Wednesday 1 December 2010

Tune of the Day: Masters in This Hall

 Traditional Christmas carol, with variations

This carol is moderately popular around the world, but has not entered the canon of most popular carols. The original French tune, which can be traced back to the late 1600s, was included in Raoul Auger Feuillet's 1703 Recueil de contredanse along with a longways proper dance, “La Matelote”, which Feuillet had himself written to go with the tune. The French composer Marin Marais included this dance in his 1706 opera Alcyone, with the title “Marche pour les Matelots”. In 1710 John Essex published a translation of Feuillet's work, For the Further Improvement of Dancing, in which the dance is given as “The Female Saylor”. It is unclear, however, whether the tune entered English folk tradition at that point, or whether it was reintroduced later. Anyways, it was William Morris, best known as the founder of the Arts and Crafts Movement, who fashioned this carol when he provided, around 1860, words for the tune.

The tune as it is usually played today shows a couple differences with respect to Feuillet's version, notably regarding the alteration of the seventh note of the scale. In the sheet music, these few changes are marked above the notes. To make things more interesting, we have also provided some variations on the theme, hope you'll like them.

Thursday 2 December 2010

Tune of the Day: O mio babbino caro

 by Giacomo Puccini, arranged for Flute and Piano

“O mio babbino caro” (“Oh my dear papa”) is a popular aria from Giacomo Puccini's 1918 opera Gianni Schicchi. It is sung by Lauretta after tensions between her father (Gianni Schicchi) and his prospective in-laws have reached a breaking point that threatens to separate her from Rinuccio, the boy she loves. The aria provides a contrasting interlude expressing lyrical simplicity and single-hearted love in the atmosphere of hypocrisy, jealousy and double-dealing of medieval Florence, where Puccini's only comedy is set.

All the most famous sopranos of the 20th century have performed this aria, including Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi, Montserrat Caballé, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Kathleen Battle, Renée Fleming and many others. It has also become in demand with popular music sopranos such as Sarah Brightman, Charlotte Church, and Hayley Westenra. Violinist Joshua Bell also has produced a recording of it.

James Ivory's 1985 adaptation of E.M. Forster's novel A Room with a View uses the aria as the title theme.

Categories: Opera excerpts Romantic Difficulty: intermediate
Friday 3 December 2010

Tune of the Day: Himno Istmeño

 National anthem of Panama

The national anthem of Panama was originally a school song which the composer Jorge Santos arranged for its new functions. Santos, who was a native of Spain, went to Panama City in 1889 and lived there to the time of his death. The “Himno Istmeño” (“Hymn of the Isthmus”) was declared the country's official national anthem in 1903, after the separation of Panama from Colombia.

Thanks to Alex for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Marches National anthems Patriotic Difficulty: easy
Saturday 4 December 2010

Tune of the Day: Avec la garde montante

 from “Carmen” by Georges Bizet, arranged for solo flute

This number is taken from the beginning of Act I of Bizet's famous opera Carmen. The act is set in a square in the Spanish city of Seville. From a distance is heard a military march, followed by a band of urchins for the changing of the guard, singing:

With the mounting guard, we arrive; here we are!
Sound, dazzling trumpet! Ta ra ta ta ta ra ta ta.
We march, heads high, like little soldiers,
Marking, without making a mistake,
One, two, marking the step.

Categories: Choruses Marches Opera excerpts Romantic Difficulty: intermediate
Sunday 5 December 2010

Tune of the Day: The Sussex Carol

 Traditional English Christmas carol, arranged for flute quartet

This popular British carol was actually first published in 1684 by an Irish bishop, Luke Wadding, in a work called Small Garland of Pious and Godly Songs. It is not clear, however, whether Wadding wrote the song or was recording an earlier composition.

Both the text and the tune to which the carol is now sung were discovered and written down by Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams, who heard it being sung by a Harriet Verrall of Monk's Gate, Sussex. The tune to which it is sung today is the one Vaughan Williams took down from Mrs Verrall and published in 1919.

Categories: Christmas carols Hymn tunes Traditional/Folk Difficulty: intermediate
Monday 6 December 2010

Tune of the Day: Fratelli d'Italia

 National anthem of Italy
The Italian flag

The Italian national anthem is officially titled “Il Canto degli Italiani” (“The Song of the Italians”), but is best known among Italians as “L'Inno di Mameli” (“Mameli's Hymn”), and often referred to as “Fratelli d'Italia” (“Brothers of Italy”), from its opening line.

The words were written in 1847 in Genoa, by the then 20-year-old student and patriot Goffredo Mameli, in a climate of popular struggle for unification and independence of Italy which foreshadowed the war against Austria. Two months later, they were set to music in Turin by another Genoese, Michele Novaro. The hymn enjoyed widespread popularity throughout the period of Italian unification and in the following decades. After unification (1861), however, the adopted national anthem was the “Marcia Reale”, official hymn of the royal house of Savoy. This march remained the Italian national anthem until 1946, when Italy became a republic.

Categories: National anthems Patriotic Difficulty: easy
Tuesday 7 December 2010

Tune of the Day: Fantasia for Solo Flute No. 8

 by Georg Philipp Telemann

Here we are again with a new Fantasia for Solo Flute. This is No. 8, and it's in the key of E minor. It starts off with a slow, elegant Allemande full of large intervals. You will also find some rarely-heard chromatic lines, which give a very peculiar character to this movement. Rameau once wrote that the key of E minor is never merry, even in an allegro. His remark is certainly apt here: the central Spirituoso is way too agitated to be considered happy. The last movement is in the style of a Polonaise, a Polish dance in which the second beat should be played softer than the first one, and the third beat should gently lead to the next measure.

Categories: Baroque Fantasias Written for Flute Difficulty: intermediate
Wednesday 8 December 2010

Tune of the Day: Angels from the Realms of Glory

 English Christmas carol

The poem “Angels from the Realms of Glory” was written in 1916 by English poet James Montgomery. Before 1928, the hymn was sung to a variety of tunes, including “Lewes” by John Randall, and “Wildersmouth” or “Feniton Court” by Edward Hopkins. In the United States, the hymn is today most commonly sung to the tune of “Regent Square”, published in 1867 by Henry Smart. In the United Kingdom, however, the hymn came to be sung to the French carol tune “Iris” (the tune used for “Angels We Have Heard on High”) after this setting was published in the Oxford Book of Carols, except that the “Gloria in excelsis Deo” refrain is sung in place of Montgomery's original lyrics.

Categories: Christmas carols Hymn tunes Difficulty: easy
Thursday 9 December 2010

Tune of the Day: Allegro moderato by J.S. Bach

 From Flute Sonata No.2 in E-flat major

No copy of Flute Sonata No. 2 has survived in Bach's hand, yet that's true of all but one of Bach's flute sonatas. Some musicologists even suggest that this is the work, at least in part, of C.P.E. Bach or some other composer.

The first movement of the sonata, marked “Allegro moderato”, opens with a keyboard introduction obsessed with a little rolling, melodic figure. The keyboard maintains the basic rhythm of this material throughout the movement, enjoying further short, solo passages, while the flute offers more sustained, lyrical material.

Categories: Baroque Sonatas Written for Flute Difficulty: intermediate
Friday 10 December 2010

Tune of the Day: Carol of the Birds

 Traditional Catalan Christmas carol

There are several carols having the title “Carol of the Birds”, including a well-known Australian one by John Wheeler. The tune we present today is also known as “El cant dels ocells”, and is of Catalan origin. It could date back to as early as 1600. Its original version contained 14 verses that colorfully detail 32 different birds visiting the Christ child in his manger in Bethlehem.

Famous cellist Pablo Casals played an arrangement of this carol at countless concerts, helping make its tune popular throughout Europe and the Americas.

The carol was also sung by Joan Baez on her 1966 Christmas album Noël.

Categories: Christmas carols Traditional/Folk Difficulty: easy
Saturday 11 December 2010

Tune of the Day: Andante by Hummel

 from Sonata for Flute and Piano in D major

Johann Nepomuk Hummel was an Austrian pianist and composer of the Classical and early Romantic period, prolific in a variety of genres.

His Sonata for Flute and Piano in D major, Opus 50, was written in Vienna between 1810 and 1814. The alternative of violin to flute is also allowed, but this is undoubtedly a commercial concession, since the music is well suited to the wind instrument. Today we present the second movement, a slow Andante in 6/8 time.

Thanks to Paulien for suggesting this movement!

Categories: Classical Romantic Sonatas Difficulty: intermediate
Sunday 12 December 2010

Tune of the Day: While Shepherds Watched (American Version)

 A Christmas carol, arranged for flute quartet

“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks” is a popular Christmas carol describing the annunciation of the birth of Christ to a group of Shepherds.

The hymn, whose words are attributed to Irish lyricist Nahum Tate (1652–1715), has been set to a number of different tunes. The version which is now most commonly used in the USA is based on a portion of the aria “Non vi piacque ingiusti dei” from the Handel opera Siroe, King of Persia, composed in 1728. As a hymn tune, this melody first appeared with a number of other arrangements from works of Handel in The Psalms of David for the use of Parish Churches (1791) by Dr. Samuel Arnold and J.W. Callcott. Arnold at the time was editing the works of Handel, so it is easy to see how he came to find so many melodies of the great Baroque composer that were suitable as hymn tunes.

Categories: Christmas carols Hymn tunes Difficulty: easy
Monday 13 December 2010

Tune of the Day: Vivace by Telemann

 from Canonic Sonata for Two Flutes No.1

Telemann's Canonic Sonatas are duo sonatas, with both musicians playing from the same part. The first player begins, and the second player echoes, one measure behind. Published in 1723, the collection was originally entitled Six Canons or Sonatas for two German Flutes or two Violins, Compos'd by Georg Philip Telemann.

The Vivace we present today is the very first movement in the collection. It is sometimes found transposed to B-flat major, but the original edition has it in G major.

Categories: Baroque Canons Sonatas Difficulty: intermediate
Tuesday 14 December 2010

Tune of the Day: While Shepherds Watched (British Version)

 A Christmas carol, arranged for flute quartet

While in the United States the carol “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks” usually pairs up with a melody (“Christmas”) originally composed by Handel, in the United Kingdom and Canada the standard is an anonymous 16th-century tune known as “Winchester Old”. This tune first appeared in print in The Whole Booke of Psalmes (1592) by London music publisher Thomas East (also spelled Este). The melody was subsequently rearranged by William Henry Monk sometime before 1874.

Categories: Christmas carols Hymn tunes Traditional/Folk Difficulty: easy
Wednesday 15 December 2010

Tune of the Day: Overture from Il barbiere di Siviglia

 by Gioachino Rossini, arranged for solo flute

Rossini was well known for being remarkably productive, completing an average of two operas per year for 19 years, and in some years writing as many as four. Musicologists believe that, true to form, the music for Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) was composed in just under three weeks, and some of the themes in the famous overture were actually borrowed from two earlier Rossini operas, Aureliano in Palmira and Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra.

The first performance of this opera in 1816 was a disastrous failure: the audience hissed and jeered throughout, and several on-stage accidents occurred. However, many of the audience were supporters of one of Rossini's rivals, Giovanni Paisiello, who had already set The Barber of Seville to music, and took Rossini's new version to be an affront to his version. The second performance met with quite a different fate, becoming a roaring success. It is curious to note that the original French play of Le Barbier de Séville endured a similar story, hated at first only to become a favorite within a week!

Categories: Opera excerpts Romantic Difficulty: advanced
Thursday 16 December 2010

Tune of the Day: The Little Drummer Boy

 Traditional Czech Christmas carol

This well known carol was originally a Czech song usually referred to as the “Carol of the Drum”, which pianist Katherine K. Davis translated to English in 1941.

In 1957, the hitherto obscure song was re-arranged by Henry Onorati for a recording by the Jack Halloran Singers, but this version was not released in time for Christmas. The following year, 20th Century Fox Records contracted Onorati's friend Harry Simeone to make a Christmas album. As Simeone was looking for material, Onorati introduced him to the “Carol of the Drum”. Simeone re-arranged the song, retitled it “The Little Drummer Boy,” and recorded it with the Harry Simeone Chorale on the album Sing We Now of Christmas. The song was jointly credited to Simeone and Onorati... even though they had only arranged it. The album and the song were an enormous success, with the single scoring on the U.S. music charts from 1958 to 1962.

Categories: Christmas carols Traditional/Folk Difficulty: easy
Friday 17 December 2010

Tune of the Day: Estudiantina Waltz

 by Émile Waldteufel, arranged for solo flute

The Estudiantina Waltz, also known as the “Band of Students” Waltz, is an arrangement made in 1883 by French composer Emile Waldteufel, based on a melody composed in 1881 by Paul Lacome.

The main melody is universally recognized by Americans of a certain age as the Rheingold Beer jingle that ran in the 1950s. Ironic that this melody, which many remember as the quintessential German Beer Hall tune, is actually of French, rather than German, origin; and was known as a French student song at first, then became famous as a piano duet, before it ever was heard in its now-familiar orchestral setting.

Thanks to Marina for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Romantic Waltzes Difficulty: intermediate
Saturday 18 December 2010

Tune of the Day: Jolly Old Saint Nicholas

 Traditional Christmas carol, arranged for flute duet

The origin of “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” is not entirely clear, although it was probably written in the mid-19th century and is one of the first songs in which Santa Claus was a prominent figure. Because of its similarity to “Up on the Housetop”, many people believe it was written by Benjamin Hanby. Others attribute it to Canadian country singer Wilf Carter; however, since the song is mentioned in earlier works (such as Susan Gregg's Christmas Orphans, published in 1916), this attribution is unlikely.

The reason why this carol sounds so familiar lies in the fact that it can be played to the well known chord sequence of Pachelbel's Canon in D.

Categories: Christmas carols Traditional/Folk Difficulty: easy
Sunday 19 December 2010

Tune of the Day: Major-General's Song

 from “The Pirates of Penzance”, arranged for Flute and Piano

This popular patter song is taken from Gilbert and Sullivan's 1879 comic opera The Pirates of Penzance. It is perhaps the most famous song in Gilbert and Sullivan's operas. It is sung by Major-General Stanley at his first entrance, towards the end of Act I. The song satirizes the idea of the “modern” educated British Army officer of the late 19th century.

I am the very model of a modern Major-General,
I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical
From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical

It is one of the most difficult patter songs to sing, due to the fast pace and tongue-twisting nature of the lyrics, but playing it on a flute poses no real problem.

The song is often used in film and on television, unchanged in many instances, as a character's audition piece, or seen in a “school play” scene. It is also frequently parodied, and its challenging patter has proved interesting to comics, notable examples being Tom Lehrer's song “The Elements” and David Hyde Pierce's monologue, as host of Saturday Night Live.

Categories: Opera excerpts Difficulty: intermediate
Monday 20 December 2010

Tune of the Day: I Wonder as I Wander

 Traditional Appalachian carol

This popular Christmas carol has its origins in a song fragment collected in 1933 by folklorist and singer John Jacob Niles. While in the town of Murphy in Appalachian North Carolina, Niles attended a fundraising meeting held by evangelicals. In his unpublished autobiography, he wrote of hearing the song:

A girl had stepped out to the edge of the little platform attached to the automobile. She began to sing. Her clothes were unbelievable dirty and ragged, and she, too, was unwashed. Her ash-blond hair hung down in long skeins... But, best of all, she was beautiful, and in her untutored way, she could sing. She smiled as she sang, smiled rather sadly, and sang only a single line of a song.

The girl repeated the fragment seven times in exchange for a quarter per performance, and Niles left with “three lines of verse, a garbled fragment of melodic material—and a magnificent idea”. Based on this fragment, Niles composed the version of “I Wonder as I Wander” that is known today, extending the lyrics to three stanzas. Since its collection, the carol has always been sung to the melody published in 1934 by Niles. Written in a minor key, its qualities of pensiveness make it one of today's most best loved Christmas tunes.

Categories: Christmas carols Traditional/Folk Difficulty: easy
Tuesday 21 December 2010

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

 From Flute Sonata No.2 in E-flat major

The third and last movement of Johann Sebastian Bach's second Sonata for Flute and Harpsichord is a fast Allegro in 3/8 time. In this final movement, which is in AABB form, the harpsichord becomes a far more equal partner of the flute, even if the keyboard writing always remains fairly complementary to the flute part.

Even if no copy of Sonata No. 2 has survived in Bach's hand, the touches of counterpoint present in this movement have moved even the most doubtful musicologists to concede that this may, after all, be the work of J.S. Bach.

Categories: Baroque Sonatas Written for Flute Difficulty: intermediate
Wednesday 22 December 2010

Tune of the Day: Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day

 Traditional English Christmas carol, arranged for flute quartet

This English carol made its first written appearance in William B. Sandys's Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern of 1833. It is most well known in John Gardner's adaptation, but numerous other composers have made original settings of it or arranged the traditional tune, including Gustav Holst, John Rutter and David Willcocks.

There is also a contemporary arrangement of this carol by Carl Rütti, who picked three texts out of the enormous choice of traditional carols which could form three parts: Andante, Adagio, Presto. “I Wonder as I Wander” is the Andante, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” is the Adagio, and “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day” is the Presto.

Categories: Christmas carols Traditional/Folk Difficulty: intermediate
Thursday 23 December 2010

Tune of the Day: Pas de deux

 from “The Nutcracker” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

In ballet, a pas de deux (which means "steps of two” in French) is a duet in which dancers perform the dance together. The Pas de deux from Act II of The Nutcracker exists in many different versions. It was originally meant to be danced by the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier, but is now very often danced by the Nutcracker Prince and Clara, the girl through whose eyes we experience the entire story, and who is the heroine and female lead of the ballet.

Thanks to Amy for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Ballet excerpts Romantic Difficulty: intermediate
Friday 24 December 2010

Tune of the Day: Tu scendi dalle stelle

 Italy's most popular Christmas carol

“Tu scendi dalle stelle” (which literally means “You come down from the stars”) is the best known Christmas carol originating in Italy. Though found in numerous arrangements and commonly sung, it is traditionally associated with the zampogna, a large Italian bagpipe.

The melody and original lyrics for the hymn were written by Alfonso Maria de' Liguori, a prominent Neapolitan priest, in 1744, when he put together the Christmas song entitled “Little Song to Child Jesus”.

A different set of lyrics in the Neapolitan dialect also exists, entitled “For Jesus's birth”, which begins “Quanno nascette Ninno” (“When the Child was Born”). This version is sometimes referred to as the “Carol of the Bagpipers”.

Categories: Christmas carols Hymn tunes Difficulty: easy
Saturday 25 December 2010

Tune of the Day: December (Christmas)

 Merry Christmas from!

This is the last piece in Tchaikovsky's musical cycle The Seasons. Composed in 1876, this set of twelve short character pieces for piano used to enjoy enormous popularity.

The twelfth piece, subtitled “Christmas”, is a charming salon waltz, whose music could be right out of Tchaikovsky's ballets. In the first edition of The Seasons the piece is accompanied by a short epigraph by Russian poet Vasily Zhukovsky:

Once upon a Christmas night
The girls were telling fortunes:
Taking their slippers off their feet
And throwing them out of the gate.

The epigraph, however, was chosen by the publisher, not by Tchaikovsky.

Categories: Romantic Waltzes Difficulty: intermediate
Sunday 26 December 2010

Tune of the Day: The Huron Carol

 Traditional Christmas carol

In 1643, Jean de Brébeuf, a Jesuit missionary to the Hurons, wrote “'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime” in the Huron language while recovering from a broken bone. The song, originally titled “Jesous Ahatonhia” (“Jesus, he is born”), was a gift to the Hurons who came to his mission in Quebec. The song's melody is based on a traditional French folk song, “Une jeune pucelle” (“A Young Maid”).

The song remains a common Christmas hymn in Canadian churches of many Christian denominations. In the United States, the song was included as “Jesous Ahatonia” on Burl Ives's 1952 album Christmas Day in the Morning and was later released as a Burl Ives single under the title “Indian Christmas Carol”.

Categories: Christmas carols Hymn tunes Difficulty: easy
Monday 27 December 2010

Tune of the Day: 1812 Overture

 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, arranged for solo flute

Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote The Year 1812, Festival Overture in E-flat major, in 1880 to commemorate Russia's defense of Moscow against Napoleon's advancing Grande Armée at the Battle of Borodino in 1812. The overture is best known for its climactic volley of cannon fire and ringing chimes.

The work begins in 3/4 time, with cellos playing Russian hymn “Oh Lord, Save Thy People”. The famous main theme can be found at measure 78; in the original, this is a horn fanfare, representing the Russian military.

We chose not to transcribe the full score, since the piece gets quite complex after that. In what follows, Tchaikovsky depicts the battle between the French and the Russian forces, represented by La Marseillaise and by the old Russian anthem “God Save The Tsar!”, respectively.

Categories: Romantic Difficulty: intermediate
Tuesday 28 December 2010

Tune of the Day: Poco adagio by C.P.E. Bach

 from Flute Sonata in A minor

Published in 1763, the Sonata for Solo Flute in A minor is among Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's finest works for flute.

The dignity and grace of its first movement, in particular, displays the inspired craftsmanship found in J.S. Bach's (i.e. the composer's father's) own works for solo instruments, such as the violin partitas and sonatas. The embellishment of the melodic line is natural, and its elaborate development unforced. In places a competent player can give an impression of polyphony with two, or even three, interweaving voices.

Thanks to John for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Classical Rococo Sonatas Written for Flute Difficulty: intermediate
Wednesday 29 December 2010

Tune of the Day: Larghetto by Handel

 from Sonata in F major

Today's work is George Frideric Handel's Sonata in F major for Recorder and Basso continuo, composed around 1725. The sonata opens with a stately Larghetto in which the recorder's phrases begin on the offbeats. The melody is simple and slow-paced, and lends itself well to ornamentation.

Thanks to Zaq for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Baroque Sonatas Difficulty: intermediate
Thursday 30 December 2010

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

 from Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C major

This is the central movement of Johann Sebastian Bach's first orchestral suite, or overture as it is sometimes called. It is a forlane, also spelled furlana or friulana, a fast-paced Italian folk dance which originated in the province of Friuli Venezia Giulia, and which reached its popularity peak during Bach's lifetime.

The melody of this particular Forlane is played in perfect unison by two oboes and the first violin, while the second violin and the viola provide a flowing accompaniment.

Categories: Baroque Furlanas Difficulty: easy
Friday 31 December 2010

Tune of the Day: Allegro from the New World Symphony

 by Antonín Dvořák, arranged for solo flute

The final movement of Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 is marked “Allegro con fuoco”, which literally means “Allegro with fire”, that is, very fast and fiery. This fourth movement starts with a martial main theme in E minor for horns and trumpets. The clarinet counters with a nostalgic sub-theme (measure 67), after which flutes and violins play a closing subject in G major. The development which follows combines music from previous movements with the main theme heard at the beginning.

Thanks to Ben for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Romantic Symphonies Difficulty: intermediate