The life and work of John Clinton, cont.
Clinton as a Musician
In evaluating the flute under study, it will be
helpful to consider what may be gleaned from the record about
Clinton’s musical abilities, since it would have been these abilities
upon which he would have to call in judging the success in musical terms
of his efforts to improve the flute and in evaluating his efforts
against those of others. At this remove in time, this is not easy.
Nevertheless, a few observations may be made.
left a considerable legacy of published compositions, producing well
over one hundred works. Although
largely forgotten today, these
were highly regarded by Clinton’s own contemporaries, not least by
Rockstro himself (never an easy man to please!).
This seems to show
that Clinton did not lack a solid musical foundation, understanding of
his instrument and sound musical sense and that these qualities were recognised by his peers.
appointment to the position of Flute Teacher at the Royal Academy speaks
volumes. It is simply
inconceivable that a second-rate player would have been appointed to
this position, or
held it for so long, especially when one looks at the standing of his
predecessors as well as his contemporaries who might be expected to vie
for such a prestigious position. Surely only a player of the highest
professional standing would have been considered.
Thirdly, as noted above, Clinton enjoyed at least
one high-profile season as principal flute at Her Majesty’s Theatre
(in 1847) as well as becoming member of the Philharmonic Society.
Hardly suitable appointments for a less-than-accomplished
The only “eye-witness” account of Clinton’s
playing by one of his contemporary peers comes yet again from the
ever-acidic pen of Rockstro, who states (Article 927, op.
cit.) that “Clinton can hardly be said to have been a first-rate
flute-player, inasmuch as his intonation was false and his tone
coarse” This does
not sound at all like a man who would be a suitable candidate for the
position at the Royal Academy, nor does it seem to reflect a sound
foundation for the successful performing career that Clinton undoubtedly
enjoyed. Rockstro goes on
to say that “In other respects, he was a good musician”(!!).
In this case, Rockstro’s statements are difficult
Looking at the available evidence, and allowing for
Rockstro’s well-demonstrated prejudices, it is hard to escape the
conclusion that Clinton must have been a flute player and musician of