Monday 1 March 2010
Music by Enoch Sontonga and M.L. de Villiers
Since 1997, the South African national anthem has been a hybrid song combining the hymn “Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika” and the former anthem “Die Stem van Suid-Afrika”. It is the only national anthem in the world that does not finish in the home key. In fact, the first section of the anthem is in G major, while the second section is in D major.
The anthem starts with the tune “Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika”, composed in 1897 by Enoch Sontonga, a Methodist school teacher. This was originally sung as a church hymn but later became an act of political defiance against the apartheid government. The second tune is that of the former South African anthem “Die Stem van Suid-Afrika”, which was set to music by the Reverend Marthinus Lourens de Villiers in 1921.
The South African government under Nelson Mandela adopted both songs as national anthems from 1995 until they were merged in 1997 to form the current anthem.
Tuesday 2 March 2010
from “L'Arlésienne” by Georges Bizet
This is the fourth and last movement in L'Arlésienne Suite No. 2. Two contrasting themes are heard in this exciting orchestral piece. The first, in minor, is a march theme based on the Christmas carol “March of the Kings”, which was also used in the opening Prelude to the first suite. The lively second theme, in major, has the character of the farandole, a pipe-and-drum-driven peasant dance based on the Provençal “Danse dei Chivau-Frus”. In this traditional southern French dance a long line of dancers, linked by the handkerchiefs they hold, wend their way through the streets, following a musician playing pipe and tabor (a portable drum).
Wednesday 3 March 2010
aka “Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming”
“Es ist ein Ros entsprungen”, which literally means “A Rose Has Sprung Up” but is most commonly translated to English as “Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming”, is a Christmas carol of German origin. The hymn has been used by both Catholics and Protestants, with the focus of the song being Mary or Jesus, respectively. In addition, there have been numerous versions of the hymn, with varying texts and lengths.
The present tune first appeared in print in Cologne in 1599, and the familiar harmonization was written by German composer Michael Praetorius in 1609. The tune was later used by Johannes Brahms as the basis for a chorale fantasy for organ, and by Hugo Distler as the basis for his 1933 oratorio Weihnachtsgeschichte (“Christmas story”).
Among the many English adaptations, perhaps the best known is by Theodore Baker, whose “Lo How A Rose E'er Blooming” was heard as recently as in the 1971 Academy Award winning movie Love Story.
Another Christmas hymn, “A Great and Mighty Wonder”, is also set to the same tune.
Thursday 4 March 2010
by Frédéric Chopin, arranged for Flute and Piano
Chopin's Polish Melodies, Op. 74 were not published during the composer's lifetime, and despite their high quality they have remained among his least popular works. All the songs in this collection were originally scored for soprano or tenor voice with piano accompaniment; some of them were later transcribed for piano solo by Franz Liszt.
The first of these pieces is titled “Mädchens Wünsch”, which is usually translated as “The Maiden's Wish”. Written in 1829, it features a mazurka rhythm and an easily singable melody. The subject matter of the original song text deals with love, beauty and flirtation, and the music is lively and full of high spirits.
Friday 5 March 2010
from “The Four Seasons” by Vivaldi
This is the third of four violin concertos that make up Antonio Vivaldi's popular cycle known as The Four Seasons. Like the other concertos, “Autumn” is made up of three movements, with the usual fast-slow-fast scheme. Its music was written to depict pastoral scenes and events described in a sonnet that accompanies the original score.
Celebrates the peasant, with songs and dances,
The pleasure of a bountiful harvest.
And fired up by Bacchus' liquor, many
End their revelry in sleep.
Everyone is made to forget their cares and to sing and dance
By the air which is tempered with pleasure,
And by the season that invites so many
Out of their sweetest slumber to fine enjoyment.
The hunters emerge at the new dawn,
And with horns, dogs and guns depart upon their hunting
The beast flees and they follow its trail;
Terrified and tired of the great noise
Of guns and dogs, the beast, wounded, threatens
Languidly to flee, but harried, dies.
Saturday 6 March 2010
“Alma Llanera” (usually translated as “Soul of the Plains”) was composed by Pedro Elías Gutiérrez as part of a zarzuela (a type of Spanish operetta) that premiered in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1914. It is a joropo, a musical genre found in the plains of Venezuela which vaguely resembles the waltz. Formerly, the Spanish word “joropo” meant a “party”, but now it has come to mean a type of music and dance that identifies Venezuelans.
The song is considered as Venezuela's second national anthem. It is a tradition in Venezuela to end any social reunion or party with the intonation of “Alma Llanera”. It is undoubtedly one of the best-known Latin American songs and has been interpreted by famous singers all over the world.
Sunday 7 March 2010
Flute duet by Georg Philipp Telemann
This is the fourth and last movement from the second of Telemann's Sonates sans Basse à deux Flutes traverses, ou à deux Violons, ou à deux Flutes à bec, or “Sonatas without Bass for Two Transverse Flutes, or Two Violins, or Two Recorders”. You should be aware that this sonata is sometimes referred to as Sonata No. 1. We have already posted the other three movements from the sonata, and you can find them here: Dolce, Allegro, Largo.
Monday 8 March 2010
by Alexander Reinagle
Alexander Reinagle was born in Portsmouth, England, but in 1786, at the age of 30, he settled in New York and began teaching music. He soon moved to Philadelphia, where he revitalized concert music and became a popular musician. Reinagle demonstrated his patriotism for his adopted country by composing several works based on American scenes and patriots. He is even thought to have taught George Washington's adopted daughter.
In 1802 Reinagle wrote “Madison's March” to honor of James Madison, then Secretary of State. In 1809, Madison became the fourth president of the United States, and he was the first president to host an official inaugural ball. When he and his wife, Dolley, entered the ballroom filled with over 400 guests, the band played “President Madison's March”.
Thanks to Maddie for suggesting this piece!
Tuesday 9 March 2010
by Vittorio Monti
The flamboyant “Csárdás” was written in 1904 by Italian composer, violinist and conductor Vittorio Monti, and has since been a favorite among the elite violin virtuosos. Monti enjoyed great success with the Hungarian stylings of the work, which was originally composed for either violin or mandolin and piano. It has since been arranged for many types of ensembles, and for many listeners it captures the essence of the old Hungarian dance with its use of fast and slow music.
The piece has seven different sections, each one of a different tempo. The tempo changes make the piece exciting and interesting, but even with all of these changes it is generally expected that there should be some rubato to add feeling to the piece.
Wednesday 10 March 2010
National anthem of Japan
With a length of 11 measures, “Kimigayo” (which roughly means “Imperial Reign” in English) is one of the world's shortest national anthems in current use.
The quest for a Japanese national anthem began in 1869, when John William Fenton, a British military band instructor who was then working in Yokohama, learned that Japan lacked a national anthem and told the members of Japan's military band about the British national anthem “God Save the King”. Fenton emphasized the necessity of a national anthem and proposed that he would compose the music if someone would provide the words. Fenton's melody was, however, completely different from the one known today. It was performed during an army parade in 1870, but it was later considered to be lacking in solemnity, and it was agreed that a revision was needed.
In 1880 four persons were thus named to a committee to revise the music. Among them was Hiromori Hayashi, who produced a melody that was finally selected because of its use of the traditional scale of gagaku, a type of Japanese music that had been performed at the Imperial court for several centuries. Sources still conflict over who composed the music. Some believe that the new melody was actually composed by Yoshiisa Oku and by Hayashi's son Akimori.
Although Kimigayo has since been Japan's de facto national anthem, it was only legally recognized in 1999.
Thursday 11 March 2010
from “La Flûte de Pan” by Jules Mouquet
Mouquet's best-loved work, La Flûte de Pan is an excellent example of a neoclassical work directly influenced by Greek mythology. As you should probably already know, Pan is the legendary Greek god of shepherds, who has the physical characteristics of both a goat and a human. In one story, Pan chased a nymph named Syrinx because she ran away before he could give her any compliments. He chased her to a riverbank, where she transformed into reeds. All Pan could do was take some of the reeds and make an instrument out of it, which is why he is commonly associated with the flute.
The first movement of Mouquet's sonata, titled “Pan et les Bergers” (“Pan and the Shepherds”) has an energetic but pastoral quality. Flourishes of notes evoke images of a shepherd's busy day in the mountains.
Thanks to Wendy for suggesting this piece!
Friday 12 March 2010
by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
According to Tchaikovsky's nephew, Tchaikovsky originally created the famous Swan's Theme for a little ballet called The Lake of the Swans he had written for the amusement of his relatives. The theme later made its way into the full-fledged Swan Lake score, and soon became the most famous music in the ballet. It is first heard near the close of the first act in the “Flight of the Swans”. The oboe introduces the enchanting theme with harp accompaniment, the whole creating a fantasy-like atmosphere of wonder and expectation.
The scenario of the ballet, which can be presented in either three or four acts, was fashioned from Russian folk tales as well as an ancient German legend. It tells the story of Prince Siegfried and the beautiful maiden Odette, who was turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer's curse.
Saturday 13 March 2010
by John W. Bratton
This popular piece was written by American composer John Walter Bratton in 1907. Despite its frivolous sounding title, the song is actually quite a sophisticated piece of classical music. It is the only purely instrumental song in Bratton's repertoire, and the only one that became a lasting hit. In fact, the bouncy march music has been recorded by several artists since it was written, appearing as incidental music in TV series, commercials and films. The artists who have recorded it range from Bing Crosby to Jerry Garcia. Even Theodore Roosevelt used the music as his re-election campaign theme.
After Bratton wrote “The Teddy Bear's Picnic”, however, many people felt that the composer plagiarized portions of the melody. Music aficionados pointed out in particular that the refrain echoed the theme from Robert Browne Hall's “Death and Glory March”, which was composed in 1895. Nevertheless, charges were not filed and Bratton's song still has the same tune it had in 1907.
Sunday 14 March 2010
by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
In 1876, following incidents in which Turkish soldiers killed a large number of Christian Slavs who were rebelling against the Ottoman Empire, Serbia declared war on Turkey. Many Russians sympathized with those they considered to be their fellow Slavs and Orthodox Christians and sent volunteer soldiers and aid to assist the Kingdom of Serbia. In the ensuing struggle the Serbian army was quickly defeated by the Turks.
Nikolai Rubinstein, a close friend of Tchaikovsky, asked him to compose a piece for a concert benefiting the wounded Russian volunteers. In a burst of patriotism, Tchaikovsky composed and orchestrated what was first known as the Serbo-Russian March (later to be known as Marche Slave) in only five days. The piece was premiered in Moscow in November 1876 to a warm reception.
The march is highly programmatic in its form and organization. The first section describes the oppression of the Serbians by the Turkish. It uses two Serbian folk songs. The first, which is known as “Come my dearest, why so sad this morning?”, is played, as Tchaikovsky directs, "at the speed of a funeral march". The second folk song is more optimistic in character. An episode follows, describing the atrocities in the Balkans, in which Tchaikovsky uses his mastery of the orchestra to build a tremendous climax, at the height of which the first folk song returns, fortissimo on the trumpets like a plangent cry for help.
The piece shares a few refrains with the 1812 Overture, with which it is frequently paired in performance; however, the Slavonic March is a more enthusiastically patriotic composition than the 1812 Overture.
Monday 15 March 2010
by Dietrich Buxtehude
Following a request for some music by the German-Danish baroque composer Dietrich Buxtehude, we are posting one of his most popular compositions for organ, arranged for flute trio. For those who never heard of Buxtehude, he was one of the most important composers of the 17th century, and strongly influenced many younger composers of the period, including Johann Sebastian Bach.
This jaunty Fugue in C Major has aptly been nicknamed the “Jig” Fugue. It has an extraordinarily long subject compared to other fugue subjects in Buxtehude's keyboard repertoire: it is six measures long in 12/8 time.
Tuesday 16 March 2010
by Philippe Gaubert
Philippe Gaubert was one of the great players in the French Flute School of the early 20th-Century, as well as a noted composer and conductor. Gaubert composed a wide variety of instrumental, orchestral and vocal music, plus two operas, and it is not surprising that many of his most effective compositions are for flute.
“Madrigal” was composed in 1908, the year Gaubert's teacher Paul Taffenel died. The introduction appears to have been inspired by César Franck's violin sonata, while there is a connection with Fauré melodically. This is one of the composer's best-loved pieces, and one that provides a succinct introduction to the virtues of his several miniatures for the flute: clarity of form, economy of means, and warmth of expression.
Wednesday 17 March 2010
National anthem of Sri Lanka
After independence was granted to Sri Lanka (at the time known as Ceylon) in 1948, the need for a national anthem arose. As a result of a contest, Ananda Samarakoon's contribution, written in Sinhalese, was chosen as the new anthem. It was first performed on the fourth anniversary of independence in early 1952.
Mother Lanka we salute Thee!
Plenteous in prosperity, Thou,
Beauteous in grace and love,
Laden with grain and luscious fruit,
And fragrant flowers of radiant hue,
Giver of life and all good things,
Our land of joy and victory,
Receive our grateful praise sublime,
Lanka! we worship Thee.
Thanks to Jackie for suggesting this piece!
Thursday 18 March 2010
from “Cavalleria rusticana” by Pietro Mascagni
Premiered in 1890, Cavalleria rusticana (literally, “Rustic Chivalry”) is undoubtedly the best-known work by Italian composer Pietro Mascagni. This one-act opera is a concise, passionate tale of Sicilian peasants, with lashings of love, jealousy and tragic death.
A powerful orchestral intermezzo, simply known as “Intermezzo sinfonico”, divides the opera into two scenes. This famous Intermezzo recapitulates, in its 48 bars, what has gone before, and foreshadows the tragedy that is impending.
The piece has figured in the soundtrack of several films, most notably in the opening of Raging Bull and in The Godfather Part III, which featured a performance of Mascagni's opera as a key part of the film's climax.
Friday 19 March 2010
Traditional fiddle tune
There are many versions of this lovely modal melody. There is an Irish version, a Scottish version and a version played in Appalachia. The tune is performed in a variety of styles ranging from bluegrass to modern Celtic, and of course it is open to a variety of interpretations.
According to a couple of sources, “Cold Frosty Morning” was written to commemorate the battle of Culloden Moor, Scotland. On the very bloody morning of April 16, 1746, 8,000 English troops massacred a Scottish army of 7,000, ending the Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland. This did not, however, end the bloodshed. In order to ensure that the rebellion would not be rekindled, King George II gave the Duke of Cumberland instructions to punish the Scots. The English army started killing any Highlander they could find. Even Highlanders who had not joined the rebellion were slaughtered, and in some cases this also meant the murder of women and children. These acts earned the Duke of Cumberland the infamous title of “The Butcher”.
Saturday 20 March 2010
from Sonata in F major by George Frideric Handel
Sonata No. 11 in F major (HWV 369) is the second of two major-mode recorder sonatas from Handel's Opus 1 collection. It was composed about 1725.
The third movement is quite an unusual one for a sonata da chiesa (which means “church sonata”, although these compositions were not meant to be performed in religious ceremonies). Handel inserts in the sonata this Siciliana in D minor, with short motives that end on the third beat of the measure. This movement naturally leads into the final Allegro, or Giga, which is also in 12/8.
Sunday 21 March 2010
Traditional English nursery rhyme
A surviving British Easter custom is the eating of “hot cross buns”, spiced currant cakes with a cross marked on the top. In former times, the bun vendors were a familiar feature of street life on Good Friday, with their cry of "Hot cross buns, one a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns!" Nowadays, the buns are sold from bakeries well before the Easter holiday.
Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons;
One a penny, two a penny
Hot cross buns!
Monday 22 March 2010
from “Suite of Three Pieces” by Benjamin Godard
Although he achieved fame early in his career and maintained a certain level of popularity during his lifetime, the majority of music by French composer Benjamin Godard has not retained its place in the repertoire. Nonetheless, his Suite de trois morceaux (“Suite of Three Pieces”), is still immensely popular among flutists. Composed in 1890 for the great French flutist Paul Taffanel, it is a short work in three movements: “Allegretto”, “Idylle” and “Valse”.
Today we present the first of these movements, which is characterized by a fast-flowing theme that makes an excellent finger exercise. James Galway made a wonderful recording of this particular piece.
Tuesday 23 March 2010
by Henry Fillmore
The march “Rolling Thunder” was written in 1916 and dedicated to a trombone player named Ed Hicker, also known as the “Trombone Ace”. It subsequently became a circus band standard, played whenever a number got particularly exciting. Today it is often performed as an opener and an encore piece in concerts.
This screamer features a fast and extremely technical trombone part. Its fast and furious tempo makes it very enjoyable to listen to, although it may scare beginner players. Our tip is always the same: do not even try to play it at performance tempo right away!
Wednesday 24 March 2010
from “Carmen” by Georges Bizet
Probably one of the most invigorating themes in all opera, the dashing “March of the Toreadors” serves as the very first theme of the prelude to Act I.
The flamboyant Spanish tune is almost a literal transcription of the festive music announcing the bull-fight in the last Act.
The opera's prelude also introduces some of the most important themes, including the famous “Toreador Song” and an exotic and sinewy chromatic motive that permeates the opera as a musical symbol for both Carmen's character and the insurmountable power of fate. There is an odd story told of this theme, which is said to be of Eastern origin. The legend is that when Satan, according to Mohammedan tradition, was cast from Paradise, he remembered only one strain of the music he had heard there. This was known as the “Devil's Strain”, and Bizet used it with fine symbolic as well as perfect musical fitness.
Thursday 25 March 2010
Traditional Irish slow air
The origin of the slow air “Buachaill ón Éirne” (which in Irish Gaelic means “Boy From the Erne River”) is quite disputed. Some say this song was written in the early 1800s by Robert Tanahill of Paisley, Scotland. However, the use of the word “buachaill” as “young man” in Irish Gaelic suggests that this song may be Irish in origin, since in Scottish Gaelic the word means “shepherd”.
The melody was used for the song “Come by the Hills” by Scottish journalist and television producer W. Gordon Smith in the 1960s.
Friday 26 March 2010
by Gabriel Fauré
Gabriel Fauré was appointed professor of composition at the Paris Conservatoire in 1896, and it was natural that the great flutist Paul Taffanel, who also taught there and was a great friend of his, should turn to him for a concours composition, which turned out to be the famous Fantaisie, Op. 79. For the same occasion Fauré also composed a brief sight-reading piece, properly titled “Morceau de lecture”, that would provide a good test of musicianship.
The latter, which according to some sources was composed on Bastille Day, July 14, 1898, is a mere arabesque dutifully spun out in the requisite scales, arpeggios and mordents, the apt execution of which demonstrates proficiency. This functional exercise plays out slowly over a spare piano accompaniment for about a minute and a half.
Saturday 27 March 2010
Traditional Scottish ballad
Also known as “The Gypsy Laddie” or “Black Jack Davy” this song is an English/Scottish Border ballad, possibly written about 1720.
The theme of the wandering gypsy is frequently found in folk music. Although there are many versions of this song, the story is generally about a Gypsy called Johnny Faa who tries, successfully, to charm the unmarried daughter of a squire. He promises her wealth and she goes off with him. When the squire comes home and discovers what has happened he rides off in search of his daughter, and after a long chase he finds her, only to discover that she refuses to come home.
The ballad has been sung in many different variations in Scotland and England from the 18th century, and in the United States and Canada from the 19th century. In Ireland, however, it only appeared in the 1970s. Notable recordings have been made by The Chieftains, Celtic Thunder and Rapalje.
Sunday 28 March 2010
from J.S. Bach's Flute Sonata in C major
Is Flute Sonata in C major, BWV 1033, truly by a Bach? And if so, which Bach? This is one of three “Bach” flute sonatas of questionable attribution; the earliest surviving copy was made by Bach's son Carl Philipp Emanuel, who may simply have been serving as his father's copyist.
The work falls into four movements, in something of the chamber sonata style but without explicitly naming any dance patterns until the ending fourth movement, which is actually a pair of graceful minuets. Typically for this format, the second is capped by a terse repeat of the first.
Monday 29 March 2010
from “Trois Gymnopédies” by Erik Satie
Satie's Gymnopédies are what many consider to be the groundwork for today's ambient music, a kind of music that should be as ignorable as it is interesting. The three pieces, originally composed for solo piano, are calming, reflective, ethereal, relaxing, soothing, and elegant.
The third of the Gymnopédies, marked “Lent et grave” (“Slow and solemn”), has achieved further fame as an orchestral work, having been orchestrated, along with the first, by Claude Debussy. It is in the Gymnopédies that Satie first revealed the unique and unusual style that would make him famous (or infamous) in European musical circles: simple but occasionally unexpected chords, a straightforward melody and nothing else.
Tuesday 30 March 2010
by Frédéric Chopin, arranged for Flute and Piano
The Nocturne in E-flat major, Op. 9, No. 2, is very possibly the most famous work ever penned by Frédéric Chopin. The Polish pianist composed it between 1830 and 1832, when he was about twenty.
Like much of Chopin's music, this nocturne is tinged with melancholy. However, despite its globally reflective mood, the piece suddenly becomes passionate near the end. The concluding melody begins softly, but then ascends to a high register, eventually reaching the loudest part of the piece, marked fortissimo. After a brilliant and almost hypnotic trill-like passage, the excitement subsides; the nocturne ends calmly.
Wednesday 31 March 2010
Composed by Patty and Mildred J. Hill
The melody of “Happy Birthday to You” comes from the song “Good Morning to All”, which was written and composed by American sisters Patty Hill and Mildred J. Hill in 1893. They were both kindergarten school teachers in Louisville, Kentucky, and they created “Good Morning to All” as a song that would be easy to sing by young children. The combination of melody and lyrics in “Happy Birthday to You” first appeared in print in 1912, and probably existed even earlier.
According to some research, “Happy Birthday” is the most recognized song in the English language, followed by “For He's a Jolly Good Fellow” and “Auld Lang Syne”.
And now for the fun facts. None of the early appearances of the song included credits or copyright notices. For this reason, the Summy Company was able to register for copyright in 1935, crediting authors Preston Ware Orem and Mrs. R.R. Forman. In 1990, Warner Chappell purchased the company owning the copyright for $15 million, with the value of “Happy Birthday” estimated at $5 million! Based on the 1935 copyright registration, Warner claims that U.S. copyright will not expire until 2030, and that unauthorized public performances of the song are technically illegal unless royalties are paid to it. Believe it or not, the song continues to bring in approximately 2 million dollars in licensing revenue each year!
Wednesday 31 March 2010
Site update: Happy Birthday, flutetunes.com
Today our site turns one year old!
It's been a lot of work, but we have kept our promises: one new tune a day, every day. It's also been a lot of fun, and we are proud of what we have achieved.
We have many plans for the future.
Of course we are going to expand the “Flute Articles” section, and we have already received some very interesting suggestions about some topics that we can cover.
We also have plans for a new section where users can review books, CDs and other flute-related items; this is going to require a huge effort to develop, but we think it will bring a great service to the community.
We are so very grateful to all of our visitors for the great suggestions and the support they have given us so far. Please keep up with the feedback, and let us know what you think of our projects!