Peter Lloyd: Distinguished and gentlemanly By Robert Bigio
There is no better word to describe Peter Lloyd than ‘distinguished’: distinguished as a person, distinguished as a musician, and latterly distinguished as a teacher. Peter has been professor of flute at the Royal Northern College of Music since 1993, after a playing career that included a long spell as first flute in the London Symphony Orchestra. Now, at a venerable age, he devotes himself to teaching, and it is no exaggeration to say that he is adored by his students and colleagues. Indeed, one of his fellow flute professors at the RNCM credits Peter with engendering the positive and supportive atmosphere that exists in the college. This is not to say that lessons with Peter are an easy ride for anyone. On the contrary; he demands (and receives) the highest standards from his students, but he does this without any of the bullying and unpleasantness that characterised the teaching practice of the past. Peter Lloyd was born in Dorset into a resolutely non-musical family. His father, who was, as we used to say, ‘something in the City’, expressed a degree of outrage at Peter’s musical interest: ‘My son a flute player?’ Peter’s first flute teacher at Dauntsey’s School, a private establishment in Wiltshire, was a Mr. Nightingale, a man whose knowledge of the flute was limited. Peter describes him as being of the ‘smile and blow’ school of teaching. He may have been unaware of the niceties of flute playing, but he was an inspirational teacher, and he led Peter to a place at the Royal College of Music. There, he studied with Edward Walker. He found college interesting, but says he desperately needed more in the way of technique. He was excused National Service on the grounds of his asthma (a condition that many years later contributed to the end of his playing career), and after three years at the RCM joined the National Youth Orchestra. ‘I didn’t last long,’ he says. ‘I got chucked out straight away because the flute teacher, Gareth Morris, didn’t think I was good enough. And he was right, too.’ (A couple of decades later, when Peter was first flute in the LSO and Gareth Morris was still first flute in the Philharmonia, the two men shared a smile about this incident.) Peter Lloyd’s first playing job was in the Scottish National Orchestra as second flute. Times have changed. Nowadays hundreds of players apply for any orchestral job, but in this case there were just two applicants: Peter and a former army bandsman, whose knowledge of Beethoven, Peter remembers, was limited. Peter got the job. ‘It was the most incredible thing in my life,’ he remembers. ‘I sat between two Louis Lot-playing former students of Fernand Caratgé. There I was sitting with my old wooden flute, listening to the way these people could play—the technique and the colours and what they wanted to do with the music. I was stunned, and I decided that I had to save up my money and go to Paris.’ Two and a half years later, he did. The SNO gave him a year off. His teacher in Paris, Caratgé, was an exacting man. ‘I spent that year starting from scratch. These were extraordinary lessons for me. I was desperate to learn technique.’ Caratgé made him do three hours’ concentrated  practice every day (Peter stresses the word ‘concentrated’), but with one day off a week, and he insisted on perfection. This taught him how not to make mistakes. ‘This was exactly what I needed,’ says Peter. At the end of his time in Paris, Caratgé, who had come to like his playing, told him, ‘Vous avez la sense de la flûte.’ During his time in Paris he heard many flute players. I asked which one he admired the most. There was no hesitation: ‘Fernand Dufrène—that great man.’ Caratgé was a great player in his way, remembers Peter, but of Dufrène he says, ‘I will never forget that sound!’ Peter returned to the SNO for a year before taking his first principal flute job with the BBC Northern Orchestra in Manchester, which he describes as a small sight-reading orchestra; piles of music would appear on the stand, the microphones would be turned on and he would play. This training, he says, stood him in good stead years later as a freelance player in London. By 1958, however, missing the big orchestral works, he returned to the SNO as first flute. In 1960, when the BBC Northern was increased to a full-sized symphony orchestra, he returned to the first flute job there and stayed until 1967. During his time in Manchester, never satisfied with his own playing, Peter took lessons from Geoffrey Gilbert, and in 1964 took six weeks’ leave from the orchestra to study in Paris with Jean-Pierre Rampal. He was then thirty-three years old. Surely, I asked him, he was confident enough about his playing by then? In fact, he was fascinated by Rampal’s articulation, the cleanest he had heard, and he wanted to know how he did it. Peter remains impressed by Rampal’s attitude to his playing: ‘I’m still climbing the ladder,’ Rampal told him. In 1967 the Hallé Orchestra’s principal flute, Douglas Townshend, left for the BBC Welsh Orchestra, taking with him his wife, Lissa, the piccolo player. At the same time, the second flute player asked for maternity leave. The Hallé, in some trouble, invited Peter to play first flute. At the same time, he had been doing extra work in the LSO, which also offered him a job. The LSO at the time had two principal flute players: William Bennett and James Galway. ‘Jimmy left for the RPO,’ Peter remembers, ‘and Wibb asked for me to come as the other principal.’ The Hallé job would have been more secure, and there was a danger that the LSO would only employ Peter as a freelancer, so he told the LSO that he would consider going to them only if they offered him the job on a permanent basis. They did, and he moved to London. After some years playing for the microphones in the BBC Northern, Peter says his sound had become small and intense, and he was playing with a rather covered embouchure. In the LSO, mostly playing live concerts, he was in danger of being swamped. As before, he was not afraid to seek help. ‘I asked Wibb what to do, and Wibb immediately gave me Marcel Moyse’s telephone number in St. Amour, France. I telephoned him, he asked me to come, and I left the LSO for six weeks to study with him.’ He found Moyse wonderful, and for his part Moyse liked Peter and his attitude. Peter remains grateful for the help Moyse gave him. Peter spent the next two decades at the pinnacle of the music profession in London: first flute in the LSO, professor at the Guildhall School of Music and member of chamber ensembles such as the Tuckwell Wind Quintet and the English Taskin Players. One day, however, he had a conversation with Geoffrey Gilbert, who had taken a teaching position at an American university. Peter asked him how he was enjoying it. ‘I love it,’ was the response. This got him thinking, and he decided to leave the LSO and move to Indiana University as professor of flute. ‘I loved it, too,’ he says. ‘It was heaven.’ He had great colleagues—musicians of world class such as Janos Starker, Menahem Pressler and Franco Gulli—and he found the students delightful to teach. ‘They were so strong, so intense, so unwilling to waste a cent.’ So why did he leave after six years? ‘I made a big mistake,’ he admits. ‘I didn’t understand how important sport was to American universities, because that’s where so much of their money comes from, and they use marching bands to entertain at sporting events. The directors of the marching bands wanted all the best players, but I thought those players shouldn’t be wasting their time on such things.’ This was the beginning of a terminal falling-out. He was offered a job at the RNCM in 1993 and took it. He is still there. What about the end of his playing career? He had returned to Manchester and had set up a concert of music by Jindřich Feld and other Czech composers, but before the concert he caught pneumonia. That, with the asthma that had troubled him throughout his life, made it impossible for him to play. ‘The air would not work,’ he remembers. ‘Then I said to myself, aren’t you lucky! You don’t have to worry any more.’ And so he stopped, aged sixty-two. ‘I’m still developing as a teacher,’ Peter says. He loves the RNCM. There are great players there, and some of his past students are hugely successful in the music business. He says he is pleased to be able to concentrate on teaching instead of playing as it permits him to think about how things should be done. ‘Teaching is a totally different craft. I feel I now know what I’m doing.’ Once, he would have to demonstrate to his students. ‘Now I don’t need to do that—I know how to make them do it.’ He is a perfectionist, and he demands perfection from his students. Peter Lloyd now lives near Liverpool with his wife, who is one of the leaders of the Liverpool Phil, and their three sons, aged sixteen, thirteen and nine. He does not deny that he is a lucky man. ‘I love my life.’ This article first appeared in Flute, the Journal of the British Flute Society, in March 2010.
Peter Lloyd in January 2010 Photograph by Robert Bigio Robert Bigio Flute maker
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