Thursday 1 July 2010
Traditional Japanese song
This is one of the most famous traditional songs (min'yō) in Japan. It is a sea shanty that is said to have been first sung by the fishermen of Hokkaidō, Japan's northern island.
Herring fishing brought thousands of migrant workers to Hokkaido each spring until the early 20th century. Songs accompanied each stage of fishing, such as rowing and net-hauling. The lyrics were often improvised, helping to keep workers awake during several days without sleep.
“Sōran Bushi” still accompanies the traditional Bon Dance in many parts of Japan, and it has its own dancing styles that date back generations. The dance moves depict fishermen dragging nets, pulling ropes and carrying luggage over their shoulders.
Friday 2 July 2010
After beginning his musical career, Italian flutist and composer Ernesto Köhler moved to Vienna at the age of twenty, and then, in 1871, on to Saint Petersburg. He remained in Saint Petersburg for the rest of life as a member of the orchestra of the Imperial Opera. The “Souvenir Russe” for flute and piano was clearly dedicated to his Russian experience. Starting from a slow theme in minor key, the piece then evolves towards a lively Allegretto, passing by two flute cadenzas.
Saturday 3 July 2010
A Ragtime Two Step by Scott Joplin
When this rag was first published in 1908, it was evident to many that it was based on the same format of Joplin's first big hit, “Maple Leaf Rag”, which was published nine years earlier. Indeed, in the opening section “Sugar Cane” is stylistically identical to its famous predecessor. But it still rings with originality, in spite of the detractors. One of those was his now-estranged publisher John Stark, who derided Joplin's efforts of the time in personal notes. He postulated that Joplin's “spring of inspiration had run dry”, and seemed to show little compassion for the composer that had helped build his empire. Just the same, Joplin rags sold no matter who published them.
Sunday 4 July 2010
Debussy wrote “La plus que lente” for solo piano in 1910. The title of this waltz may be translated as "The Even Slower Waltz" or, more literally, "The More Than Slow". Despite its title, “La plus que lente” was not meant to be played slowly: lente, in this context, refers to the valse lente genre that Debussy attempted to emulate. Typical of Debussy's caustic approach to naming his compositions, it represented his reaction to the vast influence of the slow waltz in France's social atmospheres.
“La plus que lente” is marked “Molto rubato con morbidezza”, indicating Debussy's encouragement of a very flexible tempo. Molto rubato (literally, “very stolen”) allows the player great rhythmic freedom, while con morbidezza means “softly”, “tenderly”.
The original version of this piece was scored in G-flat major (with six flats in the key signature), but flutists usually play it transposed to G major, since this key better fits the playing range of the flute... not to mention that it's way easier to read!
Monday 5 July 2010
from Telemann's Sonata in F major
Here is the second movement of Georg Philipp Telemann's Sonata No. 1 in F major. It is marked “Largo”, thus contrasting with the much faster opening Vivace.
Tuesday 6 July 2010
Traditional English round
“Summer is icumen in” is possibly the oldest example of counterpoint in existence. The title might be translated as “Summer has come in”, or “Summer has arrived”. The piece is also known as the Reading rota because the manuscript comes from Reading Abbey, although it may not have been written there. Its composer is anonymous, possibly W. de Wycombe, and it is estimated to date from around 1260.
This is a round, that is, a composition in which two or more voices sing exactly the same melody (and may continue repeating it indefinitely), but with each voice beginning at different times so that different parts of the melody coincide in the different voices, but nevertheless fit harmoniously together. The original manuscript includes instructions to play this piece as a six-voice round, with four voices playing the main melody and two voices playing the bass part. This setting is fully developed in our version of the score, starting on page 2. On page 1, instead, you can find the two basic melodies arranged as a duet. You will notice that the bass part actually consists of four measures repeated over and over.
Wednesday 7 July 2010
from “The Nutcracker” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
This is the very last number that Tchaikovsky wrote for his famous two-act ballet The Nutcracker.
During the past century, The Nutcracker has been subjected to many radically different reinterpretations of the story. Several productions of the work greatly change the ending of the ballet, but according to Roland John Wiley's Tchaikovsky's Ballets, the original libretto included the following description: “The apotheosis represents a large beehive with flying bees, closely guarding their riches.” Eight students from the Imperial Ballet School represented bees. We don't know what action, if any, was carried out in this scene; the apotheosis is not included in the early 20th-century choreographic notation of the ballet. Possibly, the scene was included as a nod to the Tsar, as bees traditionally represent prosperity. Ballets of this period sometimes included apotheosis scenes that seem to us unrelated, at least directly, to the ballet's plot.
Thursday 8 July 2010
“La Bayamesa” (“The Hymn of Bayamo”) was first performed during the Battle of Bayamo in 1868. Perucho Figueredo, who took part in the battle, composed the melody in 1867. On October 20, 1868, when the Cuban forces obtained the capitulation of the Spaniard authorities in Bayamo, the jubilant people surrounded Figueredo and asked him to write an anthem with the melody they were humming. It is said that Figueredo wrote the lyrics of the anthem right on the saddle of his horse.
As time went by, different harmonizations and introductions to Figueredo's melody started to appear. The most successful one, which is still played today, was composed by Antonio Rodríguez Ferrer.
Friday 9 July 2010
Or how to play flute-and-clarinet duets
We have received requests for flute-and-clarinet duets, but since we don't have enough time to write pieces for more than one instrumentation we thought we could just let you know how simple it is to modify an existing flute duet so that it can be played by a flutist and a clarinet (or saxophone, or trumpet) player.
We could have written a more generic transposition how-to, but we chose to write a highly optimized guide for the most common case instead, so that everybody could understand it.
Friday 9 July 2010
from “Peer Gynt” by Edvard Grieg
Anitra’s Dance is part of the music to Henrik Ibsen’s drama Peer Gynt – one of the most ambitious, but also one of the most troublesome tasks that Grieg ever undertook. The composer wrote: “You don't believe, do you, that I had any choice in the matter? I was asked by Ibsen in spring, and of course I rebelled at the thought of setting this must unmusical of all subjects to music. It all hangs over me like a nightmare”. Nevertheless, the result was a triumph.
The fourth act is set on the north coast of Africa, where Peer Gynt meets a Bedouin chief in the heat of the desert. He falls for the chief's daughter, Anitra, who dances enticingly for him.
Saturday 10 July 2010
from Telemann's Sonata in F major
Here is the much requested third and last movement of Telemann's F-major sonata. We now have the full work: Vivace, Largo and Allegro.
Sunday 11 July 2010
“The Lily of the Valley” is a gospel standard, appearing in almost all Protestant hymnals. The hymn was written by William Charles Fry in London for the Salvation Army. American gospel singer and composer Ira D. Sankey arranged the words to the music of “The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane”, composed in 1871 by Will “Shakespeare” Hays for a minstrel show.
Monday 12 July 2010
This popular nocturne was composed by Frédéric Chopin in the year 1830 for solo piano and dedicated to his older sister, Ludwika Chopin. First published 26 years after the composer's death, the piece is also known by its tempo marking of “Lento con gran espressione” (“Slow with great expression”), or by the popular appellation “Reminiscence”.
The piece is featured in Roman Polanski's 2002 film The Pianist. It is played twice by the protagonist Adrien Brody as Władysław Szpilman, both times at the recording studio at Warsaw Radio at the beginning and the end of the film.
Tuesday 13 July 2010
The “Combination March” was Joplin's second published march. Appeared in 1896, it demonstrated the composer's ability to assemble well-structured themes, and is not all that far off from the ragtime he would be writing in short order. Joplin had been traveling with his Texas Medley Quartette (actually double that since there were eight members) and secured publication in Temple, Texas during their tour. The context of the title is unclear, whether Joplin is referring to a combination of styles or ideas, or the group with which he was playing.
Thanks to Guido from Brazil for suggesting this piece!
Wednesday 14 July 2010
aka “Song of the Seashore”
Japanese composer Tamezo Narita composed this beautiful yet pacific song in 1916, two years after entering the Tokyo Music Academy. In recent times, James Galway popularized the song among flutists, including it in many of his albums.
Thanks to Johann from Sri Lanka for suggesting this piece!
Thursday 15 July 2010
from Vivaldi's Concerto for Piccolo in C major
This is the first movement of the famous Piccolo (or Recorder) Concerto in C major by Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi. The movement starts with a lively orchestral refrain (usually called ritornello in Baroque music), after which the soloist enters with a display passage that dazzles with its rhythmic drive and virtuosic writing. This movement is followed by the well-known Largo.
Thanks to Luis for contributing this piece!
Friday 16 July 2010
Also known as “The Child of Dreamland”, this Irish folk tune was probably composed in the mid-1800s. It was first notated in 1839 by Ed Bunting, who first heard it from a Miss Murphy of Dublin.
This melody was included in James Galway and Phil Coulter's 1997 album Legends, which featured many best-loved Celtic melodies.
Saturday 17 July 2010
from Paganini's “Centone di sonate”, arranged for Flute and Guitar
This is the very first movement of Paganini's collection of salon pieces known as the Centone di sonate. This short but dramatic Introduction is marked “Larghetto”, but in spite of its tempo it has an overriding feeling of agitation.
The movement ends on a half cadence, which naturally leads to the following “Allegro maestoso”.
Sunday 18 July 2010
Traditional Scottish tune
The lyrics to this popular Scottish song were written in the 1960s by actor Jimmy Copland.
For fame and for fortune I wandered the earth
And now I've come back to the land of my birth
I've brought back my treasures but only to find
They're less than the pleasures I first left behind
For these are my mountains and this is my glen
The braes of my childhood will know me again
No land's ever claimed me tho' far I did roam
For these are my mountains and I'm going home
Monday 19 July 2010
from “Lohengrin” by Richard Wagner
This piece, taken from Wagner's 1850 opera Lohengrin, occurs at Act II, Scene 4, where all are going to the Minster for the ceremony that will occur at the beginning of Act III. The piece starts with a subtle opening which sets the stage for a dramatic build-up, leading very well into any triumphant piece, particularly the famous Bridal Chorus, which falls immediately after this piece in the opera.
Thanks to Anastasia for suggesting this piece!
Tuesday 20 July 2010
from Sonata in G minor by George Frideric Handel
This is the fourth and final movement of Handel's Sonata in G minor for Recorder. Handel later reused this movement for his Flute Sonata in E minor, making only a few changes to the melody.
Wednesday 21 July 2010
This is one of the most famous French canons, or multi-part songs. It can be played by up to five flutists, all playing the same exact melody but at two bars' distance.
Thursday 22 July 2010
from Giuseppe Verdi's “Rigoletto”
“La donna è mobile” (“Woman is fickle”) is the cynical Duke of Mantua's song from Giuseppe Verdi's 1851 opera Rigoletto. The inherent irony is that it is the callous playboy Duke himself who is mobile (“inconstant”) This canzone is famous as a showcase for tenors, and has been recorded by Enrico Caruso, Mario Lanza, Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti and hundreds of others. Before this song's first public performance, which took place in Venice, it was rehearsed under tight secrecy: a necessary precaution, because it proved to be catchy and soon after its first public performance every gondolier in Venice was singing it!
Friday 23 July 2010
The “Tarantella” dance music is probably the most recognized tune of all Italian folk music. You can see this dance at authentic southern Italian weddings, and obviously it appears in the famous 1972 film The Godfather. In The Godfather Part II, Frankie Pentangeli tries to get the wedding band (who is not Italian) to play a tarantella; they end up playing “Pop Goes the Weasel” instead!
The Tarantella has a very interesting history. During ancient times in the area around the city of Taranto in southern Italy, a type of poisonous spider was so prevalent that it took the name tarantula. Its venom caused a hysterical condition, the symptoms of which were an irresistible need for a wild and rapid whirling motion bringing the victim to the point of exhaustion. For long time, the local population believed that the only way to suppress the symptoms and to cure the bite was by using a very rhythmic and fast music. The music played for the cure became known as Tarantella.
Saturday 24 July 2010
from G.B. Sammartini's Concerto in F major
A younger contemporary of J.S. Bach, Giuseppe Sammartini is generally recognized as one of the most significant composers of concertos and sonatas during his time. An oboist, it is likely that he played the flute and recorder as well: indeed, among his vast instrumental output, there are 24 sonatas for flute and bass, and 30 trios involving the flute. The piece we present today is the first movement of his best-known composition, the Concerto in F major for recorder.
Many thanks to José for contributing this piece!
Sunday 25 July 2010
Traditional Scottish tune
This pipe tune is actually called “The Green Hills of Tyrol”, and was written in 1854 by John MacLeod, a Pipe Major in the 93rd Highlanders, during the Crimean War. He adapted it after hearing a Sardinian band play a continental tune. That tune was based on an alpine folk tune, and had also been used by Rossini in William Tell.
The tune is also known to many as “A Scottish Soldier”, because of the lyrics added to the tune in 1961 by Scottish singer Andy Stewart. He said they came from his heart. The song is about a dying Scottish soldier, wishing to return to the hills of his homeland rather than die in Tyrol. The song was a significant international hit, reaching #1 in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Monday 26 July 2010
Theobald Boehm, the inventor who perfected the modern Western concert flute and its improved fingering system, was also a virtuoso flutist as well as a celebrated composer for the instrument. This “Souvenir of the Alps”, written in 1852, is the fifth of a set of six such pieces.
Tuesday 27 July 2010
from Sonata in G minor by George Frideric Handel
Here is the third movement of Handel's Recorder Sonata in G minor. It's an extremely compact Adagio in 3/2 time, which visits the key of F minor but soon returns to G minor, ending on a half cadence.
We now have the full set: Larghetto, Andante, Adagio, Presto.
Wednesday 28 July 2010
English madrigal arranged for flute duet
This charming piece is perhaps the best known of all English madrigals, and is the prototype of the pastoral-style madrigal, complete with references to nymphs, springtime, and dancing. It was composed by English organist Thomas Morley, and published in 1595.
Thursday 29 July 2010
by Enrico Toselli, arranged for Flute and Piano
Composed in 1900, the Serenata “Rimpianto” (literally, “Regret”) is the only work Enrico Toselli is remembered for, despite his having written many other songs, as well as tone poems and operettas. It is also one of his earliest works, composed when he was only seventeen. The song was so popular, Toselli himself made an arrangement for violin and piano. Arrangements for almost every other instrument and ensemble have been made over the years as well.
The song is one of those typical turn-of-the-century pieces, very sentimental and light on musical complexity, that would sound emotionally impressive when performed by concert artists, but would also be easily performed at home by amateurs.
Friday 30 July 2010
Variations on a traditional English melody, for Flute and bass instrument
Greensleeves is undoubtedly one of the most popular folk songs ever written. Its lyrical beauty has inspired numerous composers, well known and anonymous alike, to write takeoffs or variants on the theme. The anonymous effort we present today, titled “Greensleeves to a Ground”, appeared in the first collection of “The Division Flute” from 1706, but like the other pieces included in that publication it is probably older. It contains several attractive variations on the melody and was generally performed on the lute. Recordings today feature a variety of instruments, however, as well as many different versions of the piece.
Saturday 31 July 2010
from Gabriel Fauré's Requiem, arranged for Flute and Organ
This is the beautiful soprano solo from Fauré's Requiem, Op. 48. The seven movements of the French composer's setting of the Mass for the Dead form an arch whose keystone and crown is this central fourth movement, whose title means “Merciful Jesus”. Camille Saint-Saëns said of it, “just as Mozart's is the only Ave verum corpus, this is the only Pie Jesu.”
Thanks to Dawn for suggesting this piece!