Thursday 1 April 2010

Tune of the Day: With Pleasure

 “Dance Hilarious” by J.P. Sousa

Written in 1912, “With Pleasure” was Sousa's first, and one of his few, compositions in the new Ragtime style. It was dedicated to the members of the “Huntingdon Valley Country Club” of Philadelphia, of which the composer was an active member.

Several years later he used the piece as one movement of a suite, which he called, “The American Girl”. Later, when Sousa would program this work, he would sometimes list it by its subtitle “Dance Hilarious”. This fun, pleasant venture into Ragtime has entertained audiences at band concerts for over 80 years.

Categories: Marches RagtimeDifficulty: intermediate
Friday 2 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Meditation

 from “Thaïs” by Jules Massenet

One of the world's greatest encore pieces, the “Meditation” comes from the opera Thaïs, written by French composer Jules Massenet in 1893. Thaïs is based on a novel by the French author Anatole France, which tells of a fourth-century Egyptian courtesan called Thaïs, who was converted to Christianity by a hermit monk who lived in the desert, and eventually became a saint. The opera was a great success, and stayed in the repertory of the Paris Opera continuously until 1956.

In the opera, the piece serves as a symphonic intermezzo in Act II. Although in its original form it is essentially a violin solo, it has been transcribed for almost every conceivable instrument, and is often played at flute recitals.

Categories: Opera excerpts Romantic Show-off piecesDifficulty: intermediate
Saturday 3 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Chanson de Matin

 by Sir Edward Elgar

“Chanson de Matin” (literally “Morning Song”) was originally composed by Edward Elgar for violin and piano; later, the English composer also arranged it for a small orchestra. It was first published in 1899, though it is thought that it was almost certainly written in 1889 or 1890.

This “song” (the French chanson does mean “song”, although this piece is an instrumental one) has often invited comparison with its companion piece, “Chanson de Nuit”, and though critically it has been described as less profound, its fresh melodic appeal has made it way more popular.

Categories: 20th centuryDifficulty: intermediate
Sunday 4 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme

 by Johann Sebastian Bach, arranged for Flute solo

No. 140 is one of the best-known and most theatrical of Bach's sacred cantatas. It was written in 1731 as part of Bach's series of five cantatas for every Sunday and special feast day in the Lutheran calendar. This particular cantata was written for a rarely occurring date, the 27th Sunday after Trinity, which only exists in years when Easter comes unusually early.

The chorale used in the cantata comes from a 1599 hymn tune by Philipp Nicolai. Literally, the title translates as “Wake up, the voices are calling us”. To fit the three syllables of the German, the more commonly found translation “Sleepers Wake” is used, and it is by this name that it is best known in English. Please note that this should be read as an imperative, as in “Sleepers, Awake!”, and not as in “Finnegan's Wake”.

The fourth movement, based on the second verse of the chorale, is one of Bach's most famous pieces. It is written in a trio sonata-like texture for the tenors of the chorus, oboe da caccia, and continuo. Bach later transcribed this movement for organ (BWV 645), and it was subsequently published along with five other transcriptions Bach made of his cantata movements as the Schübler Chorales.

Categories: Baroque Hymn tunesDifficulty: intermediate
Monday 5 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Las mañanitas

 Traditional Mexican song

“Las mañanitas” is a traditional Mexican song that is sung on birthdays and other important holidays. It is often sung as an early morning “serenade” to wake up a loved one. At birthday parties it is sung before the cake is cut. As a traditional song with a long history, there are variations of “Las mañanitas”, with many different verses.

These are the morning songs
that King David sang.
For today to be the day of your saint
we sing to you like this.
Wake up, my dear. Wake up!
See that it is already dawn...
How beautiful is the morning in which I come to greet you!

Categories: Birthday songs Latin American Traditional/FolkDifficulty: easy
Tuesday 6 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Zum Ziele führt dich diese Bahn

 from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera “The Magic Flute”

In the Act I finale of “The Magic Flute”, three boys lead the hero Tamino into a grove wherein three temples stand: in the center, the Temple of Wisdom; on the right, the Temple of Reason; on the left, the Temple of Nature. Singing a calm, stately trio they tell him some wise advice for his quest:

To your goal leads this path;
Therefore, listen to our lesson:
Be steadfast, patient, and remain silent.

This piece was arranged as a flute duet by the great German composer Bernhard Romberg.

Categories: Opera excerpts RomanticDifficulty: intermediate
Wednesday 7 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Salve Regina

 by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi

According to some scholars, the Salve Regina in C minor might be the last work written by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. It has been said that had the Italian composer not died when he was only 26, he might have been as great a composer as Mozart.

Pergolesi's setting of this traditional Latin prayer is passionate, richly expressive, and yet somewhat dark. Indeed, the first of its six movements is a largo of exquisite beauty, a perfect illustration of a particular kind of baroque beauty, intensely expressive but at the same time seeming to hold back a freedom of lyricism.

Categories: Arias BaroqueDifficulty: intermediate
Thursday 8 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Colonel Bogey March

 by Kenneth Alford, aka Lt. F.J. Ricketts

This popular march was written in 1914 by Lieutenant F.J. Ricketts, a British military bandmaster. Since at that time service personnel were not encouraged to have professional lives outside the armed forces, Ricketts published “Colonel Bogey” and his other compositions under the pseudonym Kenneth Alford.

Who was Colonel Bogey? The story goes that this was a nickname by which a certain fiery colonel was known just before the 1914 War. One of the composer's recreations was playing golf, and it was on a Scottish course that he sometimes encountered the eccentric colonel. One of the latter's peculiarities was that instead of shouting “Fore” to warn of an impending drive, he preferred to whistle a descending minor third. This little musical tag stayed and germinated in the mind of the receptive Ricketts, and so the opening of this memorable march was born.

In 1957 the march was chosen as the theme tune for the splendid film The Bridge on the River Kwai, and it became so identified with this film that many people now incorrectly refer to the “Colonel Bogey March” as “The River Kwai March”. The problem is that this title actually refers to a completely different march, written for the film by composer Malcolm Arnold!

Categories: Film music Marches Military musicDifficulty: intermediate
Friday 9 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Menuet II

 from Suite in A minor by G.P. Telemann

The Ouverture-Suite in A minor, TWV 55:a2 contains two consecutive minuets. While the first is played by the strings alone, the second one features the flute as its leading instrument. This second movement is titled, in the French style, “Menuet II”. It will perfectly lend itself to a study in Baroque articulation.

Thanks to Greg for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Baroque MinuetsDifficulty: intermediate
Saturday 10 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Vltava

 aka “The Moldau” by Bedřich Smetana

Má vlast (“My Country”, or more literally “My Fatherland”) is a set of six symphonic poems composed in the 1870s by the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana. In these works Smetana combined the symphonic poem form pioneered by Franz Liszt with the ideals of nationalistic music which were current in the late 19th century. Each poem depicts some aspect of the countryside, history, or legends of Bohemia.

The second poem, “Vltava”, also known by its German name “Die Moldau” (“The Moldau” in English), was composed in 1874. The piece contains Smetana's most famous tune. It is an adaptation of the Italian renaissance song “Fuggi, fuggi, fuggi da questo cielo” by the tenor Giuseppe Cenci, a folk song of Italian renaissance origin, which is also the basis for the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah.

Categories: Patriotic RomanticDifficulty: intermediate
Sunday 11 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Andante in C major

 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The famous Andante for Flute and Orchestra (K. 315) in C major was written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1778. It was commissioned by wealthy amateur Ferdinand De Jean as a possible replacement or alternative second movement for the “Adagio ma non troppo” from Flute Concerto No. 1 (K. 313). The two pieces are quite different both in length (the original Adagio lasts about 10 minutes, twice the time of this new Andante) and in the importance of the orchestra: while in the original movement it has a very prominent role, in this Andante it simply supports the solo. The two pieces share the same orchestration (strings, two oboes and two french horns) and the same structure (sonata form without repeats).

Our suggestion for the tempo is eighth note = 76; however, some major players have recorded the work at much different tempos, both faster and slower. If you do some research, you may find recordings of this piece at almost any tempo from 66 to 96 BPM.

Categories: Classical Written for FluteDifficulty: intermediate
Monday 12 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Courante

 from Cello Suite No. 1 in G major by J.S. Bach, arranged for Flute solo

In the fixed structure of Bach's Cello Suites, the third movement of each suite is always a courante. This dance was popular in Baroque music in the 17th and early 18th centuries. The name comes from the French word for “running”: that's why it should be performed fast!

We now have the first four movements from Cello Suite No. 1 in G major: Prelude, Allemande, Courante and Sarabande.

Thanks to Laura for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Baroque Courantes EtudesDifficulty: intermediate
Tuesday 13 April 2010

Tune of the Day: American Patrol

 by F.W. Meacham, arranged for Flute solo

This popular march was originally written by Frank W. Meacham in 1885 for piano. It was then arranged for wind band and published by Carl Fischer in 1891. While the original piano piece was in D major, the band version was in E-flat.

The march incorporates melodies from other patriotic American songs of the era, such as “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean” and “Dixie”. The “patrol” format was popular in the second half of the 19th century, and a number of compositions are so entitled "Turkish Patrol", "Ethiopian Patrol", "Welsh Patrol", "Arab Patrol", and many more. The format was intended to represent a military band approaching, passing, and fading into the distance. It usually involved an introduction played pianissimo, imitating bugle calls or drums, then a theme played a little bit louder, then another very loud theme, then a return to the first theme gradually dying away and finishing pp, ppp, or even pppp.

The march was used for patriotic purposes during World War I and then again in World War II, when it was revived as a jitterbug march by the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

Categories: MarchesDifficulty: intermediate
Wednesday 14 April 2010

Tune of the Day: The Old Rugged Cross

 by George Bennard

If you look inside any church, you are likely to find a cross. Typically it is made of stone, polished hardwood or some kind of metal, and occasionally gilded with gold leaf. Very rarely is it a cross of roughly hewn timbers, which is odd because Jesus was not crucified on a cross of polished hardwood or metal, and certainly not a cross gilded with gold leaf.

Around a hundred years ago, an American called George Bennard (nothing to do with George Bernard Shaw) spent quite a while contemplating this anomaly, and came up with a new hymn: “The Old Rugged Cross”.

Hymn writing was one of Bennard's passions, as he wrote over 300 of them. “The Old Rugged Cross” was composed in 1912, and soon became one of the 20th century's most popular songs, with over 20 million copies sold in the first 30 years. The catchy song has been performed by some of the twentieth century's most important recording artists, including Elvis Presley, Al Green, Anne Murray, Johnny Cash and June Carter.

Categories: Christian music Hymn tunesDifficulty: intermediate
Thursday 15 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Piece en forme de Habanera

 by Maurice Ravel, arranged for Flute and Piano

The “Vocalise-Étude en forme de Habanera” was originally written for low voice and piano in March 1907, and was commissioned by A.-L. Hettich as one of a series of studies by contemporary composers for use in his voice classes at the Paris Conservatoire. It was subsequently arranged in various instrumental versions, under the title “Pièce en forme de habanera”.

As you can see, Ravel was particularly fond of the characteristically Spanish habanera rhythm, which occurs not only in this piece, but also in his famous Rapsodie espagnole

Categories: 20th century HabanerasDifficulty: intermediate
Friday 16 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Cielito Lindo

 Popular Mexican song

If you think you don't know this tune, wait till you hear the refrain. You will instantly recognize it:

Ay, ay, ay, ay,
Canta y no llores,
Porque cantando se alegran,
Cielito lindo, los corazones.

Which roughly means: Sing and don't cry, heavenly one, for singing gladdens the heart. “Cielo” literally means “sky” or “heaven”, but it is also a term of endearment comparable to “sweetheart”. Thus “Cielito” would be "sweetie". “Lindo” means “beautiful”.

This popular Mexican song was written in 1882 by Quirino Mendoza y Cortés. Commonly played by mariachi bands, it has been recorded by many famous artists, that range from Pavarotti to Pedro Infante (in the famous film Los Tres García).

The melody was also used as the basis for a popular English-language song, "You, Me, and Us," which became a hit for Alma Cogan in the UK in 1957.

Categories: Latin AmericanDifficulty: easy
Saturday 17 April 2010

Tune of the Day: April (Snowdrop)

 from “The Seasons” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky's wonderfully melodic The Seasons contains 12 pieces, one for each month of the year.

The following epigraph by Russian poet Apollon Maykov accompanies “April”:

The blue, pure snowdrop — flower,
and near it the last snowdrops.
The last tears over past griefs,
and first dreams of another happiness.

Categories: RomanticDifficulty: intermediate
Sunday 18 April 2010

Tune of the Day: The Lord's My Shepherd

 Hymn tune by Jessie S. Irvine

Psalm 23 is a very popular psalm among musicians, with a large number of different lyrics and musical arrangements appearing through the ages to present day. Without doubt, the most familiar and well-known version of this psalm is that which is found in the Scottish Psalter of 1650, set to the tune “Crimond”.

“Crimond” first appeared in 1872 accompanying the hymn “I am the Way the Truth and the Life”. The tune was credited to David Grant, an amateur musician; it was subsequently revealed, however, that Grant simply helped harmonizing it, and that the true composer was Jessie Seymour Irvine, the daughter of a parish minister who served at Dunottar, Peterhead, and Crimond in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It is believed that Irvine wrote the tune while still in her teens, as an exercise for an organ class she was attending.

The popularity of this tune in England grew in part because of its use during the 1947 marriage ceremony between Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

Categories: Funeral music Hymn tunes Wedding musicDifficulty: easy
Monday 19 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Chaconne

 by Sigfrid Karg-Elert

Sigfrid Karg-Elert composed his 30 Caprices for Flute between 1915 and 1918. The German composer wrote them specifically for Carl Bartuzat, a flautist bound for service in the war. These short exercises were designed to challenge linear one-staff thinking and, in short, keep the friend from becoming bored. They are now a standard set of technical, dynamic, and phrasing exercises for flute students all over the world.

The Chaconne, a form taken from the baroque era, is the last and most challenging of the thirty caprices. It is based on a ground bass (“Basso ostinato”) of four notes: F, Eb, Db, C.

Categories: 20th century Chaconnes Etudes Variations Written for FluteDifficulty: advanced
Tuesday 20 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Finnegan's Wake

 Traditional Irish ballad

The ballad “Finnegan's Wake” arose in the 1850s in the music-hall tradition of comical Irish songs. The song has become a staple of The Dubliners, who have played it on many occasions and included it on several albums, and is especially well-known to fans of The Clancy Brothers, who have performed and recorded it with Tommy Makem. More recently, the song has also been recorded by Irish-American Celtic punk band Dropkick Murphys.

In the ballad, the hod-carrier Tim Finnegan, born “with a love for the liquor”, falls from a ladder and is thought to be dead. The mourners at his wake become rowdy, and spill whiskey over Finnegan's corpse, causing him to come back to life and join in in the celebrations.

This wordy song encouraged novelist James Joyce to give one of his novels the same title. Well, almost the same: Joyce removed the apostrophe in the title of his novel in order to suggest a process in which a multiplicity of “Finnegans”, that is, all members of humanity, fall and then wake and arise.

Categories: Ballads Celtic Music Drinking songs Traditional/FolkDifficulty: intermediate
Wednesday 21 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Study No. 1 in C major

 by Ernesto Köhler

This piece is taken from the first of the three books of studies which make up Köhler's “Progress in Flute Playing”, Op. 33. These books were originally written to compliment the course of instruction in Kohler's initial flute method.

Categories: Etudes Romantic Written for FluteDifficulty: intermediate
Thursday 22 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Air in D minor

 by Henry Purcell

The Double Dealer, a comedy accompanied by music, was one of two collaborations between Henry Purcell and William Congreve. At the time he wrote it, Congreve wasn't quite comfortable writing plays with music in them; however, the suite of instrumental music which Purcell composed for the play in 1693 greatly enhances it.

The light, easy-going Air in D minor was originally composed for keyboard, and in recent times it has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity due to its inclusion as one of the first pieces in Carl Humphries' The Piano Handbook. An interesting fact about this tune is that it's very easy to come up with a few nice variations.

Categories: BaroqueDifficulty: easy
Friday 23 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Furcht der Geliebten (An Cidli)

 by Franz Schubert

This song is based on a poem by Friedrich Klopstock, in which the poet writes about the love of his own life, Margarethe Moller, whom he called Meta and, in poems, Cidli. This poem dates from 1753, the year before he married her.

In 1815 Franz Schubert set the poem to music, and the result is a wonderful fusion of styles and emotions. The main melody of the piece is sensual and loving, while the piano accompaniment is almost hymn-like in its choral progression. Yet both these seemingly contradictory elements fit effortlessly together.

Categories: Lieder Love songs RomanticDifficulty: intermediate
Saturday 24 April 2010

Tune of the Day: The Irish Washerwoman

 Traditional Irish jig

“The Irish Washerwoman” is a very delightful little Irish jig that probably most people have heard, even if they don’t recognize it by name. Although the tune has popularly been known as an old, and perhaps quintessential Irish jig, it has been proposed by some writers to have been an English country dance tune that was published in the 17th century and probably known in the late 16th century.

The song has many different titles and many melodic variants, including “Corporal Casey”, “Dargason”, “Sedany” and “Country Courtship”. A pretty famous orchestral version was composed by Leroy Anderson and played by the Boston Pops Orchestra under Arthur Fiedler.

Although this jig has lyrics, it is typically rendered as an instrumental piece. The refrain is typically repeated several times, sometimes by gradually increasing the tempo until being played very fast before coming to a sudden stop.

Categories: Celtic Music Jigs Traditional/FolkDifficulty: intermediate
Sunday 25 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Gavotte

 by Jean-Baptiste Lully

The gavotte originated as a French folk dance, taking its name from the Gavot people of the Pays de Gap region, where the dance originated. It is notated in 4/4 or 2/2 time and is of moderate tempo. The distinctive rhythmic feature of the original gavotte is that phrases begin in the middle of the bar; that is, in 4/4 time, the phrases begin on the third quarter note of the bar, creating a half-measure upbeat.

The gavotte became popular in the court of Louis XIV where Jean-Baptiste Lully was the leading court composer. Consequently several other composers of the Baroque period incorporated the dance as one of many optional additions to the standard instrumental suite of the era. The examples in suites and partitas by Johann Sebastian Bach are best known.

Categories: Baroque Dance tunes GavottesDifficulty: intermediate
Monday 26 April 2010

Tune of the Day: The Washington Post

 by John Philip Sousa

This march has been among Sousa's most popular for years, considered by many his best known after Stars and Stripes Forever. It still stands as one of Sousa's most played works, and is performed widely by concert and marching bands alike; it is considered to be an essential piece for band literature.

The Washington Post newspaper claims in its history that this march was written as a tribute to the newspaper and performed by Sousa and his band in 1899. However, the work dates to 1889; moreover, The Washington Post in the march's title referred to the Marine contingent posted in the nation's capital at the time, not to the newspaper. It is true that Sousa performed the march at ceremonies held in 1899 by the newspaper, and the work's title was obviously fitting for the occasion.

Categories: Marches PatrioticDifficulty: intermediate
Tuesday 27 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Variations on a Theme by Rossini

 by Frédéric Chopin, for Flute and Piano

This set of variations on a popular Rossini aria is charming, fluent, and not lacking in imagination. It is in a typical variation form for the period, with each of the four variations a decorated version of the original tune. The theme of these brilliant variations comes from the aria “Non più mesta accanto al fuoco”, which is the finale of Rossini's opera “La Cenerentola” (Cinderella). In this aria, Angelina (aka Cenerentola) bids farewell to all the days spent as a housekeeper in her stepfather's house. Rossini, much admired by Chopin, composed the entire opera in 24 days.

The occasion for Chopin's writing this piece, at the age of 14, is not known, but it was most likely written for the composer's father (an amateur flute player) or one of the other flute players the elder Chopin knew and often played with. It is fortunate that the work survived. It appears that there was only one manuscript copy, and that it was kept by one of the composer's friends. The work did not appear in print until 1953.

Categories: Romantic Variations Written for FluteDifficulty: advanced
Wednesday 28 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Black Velvet Waltz

 Traditional Canadian tune

This soft, gentle waltz comes from Canada. It was apparently named for a brand of Canadian whiskey, and that's why the tune is also known as “Whiskey Waltz”.

A favorite among fiddle players, this tune is usually played starting on the G below the staff, which of course is not possible on the flute; that's why we transposed it up an octave. The second part gets higher, so you have two choices: either play it as notated or play it in the third register, which would better conserve the lighter character of the second part... provided you keep the tone soft and gentle!

Categories: Traditional/Folk WaltzesDifficulty: intermediate
Thursday 29 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Barnum and Bailey's Favorite

 by Karl L. King

Karl King's best-known composition has to be “Barnum and Bailey's Favorite”. King wrote this march for the Barnum and Bailey Circus Band in 1913, at the request of the director. King was twenty-two at the time, and was preparing to join the band as a euphonium player.

The use of the word “favorite” in the title proved quite appropriate: a 1980 international music survey ranked this march fourth in the top 140 marches.

Categories: Circus music MarchesDifficulty: advanced
Friday 30 April 2010

Tune of the Day: Symphony No. 25

 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Symphony No. 25 in G minor, which is usually referred to as the “Little G minor symphony” to distinguish it from the “Great G minor symphony”, was written by Mozart in 1773. It was supposedly completed a mere two days after the completion of his Symphony No. 24, although this remains unsubstantiated. Today, its theme is widely known as the opening music in Miloš Forman's 1984 film Amadeus.

The use of minor keys in symphonies was rare in the eighteenth century. However, rather than being viewed as a forerunner of Romanticism, this work is more satisfactorily regarded as being part of a sudden wave of minor-key symphonies which appeared in the late 1760s, all characterized by stormy drama and restlessness of spirit, attributes which have led some to refer to them as Sturm und Drang (“storm and stress”) pieces.

Categories: Classical Film music SymphoniesDifficulty: intermediate