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French composer and flautist Claude Paul Taffanel (1844, Bordeaux – 1908, Paris) is recognized as the founder of the modern French Flute School. Several flute pieces composed after 1870 were written specifically for him. The flute school he wrote in collaboration with a student, Philippe Gaubert, is a standard work to this day. “Taffanel was not only the best flutist in the world,” recalled another student, Georges Barrere, “but I doubt if anyone can ever fill his place. Quality as well as quantity of tone and fine technique were only a small part of his splendid characteristics as a flute-player. His musicianship, his style particularly, was highly inspirational.”

Taffanel, who was born into a family of musicians, gave his first concert at the age of ten, and already studied at the Paris Conservatoire when he was fourteen. He went on to become the first flautist of the famous Opera Comique, then, from 1871, of the Palais Garnier and the  Paris Conservatory Society Orchestra.

In 1879 he founded the Society of Wind Instruments (Sociéte des Instruments à Vent), which was to promote the French culture of the instrument class, and which commissioned a number of compositions for this purpose. (Among others, Gounod wrote the Little Symphony on the encouragement of Taffenel.) A virtuoso of his instruments, he was a regular guest of the concert halls of Europe, and from 1893 he was active as a conductor of the Paris Opera, as well as a professor of the Conservatoire.

While most of his output as a composer comprises flute and piano pieces, he also wrote a flute quintet in 1876, which is still performed occasionally to this day.