The Swiss flautist, Emmanuel Pahud, was born Geneva, Switzerland into an non-musical family. His father is of French and Swiss background and his mother is French. Travelling has been a big part of Emmanuel Pahud's life from birth. His father worked for a U.S. company, and the family moved repeatedly during his childhood. However, this would only shape Pahud's international outlook for his future. Only six weeks after Pahud was born, his parents moved to Baghdad for one year. They moved again when he was 1 to Paris, where Emmanuel's younger brother was born. In 1972, they then moved to Madrid for two years, and in 1974, finally settled in Rome for four years. In their apartment building in Rome, lived the Swiss-French Binet family whose four children played musical instruments. The father (François) was a flautist who studied in Zürich and Paris but stopped performing in later years. At the age of 4, Pahud first heard the flute. As the eldest son Philippe played the Flute Concerto No. 1 (Mozart) K.313 in G Major, it set the course to a remarkable chapter of Pahud's life. That Christmas, after receiving his first flute, Pahud began his first year of lessons with Philippe (who was only 15 years old) and the next three years with Phillipe's father, François. In 1978, at the age of 8, the Pahud family moved to Brussels, Belgium. Emmanuel then began studying at the Music Academy of Uccle in Southern Brussels. There he studied with Michel Moinil from 1979 to 1985. As he became more determined and focused on playing the flute at a higher level; Pahud began to study from 1984 to 1987 with Carlos Bruneel, the then and current principal flautist of the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie opera house in Brussels. In 1985, Pahud won the National Competition of Belgium (le concours National de Belgique) and in the same year, he played his first concert with the National Orchestra of Belgium, performing the piece that inspired him 11 years earlier: Mozart Concerto K.313 in G Major. Pahud remained in Brussels until receiving his A-Level at the age of 17 and went off to finish his schooling in Paris. With the strong support of his family, he also received lessons with other of Europe's finest players, including Peter-Lukas Graf in Basel.
Emmanuel Pahud attended the Conservatoire de Paris (Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris) in France, studying with Michel Debost, Alain Marion, Pierre Artaud, and Christian Larde. Whilst studying, he won two major competitions, one in Duino 1988 and the other in Kobe in 1989. In 1988, Emmanuel also won the 2nd Prize at the International Scheveningen Music Competition in Scheveningen, Netherlands. Winning these competitions put Pahud in the forefront to become principal flautist in the Radio-Sinfonieorchester Basel, under the direction of Nello Santi which he obtained the position in 1989 whilst finishing his studies in Paris. He resigned from the orchestra in 1992. Pahud also held the principal flautist position at the Münchner Philharmoniker under Sergiu Celibidache. Pahud graduated at the age of 20 from the Conservatoire in 1990, obtaining the First Prize (Premier Prix). He then continued to advance his studies for the next two years; in style and interpretation with one of France's greatest flautists, Swiss-born Aurèle Nicolet who turned out to be his neighbour. In 1992, Aurèle Nicolet prepared Pahud in an extensive 10 day rehearsal for both the Geneva International Music Competition, (le Concours International de Genève) in September of that year and the audition for principal flautist of the Berliner Philharmoniker in October. He acknowledges achieving both the first prize at le Concours International de Genève (he won eight out of the twelve special prizes at this competition) and being appointed for the position at the age of 22 by Berliner Philharmoniker's conductor, Claudio Abbado to his experience with Aurèle Nicolet. He took 'the Soloists Prize' in the World-wide French-speaking Community Radio Awards, and 'the European Council's Juventus Prize'. He is also a laureate of the Yehudi Menuhin Foundation and of the International Tribune for Musicians of UNESCO.
Being appointed as principal flautist at the Berliner Philharmoniker signalled Emmanuel Pahud's entrance into the international spotlight. He entered the orchestra during its rejuvenation period as the post-war generation of players began to retire. Over 40%, including Pahud's position was up for audition, or on trial. His predecessor was Karlheinz Zöller (1960–1969, 1976–1993). Apart from Pahud, other previous international flautists held the same principal flautist position such as Aurèle Nicolet (1950-1959) and Sir James Galway (1969-1975). As many international musicians filled these positions. Pahud at 22 was the youngest player in the Berliner Philharmoniker, a position to which he returned in 2002 under Sir Simon Rattle after taking a 18 month sabbatical in 2000 in order to teach the Virtuosity Class at the Conservatoire de Musique de Genève for one year and to perform in concerts worldwide. In 2007, Pahud was voted onto the Media Vorstand (or the Member of the Media Board) of the Berliner Philharmoniker. He currently shares the position of Principal Flautist with Andreas Blau who has held the position since .
Emmanuel Pahud's workload has more than tripled since the early days of his international career in 1992. At that time he was doing about 50 concerts a year - but with the success of his solo career and continued involvement with the Berliner Philharmoniker, that number has spiralled to around 160; 90 solo or chamber music and 75 orchestral concerts in an average year - roughly twice the number of performances that most musicians would consider a heavy work-load.
In 1993, Emmanuel Pahud began accepting international concert performances soon after settling into his position in Berlin. He has appeared as soloist with internationally renowned orchestras in addition to the Berliner Philharmoniker: such as the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Radio-Symphonie-Orchester-Berlin (East Berlin), Philharmonique de Radio France, Mariinski, Minnesota Orchestra, Camerata Academica Salzburg, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, National Symphony Orchestra (Washington), NHK Symphony, Australian Chamber Orchestra and Scottish Chamber Orchestra. He has collaborated with conductors such as Claudio Abbado, Simon Rattle, David Zinman, Lorin Maazel, Gergiev, John Eliot Gardiner, Daniel Harding, Järvi, Trevor Pinnock, Jordan, Rostropovich or Itzhak Perlman. He also appears regularly at leading festivals throughout Europe, the USA and the Far East.
His more famous international concerto appearances and collaborations of the past few seasons (2005-2008) included the Berliner Philharmoniker, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, Camerata Academica Salzburg, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Bayerischer Rundfunk Symphonieorchester, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Berliner Barock Solisten, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de Belgique, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, and a USA tour with the Barcelona Symphony and Catalonia National Orchestra (including a Carnegie Hall debut). Another famous concerto collaboration took place in 2005-2006 with the Australian Chamber Orchestra in reviving the Antonio Vivaldi Flute Concertos.
Emmanuel Pahud is also a dedicated chamber musician and has recently made international appearances throughout Europe, North America and Japan in recital with pianists Éric Le Sage, Stephen Kovacevich, Yefim Bronfman and Hélène Grimaud, as well as in a flute and string quartet formation with Christoph Poppen (violin), Hariolf Schichtig (viola) and Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello) with whom he recorded his 1999 record Mozart Flute Quartets. In 1993, he co-founded Le festival de l'Empéri in Salon-de-Provence, France, along with his regular chamber music partners pianist Éric Le Sage (close friend and confidant) and Paul Meyer (clarinetist). Pahud has made several recordings and performed internationally with pianist Éric Le Sage throughout his career. In 2008 he performed for the first time at the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival, where he played in the world premier of Elliot Carter's Flute Concerto, conducted by Daniel Barenboim. He returned to the Festival on 2009 to play in a series of concerts. Highlights of the coming season include a Japanese tour with Les Vents Français, a European recital tour with Hélène Grimaud and recitals in the USA with Yefim Bronfman. He has been chosen as 'Artiste Étoile' for the 2006 Lucerne Festival.
Emmanuel Pahud describes his versatility over the years in music, as transforming himself into a chameleon who tries to match the colour of the music, or the idea he has of it, to what the composer had in mind. But his discography and career has also been built on encounters; both professionally and human relationships. Pahud seems himself as a performer/actor rather than a composer/creator. For the Dalbavie Record (2008) Pahud dedicated himself to commissioning new works and to start new flute concertos; performing them for the first time on stage. Three composers were selected: Marc-André Dalbavie (French), Michael Jarrell (Swiss), and Matthias Pintscher (German) reflecting Pahud as a French and Swiss citizen living in Germany for over 15 years. Whilst working with German Composer, Matthias Pintscher; Pahud sought to explore a new level and style of playing the flute. In March 2008 Pahud performed the World Première of another work commissioned by Frank Michael Beyer, who composed Meridian, a Concerto for Flute & String Ensemble. Other World Premières include music composed by Elliot Carter: Concerto for Flute & Ensemble, which Pahud premiered in September 2008 in Jerusalem. It was joint commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker, Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival and Boston Symphony Orchestra. Pahud will World Première the Flute Concerto by Luca Lombardi in 2010, commissioned by the Kansas City Symphony.
Though he is an enthusiastic consumer and commissioner of new music, Emmanuel Pahud sounds most excited when relishing the old repertoire. “Mastery of an instrument helps you to sense new barriers. This is where you keep music moving," and he acknowledges his various experiences with newer flute compositions as benefiting the way he performs his traditional repertoire. Pahud sees the future of interpretation (of music) will always be a blend of "tradition and novelty." But to him, this concept is not a novelty in itself. Many composers have evolved from traditions such as Bach for Fortepiano and L.v. Beethoven for the Hammerklavier. Pahud sees the term "tradition" as often being used to disguise the past, a lack of evolution or in denial of progress. But to him, the meaning of tradition is something evolving.
In most interviews, Emmanuel Pahud describes music/musical styles in terms of "phrasing" or a Phrase (music). In musical terms, this refers to "a musical unit, often a component of a melody. The phrase may be regarded as a dependent division of music, such as a single line of poetry; it does not have a sense of completion in itself. Usually two or more phrases balance each other." It is like a grammatical construction with words to stress. Musical phrasing is also expressed in terms of how the music is executed. In terms of style of the Dalbavie concerto itself, Pahud reflects how the flute finds a resonance within the orchestra whilst maintaining its virtuosic, colourful and sensual phrasing. In interpreting the poetic style of Jarrell, where the imagination of both the composer and of the audience are "immensely present" in his writing; Pahud describes, "This is something to me I like a lot in music is exactly what you cannot express with words but that its all there in the essence of the music." On reflecting the style of the famous flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal, "[Rampal] brought something new and unusual in terms of sound, class and grandeur of the expressive aspect of the flute. He was able to perform admirable phrases that never seemed to end, or how the breathing faded into the musical flow; and his ability to make the sound of the flute seem to extend endlessly, infinitely."
Emmanuel Pahud’s debut into the world of jazz came through meeting and collaborating with jazz pianist Jacky Terrasson. He admires and derives inspiration from jazz flutists such as: James Newton, James Moody (saxophonist) (also a flute player), Herbie Mann, and Jeremy Steig. He has explored jazz further through performing big band music with friends and colleagues from the Berliner Philharmoniker and local jazz musicians. Other examples of his vast interests in innovative musical genres include so-called “one-time projects”; most recently in 2006, it included a collaboration project with the NHK Symphony Orchestra of a recorded original soundtrack for the NHK Taiga series Komyo ga Tsuji. He has recently appeared with the jazz pianist Jacky Terrasson
In 1996 Emmanuel Pahud signed an exclusive contract with EMI Classics, the only flutist in the world to have a solo recording contract with a major record company. He promises to be one of the most significant contributors to the catalogue of recorded flute music today. Nowadays much of his time is taken up with recording. He extended his contract with EMI for a further six years. He has recorded and/or collaborated a total of 22 discs with EMI. His discography has earned him many awards, including several 'TV-Victoires de la Musique', 'Diapason d'Or', Radio France's 'Recording of the Year', several 'Fono-Forum' and 'TV-Echo Awards' in Germany, 'ReGeijutsu' or 'Ongaku no Tomo Award' from the Japanese record industry. His discs have all been released to unanimous critical acclaim: "I haven't heard a flautist on disc that I like as much as Pahud" - American Record Guide; "Surpassing any previous recordings of the Mozart quartets"- BBC Music Magazine; "This signals the arrival of a new master flautist" - The Guardian; "Don't miss any of Pahud's recordings!" - Diapason, and Pahud's collaboration with EMI is set to be one of the most significant contributions to recorded flute music. His most recent releases are a disc with Khatchaturian and Ibert's flute concertos (Zürich Tonhalle with David Zinman), a recital disc with harpist Mariko Anraku, and his Franck, Widor and R. Strauss sonatas with Éric Le Sage has been out since the autumn of 2004. In June 2005 he recorded A. Vivaldi concertos with the Australian Chamber Orchestra released in 2006.
Emmanuel Pahud's first flute was a silver-plated Yamaha. His parents later bought him two Muramatsu Flutes, one half hand-made and the other fully hand-made. Pahud currently plays a 14-karat golden flute which he bought from Brannen Brothers in Boston, Massachusetts in 1989 with money he won from competitions. Two weeks later he bought a head joint (the part into which the player blows) from Dana Sheridan, another Boston flute manufacturer. Pahud chose the Brannen flute body because it is one of the only flute makers that produce a decent Cooper scale, based on the scales developed by Albert Cooper (flute maker).