Paris on 24 March 1927

Martinu: Sonata for Flute, Violin & Piano, with Marcel Moyse, Blanche Honegger-Moyse, and Louis Moyse

> recorded for La Voix de son Maitre at the Studio Albert, Paris, on 6 December 1937


You may enjoy other Articles.