Heavenly Flute Players 23 - Ernesto Kohler
Perhaps you are already familiar with the name Kohler because you have played pieces or studies from some of the many books he wrote?
Kohler was born in Modena, Italy on December 4th 1849. This was just after Boehm had shown his new cylinder bore flute to the world for the first time. Like so many flutists, Ernesto studied the flute with his father, also a flute player. He made swift progress because at the age of twenty, he became principal flute at the Orchestra of the Karl Theatre, Vienna. After a time there, he decided to settle in St. Petersburg , Russia, where he spent almost the rest of his life.
He is a Heavenly Flute Player, not so much because of his flute playing skills - though he was, by all accounts a very fine player. No, it is because he wrote so many pieces for the flute which are still widely played today. His style of composition was very popular then and his pieces continue to have a wide appeal today both for their melodious qualities and because they are so well written for the instrument.
His two Concert Duets on Themes of Chopin, and Schubert are particularly fun to play and make good closing items for a two-flutes-and-piano concert. The Swallows Flight and The Butterfly are both charming 'salon' pieces for flute and piano, that is to say, pieces for gentle amusement rather than for serious listening. All the same, he wrote some very fine books of studies; the three books called, 'Progress in Flute Playing', opus 33 are commonly used by serious students the world over.
He wrote many easier books of studies too, and these are often found in collections of studies by different composers. It must be more difficult to write studies which you know will be practised, (perhaps with little pleasure!) but not ever performed. One of the joys of composition is the first performance: Kohler would only know the pleasure of hearing a student struggling with technical problems. Composing studies was, at any rate, something he must have enjoyed doing.
After many years in the service of the Czar of Russia's Imperial Russian Opera, he decided to retire to Italy, and wrote to a friend that, 'after thirty five years of hard work, I am hoping to enjoy my remaining days in peace and quiet in Italy'. Six months later, on the 17th May, 1907, he died there.