Friday 1 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Andante

 from Telemann's Sonata in F minor

This Andante is the third of four movements from Georg Philipp Telemann's Sonata in F minor, which was originally written for bassoon and basso continuo. The Sonata comes from Der Getreue Musikmeister, a musical periodical started in 1728 which consisted of vocal and instrumental selections accessible to students and amateur musicians.

Thanks to April for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Baroque Sonatas Difficulty: intermediate
Saturday 2 October 2010

Tune of the Day: The Lark in the Clear Air

 Traditional Irish air

This Traditional Irish tune is also known as “Caisléan U, Néill” in Ireland, which means “O'Neill's Castle” in English. As regards the title “The Lark in the Clear Air”, it comes from a poem by Samuel Ferguson (1810–1886):

Dear thoughts are in my mind and my soul soars enchanted,
As I hear the sweet lark sing in the clear air of the day.
For a tender beaming smile to my hope has been granted,
And tomorrow she shall hear all my fond heart would say.

This version has been recorded many times, but most recently by actress Kate Winslett for the soundtrack to the 2001 film Iris. In 1994 Sir James Galway released an album of the same name, which included an arrangement of the tune for flute and synthesizer.

Categories: Celtic Music Traditional/Folk Difficulty: intermediate
Sunday 3 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Autumn, a trio

 Arranged for three flutes by Ben Kelly

This arrangement of Vivaldi's famous “Autumn” concerto was kindly contributed by one of our followers, Ben Kelly. It's an original arrangement for flute trio of the well-known first movement. Here are some words from our guest arranger:

While writing “Autumn” I had to make sure all the important parts were covered. For a flute trio because there is no baseline I had to create one using the cello part but slowing it down so there were no spaces in the music. I arranged this piece because my flute trio had to do a 50 minute performance and there were very little flute trio pieces available for free. I am happy with how the piece turned out and hope others enjoy playing it in flute trios.

Thank you for your contribution, Ben!

Categories: Baroque Concertos Difficulty: intermediate
Monday 4 October 2010

Tune of the Day: On, Wisconsin!

 Fight song of the University of Wisconsin

“On, Wisconsin!” is not only a fight song, but it has also been designated as the official state song of Wisconsin. It is undoubtedly one of the most popular school songs in the United States, and has been adopted by thousands of high school bands as their own. It is rare to attend a high school football game anywhere in the U.S. and not hear this march being performed by at least one of the school bands. Even John Philip Sousa regarded it as “the finest of college marching songs”.

The melody of this famous song was composed in 1909 by William T. Purdy, a corporation clerk who prior to that time had never set foot in Wisconsin. He originally wrote it with the intention of entering it into a competition for a new fight song at the University of Minnesota. Carl Beck, a former University of Wisconsin–Madison student, convinced him to withdraw it from the contest at the last minute, and allow his alma mater to use it instead. Beck then wrote the original, football-oriented lyrics, changing the words “Minnesota, Minnesota” to “On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!”

Categories: Fight songs Marches Sports music Difficulty: intermediate
Tuesday 5 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Le rossignol en amour

 by François Couperin

François Couperin was a French composer, organist and harpsichordist of the Baroque period. He was known as Couperin le Grand (“Couperin the Great”) to distinguish him from other members of the musically talented Couperin family.

Couperin's harpsichord music is the dominant portion of his output, and one of the most impressive keyboard legacies in Western music. The individual pieces are grouped into 27 ordres, a term Couperin coined, apparently to distinguish them from the older suites. “Le rossignol en amour” (literally, “The Nightingale in Love”) is taken from the XIV ordre, and is an excellent piece to play on the flute, as the Composer himself wrote:

It is not necessary to adhere too precisely to the beat in the Double above; one must sacrifice everything to appropriate expression, to the clean execution of the passagework, and to softening the accents marked by the mordents. This “Rossignol” can be performed with the greatest possible success on the flute, when it is well played.

Categories: Baroque Difficulty: intermediate
Wednesday 6 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Cooley's Reel

 Traditional Irish tune

Although this popular session tune is now associated with the renowned button accordion player Joe Cooley (1924–1973), There are several stories circulating regarding its origins. According to David Taylor, the reel was the composition of fiddler John McGrath. Philippe Varlet maintains it was the invention of accordion player Joe Mills of the Aughrim Slopes Céilí Band, who originally entitled it “Lutrell Pass”. According to Joe Mills, who does claim to be the composer, the story goes that Joe Cooley was a young lad of 18 or so when he first heard Joe Mills playing the tune. They were both members of the Aughrim Slopes Band, and Cooley was reported to be mad for the tune: “He quickly learned it, and played it sometimes 2 and 3 times per night.” Joe Mills feels that this is why so many people came to associate this tune with Cooley.

Charlie Piggott, writing in his book co-authored with Fintan Vallely, Blooming Meadows, has yet another version, related to him by Joe's brother Séamus. Its origins date to the 1940s, when the two brothers attended a house session in the neighboring county of Clare. There they listened to an old man with a battered concertina playing in front of an open fire (Séamus remembers some of the buttons had been replaced by cigarette ends!), and one tune in particular caught their attention. On returning home the brothers tried their best to remember what the old man had played, staying up through the night working and worrying the remembered fragments until finally the reel took shape.

Categories: Celtic Music Reels Traditional/Folk Difficulty: intermediate
Thursday 7 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune

 by Claude Debussy

Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (Prelude to “The Afternoon of a Faun”) is a symphonic poem for orchestra by Claude Debussy, first performed in Paris in 1894. The composition was inspired by the poem “L'Après-midi d'un faune” by Stéphane Mallarmé, and later formed the basis for a ballet choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky. It is one of Debussy's most famous works and is considered a turning point in the history of music; composer and conductor Pierre Boulez even dates the awakening of modern music from this score, observing that “the flute of the faun brought new breath to the art of music.”

Pop star Michael Jackson named this piece his "favorite song", along with Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite.

Categories: 20th century Symphonic poems Difficulty: advanced
Friday 8 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Andante by Telemann

 from Quartet in D minor, arranged for flute trio

Although Telemann's Tafelmusik (Musique de table in French, literally “Table Music”, that is, music played at feasts and banquets) was issued in 1733, the Quartet in D minor is one of the pieces clearly written well before publication; in fact, it is found among the works Telemann had composed while employed in Frankfurt between 1712 and 1721. The piece was originally intended for recorder (or bassoon), two flutes and basso continuo, but it may be performed by three flutes (with an optional bass instrument) as well.

The first movement, marked Andante, finds the three melody instruments entering in imitation of each other, with the bass keeping pace with a moaning figure. Before long the flutes are playing together a third apart, with the principal instrument providing a distinct but related voice. Each of the several times the main subject enters it is in imitation, followed by a free elaboration on the material with the flutes then generally performing as a unit.

Thanks to Gaby for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Baroque Difficulty: intermediate
Saturday 9 October 2010

Tune of the Day: A Baroque Rondeau

 by Michel Blavet

This Rondeau for solo flute is taken from Michel Blavet's Premier recueil de pièces (“First collection of pieces”). As you have probably already guessed, this piece is in rondeau (or rondo) form, that is, it is made up of a refrain and a number of episodes (only two in this case, but there could have been more). During performance, the principal theme of the refrain (A) alternates with the episodes (B, C, etc.), creating an ABACA pattern. For obvious reasons, the refrain appears only once in the sheet music, so it's up to the performer to play the various sections in the right order.

Categories: Baroque Rondos Written for Flute Difficulty: intermediate
Sunday 10 October 2010

Tune of the Day: The Maid Behind the Bar

 Traditional Irish reel

“The Maid Behind the Bar” is an extremely popular and much hackneyed tune. The tune was initially popularized through the recording by Irish fiddle master James Morrison, and has become one of the most ubiquitous tunes in modern Irish sessions. Much of its present popularity is due to a version recorded during the 1970s by Stockton's Wing. O'Neill published it in his Music of Ireland collection as “The Green Mountain”, a name now more commonly attached to a close variant of the tune.

This tune goes well with Cooley's Reel.

Categories: Celtic Music Reels Traditional/Folk Difficulty: intermediate
Monday 11 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Grave by Handel

 from Flute Sonata in E minor

“Grave” is an Italian adjective which could mean “heavy”, or “severe”; when used as a tempo indication, it directs to play at an extremely slow and solemn pace.

This particular movement is the first of Handel's Sonata in E minor for flute, Op. 1, No. 1b. This work should not be confused with the other flute sonata E minor, No. 1a, which is actually a compilation of Handel's favorite movements from his sonatas. The sonata we are presenting today, instead, was originally written in D minor for the violin, and subsequently transcribed by the composer himself for the Baroque flute.

The rhythm of this piece may look a bit complex at first glance; you must remember, however, that this is meant to be played very slowly. After having listened to the recording, you will see that it is not that difficult after all.

Categories: Baroque Sonatas Written for Flute Difficulty: intermediate
Tuesday 12 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Nocturne No. 21 in C minor

 by Frédéric Chopin, arranged for solo Flute

Though this is listed as the last of the 21 nocturnes of Chopin, it was chronologically his 13th. For those attaching superstitious significance to that numbered position, they will not find this an unlucky piece in any sense. The only problem with this posthumous nocturne actually concerns numbering: in many editions it is not numbered at all, while some refer to it as No. 21 or No. 20a, and some other as KKIVb No. 8

Thanks to Melissa for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Nocturnes Romantic Difficulty: intermediate
Wednesday 13 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Comin' Thro' the Rye

 Traditional Scottish song

Robert Burns “Comin' Thro' the Rye” is well known as a traditional children's song, with the words set to the Scottish tune “Common' Frae the Town”. This is a variant of the tune to which “Auld Lang Syne” is usually sung, but with very different rhythm and tempo.

This song provides the title of J.D. Salinger's famous novel The Catcher in the Rye. The main character, Holden Caulfield, mishears the lyric, “Gin a body meet a body/ comin' through the rye”. Thinking it is, “Gin a body catch a body/ comin through the rye”, he imagines a field of rye and kids playing in the field.

Categories: Nursery rhymes Traditional/Folk Difficulty: intermediate
Thursday 14 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Vivace by Telemann

 from Sonata in F minor

This is the fourth and last movement of Georg Philipp Telemann's Sonata in F minor for bassoon (or recorder) and basso continuo. It's marked “Vivace”, which is Italian for “lively”, so it should be played at a lively tempo. As always, however, remember to play it slowly when you first sight-read it, even if you feel capable of rushing through the whole movement at performance tempo (which is highly unlikely for most people!).

Categories: Baroque Sonatas Difficulty: intermediate
Friday 15 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Finale from The Carnival of the Animals

 by Camille Saint-Saëns, arranged for solo flute

As the name says, this fourteenth movement is the grand finale of Saint-Saëns's most famous work, Le Carnaval des Animaux. This piece can be heard in the animated Disney film Fantasia 2000, in which a flock of flamingos is annoyed by another flamingo playing with a yo-yo and attempt to make him fall into step with their dance routines. It is important to observe that, although the melody of the Finale is relatively simple, the supporting harmonies which show up in the original arrangement are heavily ornamented with dazzling scales, glissandi and trills.

Thanks to Luis for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Romantic Difficulty: intermediate
Saturday 16 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Florentine March

 by Julius Fučík, arranged for solo flute

Although Czech composer Julius Fučík is best known for his march “Entrance of the Gladiators”, his real signature piece is this “Florentine March”, written during the composer's long stint as leader of the Royal and Imperial Army's military band. It's a happy, spirited piece in the vein of Johann Strauss's Radetzky March, and a standard selection on concerts of light band and orchestral music. The piece was composed in 1900 as a grand march for an opera never completed. Its original title was “La Rosa di Toscana” (“The Rose of Tuscany”), which was an appellation of the Tuscan city of Florence.

Thanks to Ines for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Marches Difficulty: intermediate
Sunday 17 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Largo by Telemann

 from Quartet in D minor, arranged for flute trio

This Largo is the third movement of Telemann's Quartet in D minor for recorder, two flutes and basso continuo. It is a slow siciliano in A minor, introduced by the first flute, which is answered by brief phrases from the other instruments. Before long all three melody instruments are playing together, although Telemann often sets the two flutes apart in their own passages, the solo instrument commenting during their pauses.

Categories: Baroque Sicilianas Difficulty: intermediate
Monday 18 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Hyfrydol

 Welsh hymn tune, arranged for flute trio

“Hyfrydol”, meaning “cheerful” in Welsh, was composed by Rowland Huw Prichard when he was 19 years old, and published 14 years later, in 1844, in the composer's handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal Cyfaill y Cantorion (“The Singers' Friend”). This popular, singable hymn tune features the vocal range of only a sixth, from F to C, and appears in a number of Christian hymnals in various arrangements, the best-known probably being that by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Hyfrydol has been used as a setting for William Chatterton Dix's hymn “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!”, Charles Wesley's “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”, “I Will Sing the Wondrous Story”, and “Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus”, as well as many other hymns from a variety of faith traditions.

Categories: Hymn tunes Difficulty: easy
Tuesday 19 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Tambourin

 by Jean-Philippe Rameau

A tambourin (literally “small drum” in French) is a piece of music that imitates a drum. French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau wrote many of them as parts of his operas. The most famous one is the Tambourin in E Minor from his second collection of pieces for the harpsichord, titled Pièces de clavessin (1724), which also appears in his 1739 opera Les fêtes d'Hébé. With its driving melody full of trills and accents, this piece is unforgettable. In order to make it playable in its entirety on the flute, the tune was transposed to G minor.

Categories: Baroque Difficulty: intermediate
Wednesday 20 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Study No. 7 by Köhler

 from “Progress in Flute Playing”

This melodious piece will make you an expert in D minor scales and arpeggios! It is taken from the first book of Progress in Flute Playing, published in the 1880s by Italian composer Ernesto Köhler. The étude No. 7 can be roughly divided into three parts: the exposition of the main theme, a more relaxed central section in D major, and a final restatement of the initial theme.

Categories: Etudes Romantic Written for Flute Difficulty: intermediate
Thursday 21 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Allegro by Telemann

 from Sonata in F minor

Here is the second movement of Telemann's Sonata in F minor for bassoon and basso continuo. It is an Allegro in ternary (A-B-A) form which shows a particular rhythmic interest, in that key moments in phrases often occupy unexpected beats of the bar. As a fast movement, it is somewhat virtuosic, especially when the semiquavers come in. Be prepared for them!

Categories: Baroque Sonatas Difficulty: intermediate
Friday 22 October 2010

Tune of the Day: The Hen's March to the Midden

 Traditional Irish/Scottish reel

According to Fiddle Music of Scotland by James Hunter, “The Hen's March to/through/over the Midden” is undoubtedly one of the most popular pieces in the fiddler's “entertainment repertoire”. Its second part is very characteristic in that it attempts to musically describe chicken clucks.

The first several bars of the tune are typical of trumpet marches that were popular in London in the first half of the 18th century. Peter Cooke claims the tune, while of British origins, survived in Shetland in near original form and was subsequently reintroduced to the Scottish mainland.

Categories: Celtic Music Reels Traditional/Folk Difficulty: intermediate
Saturday 23 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Orientale by Cui

 Arranged for Flute and Piano

César Antonovich Cui was a Russian army officer and a teacher of fortifications; of course, he was also a composer and music critic, and in this sideline he is known as a member of The Five, the group of Russian composers under the leadership of Mily Balakirev dedicated to the production of a specifically Russian type of music.

Like so much of Cui's music, the 24 miniatures that together make up his Kaleidoscope for violin and piano are now forgotten — with the exception of the famous “Orientale”, which has been a staple on violinists' and cellists' encore lists for a full century now. This 6/8 time Allegretto rides along on a tambourine rhythm set up by the soloist in the opening bars. The main tune is offered by the piano a few bars in, and later taken up “con morbidezza” (“with tenderness”) by the violin/cello/flute.

Thanks to Kathrine for suggesting this tune!

Categories: Romantic Difficulty: intermediate
Sunday 24 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Giga from Il Pastor Fido

 Attributed to Antonio Vivaldi

This lively dance in 6/8 time is the last movement of Sonata No. 1 in C major from the collection of six sonatas titled Il pastor fido (“The Faithful Shepherd”).

This collection has always been attributed to Antonio Vivaldi until recently. According to modern scholars, however, in 1737 French composer Nicolas Chédeville made a secret agreement with Jean-Noël Marchand to publish a collection of his own compositions as Antonio Vivaldi's Il pastor fido. Chédeville supplied the money and received the profits, all of which was attested to in a notarial act by Marchand in 1749. This may have been an attempt to give his instrument, the musette (a sort of bagpipe), the endorsement of a great composer which it lacked.

Thanks to Béatrice for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Baroque Jigs Sonatas Difficulty: intermediate
Monday 25 October 2010

Tune of the Day: The Four Poster Bed

 Traditional Irish/Scottish tune

Here is a traditional piece that is often played after “The Hen's March to the Midden”, and which also makes a great tune for playing at weddings.

The melody is popular in the Shetlands, though probably not of Shetland origin. On an early recording, Irish fiddler John Doherty relates the story of an itinerant fiddle player who finds refuge for the night in a cottage which lacks a bed for him. Not wanting to be inhospitable, the man of the house fashions a bed, and in return the fiddler composes a tune to thank him.

Categories: Celtic Music Polkas Reels Traditional/Folk Wedding music Difficulty: intermediate
Tuesday 26 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Triste by Telemann

 from Sonata in F minor

The first movement of Georg Philipp Telemann's Sonata in F minor for bassoon and basso continuo is marked “Triste”, which in Italian literally means “sad”. Indeed, right in the opening of the movement the composer creates a peculiar atmosphere by a very effective use of a mournful triplet figure, which may sound a bit surprising to the unprepared listener.

Categories: Baroque Sonatas Difficulty: intermediate
Wednesday 27 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Spanish Dance

 from “The Nutcracker” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

This is one of the characteristic dances that show up in the second act of The Nutcracker, when Clara and the Prince arrive at the Kingdom of Sweets, ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy. The Fairy and the people of the Kingdom perform several dances for Clara and the Prince, including a “Spanish Dance” that is sometimes called “Chocolate”.

Unlike other characteristic pieces like the Russian (Trepak), Chinese (Tea) or Arabian (Coffee) dances, the Spanish Dance was not later included by Tchaikovsky in The Nutcracker Suite, which was intended for concert performance.

Thanks to Julie for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Ballet excerpts Romantic Difficulty: intermediate
Thursday 28 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Adagio by Benedetto Marcello

 from Sonata in D minor

This slow Adagio is the first movement of Benedetto Marcello's Sonata No. 2 in D minor for recorder and basso continuo. It features a beautiful main melody in a typical Italian Baroque style.

Thanks to Ana for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Baroque Sonatas Difficulty: intermediate
Friday 29 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Gigue by J.S. Bach

 from Cello Suite No. 1 in G major

This gigue is the piece that concludes Bach's Suite No. 1 for Unaccompanied Cello, BWV 1007. The gigue (also called giga or jig, even if these terms are generally only used for its Italian and British counterparts, respectively) was a lively dance, usually in 6/8 time or some other compound time. It was the most common form for the last movement of a Baroque suite.

Thanks to Luis for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Baroque Jigs Difficulty: intermediate
Saturday 30 October 2010

Tune of the Day: Fantasia for Solo Flute No. 1

 by Georg Philipp Telemann

Telemann's first Fantasia for Solo Flute is in the key of A major. Because the piece was designed to be played with no continuo accompaniment, the flute's single line assumes various roles simultaneously, sometimes soaring to a high note before quickly dipping down to provide a closing cadential figure. A prime example can be found in the middle section of the opening Vivace, where Telemann created the illusion of a fugal texture by rapidly sending the flute across registers to intermittently execute quasi-contrapuntal figurations. This piece is also typical in its alternation of slow and fast sections, marked “ad.” and “all.” for “adagio” and “allegro” respectively. The fantasia ends with a binary-form (AABB) passepied in 3/8 time, a lively dance music form that originated in Brittany in the 17th-century.

Thanks to Anne for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Baroque Fantasias Written for Flute Difficulty: intermediate
Sunday 31 October 2010

Tune of the Day: The Ghost of John

 A traditional Halloween song, playable as a round

This folk tune appears to be of American origin. The lyrics are well-known:

Have you seen the ghost of John?
Long white bones and the flesh all gone?
Ooh, ooh, ooh, oo-ooh ooh ooh ooh!
Wouldn’t it be chilly with no skin on?

The best thing about this tune is that it can be played as a round, that is, it can be played by up to four players, all playing the same exact melody but at two bars' distance. The resulting harmony creates a very scary atmosphere! To make it even creepier, try introducing sudden changes in dynamics (playing softer/louder) and tempo (playing slower/faster).

Categories: Canons Halloween music Traditional/Folk Difficulty: easy