By way of introduction, Martin Doyle has been good friends with Elizabeth Petcu for many years now. Both hail from the seaside town of Bray in County Wicklow and were neighbours. Although Martin now resides in County Clare, they still see each other frequently and perform together as Rune – a talented trio completed by Debbie Armstrong. Elizabeth plays a Muramatsu concert flute with a wooden head joint and also a simple system Irish flute (see them here: Elizabeth Petcu’s flutes) both of which are made of Cocus wood and hand-crafted by Martin Doyle. Elizabeth served for over twenty five years as principal flute with Ireland’s RTE Concert Orchestra until a hearing problem (otosclerosis) sidelined her career.
And what of the Elizabeth Petcu / Ludwig von Beethoven connection? Well, there appear to be common threads running through both lives. Sure they don’t share the same age, address, flute maker or historical gravitas, but they do share a passion for music – the universal language. Ludwig composed his own music of course, and Elizabeth has performed many of these creations over the span of her professional career.
They also share a similar adversity. Elizabeth Petcu suffers from a condition known as otosclerosis, which is the most common cause of progressive deafness in young adults. Some consider otosclerosis to be the most likely cause of Beethoven’s deafness. Whatever the case, it is well documented that Beethoven went on composing despite near complete deafness. In Elizabeth’s case too, when her hearing impediment forced her into retirement from the RTE, she has kept up with her practice and performs wherever she can with an enduring energy, cheerfulness and enthusiasm that is fuelled by a great love for sharing her gift of music with others. Composers must compose, performers must perform. Audiences, large or small, receive the fruit of this wonderful synthesis.
RTE presenter and producer, Bernadette Comerford, recently caught up with Elizabeth at her home in Bray. They talked about Elizabeth’s forced retirement from the hard work and deep satisfaction that is the life of a professional musician, and of her life since – music practice and performance, ceramics, family, canine companions and everyday life. The results of this interview have been published on RTE Radio 1 as a podcast entitled Beethoven and Me. Also featured are extracts from Elizabeth’s debut solo flute album, Just Me, and a brilliant solo during Beethoven’s sixth symphony where the flute assumes the nightingale role. It is an interview that I am sure would have garnered Ludwig’s approval…
Daring enthusiasm and abiding cheerfulness
Can accomplish everything on earth
– Sri Chinmoy.