Aurèle Nicolet (1926-2016)

Leading Swiss flautist dies aged 90


Aurèle Nicolet, one of the most admired and influential flautists of the 20th century, has died at the age of 90. A player of exceptional versatility with a distinctively rich sound, he was as renowned for exploring and championing new repertoire for his instrument as he was for his polished performances of the great works by the likes of Bach and Mozart.

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Born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, Nicolet studied at the Paris Conservatoire, where he won the premier prix for flute, before taking up his first orchestral post with the Zurich Tonhalle in 1945. A major move followed in 1950, when conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler appointed him first flute of the Berlin Philharmonic, a position he held for nine years.

On leaving Berlin in 1959, Nicolet enjoyed a fêted career as a soloist, performing both in recital and with the world’s great orchestras. During this period he worked with many leading contemporary composers, and had works dedicated to him by the likes of Takemitsu and Ligeti.

He was also a greatly respected teacher, publishing his own flute method in 1967 and tutoring players such as his fellow Swiss Emmanuel Pahud, who would go on to follow in his footsteps as principal flute at the Berlin Philharmonic.

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Highlights among Nicolet’s lengthy list of recordings include his JS Bach Flute Sonatas accompanied by Karl Richter, and Garden Rain, his disc of Takemitsu works with oboist Heinz Holliger and harpist Ursula Holliger.