Sunday 1 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Adagio

 from J.S. Bach's Flute Sonata in C major

The third movement of Bach's Flute Sonata No. 4 in C major is a slow Adagio in A minor. Serene and delicate, it is followed by two lively minuets.

Categories: Baroque Sonatas Written for FluteDifficulty: intermediate
Monday 2 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Fantasia for Solo Flute No. 3

 by Georg Philipp Telemann

Published in 1732, the twelve Fantasias for Solo Flute by Georg Philipp Telemann have become a staple of the solo flute repertoire. They were originally written for the transverse flute, but have been enthusiastically embraced by recorder players, many of whom insist that Telemann really wrote them for the recorder.

The third Fantasia is in the key of B minor. It starts off with a few slow and melancholic opening gestures, but soon bursts into a frenetic Vivace, and finally ends with a lively ternary gigue.

Thanks to John for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Baroque Fantasias Written for FluteDifficulty: intermediate
Tuesday 3 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Old Folks at Home

 by Stephen Foster, arranged for Flute and Piano

Also known by the words of its first line, “Way Down Upon the Swanee River”, this song was written in 1851 by composer Stephen Foster to be performed by the New York performing troupe Christy's Minstrels. The name of E.P. Christy, the troupe's leader, appears on early printings of the music as the song's creator: Christy had paid Foster $5 to be credited, something Foster himself had suggested though later regretted.

According to legend, Foster had most of the lyrics but was trying to give a name to the river of the opening line and asked his brother to suggest one. The first suggestion was “the Yazoo” of Mississippi, which, despite fitting the melody perfectly, Foster rejected. The second suggestion was “the Pee Dee” of the Carolinas, to which Foster said, “Oh pshaw! I won't have that.” His brother then consulted an atlas and called out “Suwannee!”. Foster wrote it immediately in (misspelling it “Swanee” to fit the melody), saying “That's it exactly!”. Foster himself never saw the Suwannee or even visited Florida, but the popularity of the song started the tourist industry in Florida: beginning in the 1880s, it drew millions of people from around the world seeking the symbolic river and idyllic home described in the song's words. In 1935 “Old Folks at Home” was even adopted as the official state song of Florida.

Categories: Minstrel songs Traditional/FolkDifficulty: easy
Wednesday 4 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Dance of the Hours

 by Amilcare Ponchielli, arranged for Flute duet

The “Dance of the Hours” is a ballet from the opera La Gioconda by Italian composer Amilcare Ponchielli. First performed in 1876, La Gioconda was a major success for Ponchielli, as well as the most successful new Italian opera between Verdi's Aida (1871) and Otello (1887).

The “Dance of the Hours” is considered one of the most popular ballet pieces in history. The ballet was parodied in Walt Disney's 1940 classic Fantasia. The segment consists of the whole ballet, but performed comically by animals rather than humans. The dancers of the morning are represented by Madame Upanova and her ostriches. The dancers of the daytime are represented by Hyacinth Hippo and her servants. The dancers of the evening are represented by Elephanchine and her bubble-blowing elephant troupe. The dancers of the night are represented by Ben Ali Gator and his troop of alligators.

Another famous parody of the “Dance of the Hours” is Allan Sherman's 1963 song “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh”, describing a miserable time at summer camp. It uses the main theme of the ballet as its melody.

Categories: Opera excerpts Romantic Show-off piecesDifficulty: intermediate
Thursday 5 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Allegro

 from J.S. Bach's Flute Sonata in C major

This Allegro is the second movement of Bach's Flute Sonata No. 4 in C major. It is a bright perpetual-motion-like piece with a chugging harpsichord accompaniment. The first theme, played twice, is answered by a related tune, which is also repeated.

Categories: Baroque Sonatas Written for FluteDifficulty: intermediate
Friday 6 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Fantasia for Solo Flute No. 2

 by Georg Philipp Telemann

The second of the Telemann Fantasias for Solo Flute is in the key of A minor. Its opening is marked “Grave”, the slowest of all the tempo markings; after a few bars, however, this leaves place to a vigorous “Vivace”. The following “Adagio” is a fully ornamented movement in the German style. Finally, a two-part “Allegro” in 2/4 time comes to take the tempo up again and close the Fantasia.

Categories: Baroque Fantasias Written for FluteDifficulty: advanced
Saturday 7 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Dargason

 Traditional English dance tune

This English dance tune, which is also known as “Cynwyd”, “Sedany” and “Welsh Sedawny”, dates back to at least 1580. It is also used for the folk‐song “The Hawthorne Tree”, aka “It was a maid of my country”. Essentially, this is an 8‐bar circular melody that lends itself easily to combination with others.

In his Suite No. 2 for Military Band (1911), English composer Gustav Holst combined the “Dargason” with “Greensleeves” in the fourth and last movement, titled “Fantasia on the Dargason”. Holst later rearranged this movement for string orchestra, as the final movement of his St Paul's Suite.

“The Irish Washerwoman” is a variant of this tune.

Sunday 8 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Aragonaise

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

This Aragonaise is a lively Spanish dance designed to precede the fourth and last act of Georges Bizet's famous opera Carmen. The name “Aragonaise” means “dance of Aragon”, Aragon being a region in northeastern Spain.

This entr'acte was also included in Carmen Suite No. 1, compiled by Ernest Guiraud a few months after the composer's death.

Categories: Opera excerpts RomanticDifficulty: intermediate
Monday 9 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Andante

 from J.S. Bach's Flute Sonata in C major

The opening movement of Bach's Flute Sonata No. 4 is actually more of a “Presto”, although it begins with a measured “Andante” introduction. The flute plays nonstop throughout, and when it launches into the cadenza-like Presto proper, the accompaniment is reduced to a single, suspenseful, long-held chord. It's immediately clear that the flute part of this movement could easily stand alone.

Here are the following movements: Allegro, Adagio, Menuetto I and II.

Categories: Baroque Sonatas Written for FluteDifficulty: intermediate
Tuesday 10 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Sonatina in G major

 by Ludwig van Beethoven, arranged for Flute solo

This Sonatina in G major for solo piano is generally attributed to Ludwig van Beethoven. However, since the work was published in Hamburg, Germany after Beethoven's death, its authenticity is doubted. The work comprises 2 movements: the first, in common time, is titled “Moderato”; the second is titled “Romance” and is in 6/8 time.

Categories: ClassicalDifficulty: intermediate
Wednesday 11 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Vesti la giubba

 from “Pagliacci”, arranged for Flute and Piano

“Vesti la giubba” (“Put on the costume”) is a famous tenor aria performed as part of the opera Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo. It is sung at the end of the first act, when Canio discovers his wife's infidelity but must nevertheless prepare for his performance as Pagliaccio the clown because “the show must go on”.

Since the first performance of Pagliacci in 1892, this aria in particular has ingrained itself well into popular culture, and has often been featured in many renditions, mentions, and spoofs over the years. The 1904 recording by Enrico Caruso was the first million-selling record in history.

Categories: Arias Opera excerpts RomanticDifficulty: intermediate
Thursday 12 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Morrison's Jig

 Traditional Irish tune

This popular traditional jig is named after Sligo-born, Irish-American fiddler James Morrison, who recorded it in the 1930s. Tom Carmody, who played accordion in Morrison's band, tells this story of its origin:

Jim was up at my house the night before we were to go to the studio, and I played him this jig. Jim asked me where I had got it from and I told him it was my father's jig called “The Stick Across the Hob”. Jim asked me to play it again and he wrote it down as I played, then he got the fiddle and played it off. “I will put that on record tomorrow”, he said, and we'll call it “Maurice Carmody's Favourite”.

Categories: Celtic Music Jigs Traditional/FolkDifficulty: intermediate
Friday 13 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Allegro

 from Sonata in C major by George Frideric Handel

This is the fifth and last movement of Handel's Sonata in C major for Recorder. It's a jaunty Allegro with a very active bass line, and a solo melody that lends itself well to ornamentation. The piece is made up of two sections, of 16 and 48 bars respectively.

Categories: Baroque SonatasDifficulty: intermediate
Saturday 14 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Preludio

 from J.S. Bach's Lute Suite in C minor, transcribed for Flute with optional bass line

The Suite for lute (not flute) in C minor, BWV 997 is one of just two lute suites that Bach wrote from scratch: the others are arrangements of works for violin or cello. It is infused with deep but restrained affect, and displays the extraordinary architectural detail that is so much a part of Bach's last ten years. It is with good reason that the piece is widely considered Bach's finest lute work.

The Suite is laid out in four movements, starting with this magnificent two-voice Prelude. The higher voice is florid and of great flexibility, while the lower one moves mostly in steady quarter notes.

Categories: BaroqueDifficulty: intermediate
Sunday 15 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Seguidilla

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

The Seguidilla aria forms part of Act I of the famous French opera Carmen by Georges Bizet. The beautiful gypsy, Carmen, sings it in an attempt to seduce her captor, the soldier Don José, into going with her to her friend Lillas Pastia's inn.

After Bizet's death, this number was also included by Ernest Guiraud in Carmen Suite No. 1, the only movement of the suite that began as an aria.

More generally, a seguidilla is a quick triple-time Castillian folksong and dance form, whose name is a diminutive of seguida, from seguir, i.e. “to follow”.

Categories: Arias Opera excerpts RomanticDifficulty: intermediate
Monday 16 August 2010

Tune of the Day: La Réjouissance

 from “Music for the Royal Fireworks” by G.F. Handel

The Music for the Royal Fireworks is an orchestral suite composed by George Frideric Handel in 1749 to celebrate the end of the War of the Austrian Succession. The work was commissioned by King George II of Great Britain, and played during the fireworks display in London's Green Park on 27 April 1749.

The rehearsal of Handel's music in Vauxhall Gardens, which took place six days earlier, was one of the best-attended in the history of musical performance. A huge crowd, said to number in excess of 12,000, is reported to have turned up, blocking many surrounding streets and causing traffic chaos. The actual event was rather less successful: observers reported that many of the fireworks failed to impress, and the display even set fire to one of the pavilions that formed part of the structure.

The fourth of five movements, “La Réjouissance” (“The Rejoicing”) is still very popular, and in recent times it has also become a favorite at weddings. Originally scored for trumpets and wind orchestra, we propose it today in an arrangement for three flutes, but you can also play it as a solo or duet by simply ignoring the lower voices.

Categories: Baroque Fanfares Show-off pieces Wedding musicDifficulty: intermediate
Tuesday 17 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Adagio ma non tanto

 from J.S. Bach's Flute Sonata in E minor

Johann Sebastian Bach's Sonata in E minor for Flute and continuo, BWV 1034 is in the usual four-movement, slow-fast-slow-fast sonata da chiesa format. The first movement, marked “Adagio ma non tanto” (“Slowly, but not much”), is usually performed at a fairly deliberate pace despite the Composer's admonition.

Categories: Baroque Sonatas Written for FluteDifficulty: intermediate
Wednesday 18 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Pan!

 for Flute and Piano, by Johannes Donjon

This famous pastorale for Flute and Piano was written by Romantic flutist and composer Johannes Donjon (1893–1912). Born in Lyon, France, Donjon was a pupil of Jean-Louis Tulou, and served as principal flutist at the Paris Opéra. His compositions have found a secure place in the French flute repertoire; among these, “Pan” is probably his best-known piece.

Thanks to Jessica for suggesting this!

Categories: RomanticDifficulty: intermediate
Thursday 19 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Dans la forêt lointaine

 Traditional French tune

This miniature French song can be played as a canon for two or four voices, and it's quite fun played that way. The title can be translated as “In the Faraway Forest”. The tune is also known as “Coucou hibou” after the refrain, which in French has the double meaning of “Cuckoo, owl” and “Peekaboo, owl”.

Categories: Canons Nursery rhymes Traditional/FolkDifficulty: easy
Friday 20 August 2010

Tune of the Day: La tempesta di mare

 Flute concerto in F major by Antonio Vivaldi

Vivaldi's first concerto for Flute is actually an adaptation of the Concerto in E-flat major for violin, strings and basso continuo, RV 253. Called in both cases “La tempesta di mare” (“The Sea Storm”), the work starts with an Allegro which presents a characteristic repeated-note theme. The opening closes on a big half cadence, and moves into the quiet central Largo, with the flute soloist becalmed in the eye of the storm. A powerful theme is then introduced in the final Presto, which closes the work.

Thanks to Andrew for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Baroque Concertos Written for FluteDifficulty: intermediate
Saturday 21 August 2010

Tune of the Day: A tempo di Gavotta

 from Sonata in C major by George Frideric Handel

The fourth of five movements in Handel's Recorder Sonata in C major, this is the only movement in the sonata which is explicitly dance-related. In fact, its title means “in the time of a gavotte”, with reference to a French folk dance of moderate tempo that was very popular during the Baroque era.

This movement has a quite unusual structure: it's made up of three sections of increasing length (4, 8 and 34 bars), each with repeat markings.

Categories: Baroque Gavottes SonatasDifficulty: intermediate
Sunday 22 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Les Dragons d'Alcala

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

This piece originally came just before Act 2 of Bizet's famous opera Carmen. It's a little march, later sung by Don José, concerning his military platoon. The lighthearted air was later also included as an instrumental piece in Carmen Suite No. 1, where the theme is introduced by the bassoons, and then, as usual, distributed among the woodwinds for its few repetitions.

Categories: Opera excerpts RomanticDifficulty: intermediate
Monday 23 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Andante

 from J.S. Bach's Flute Sonata in E minor

This Andante is the third movement of Bach's Flute Sonata No. 5. It begins with an extended introduction by the continuo instruments (usually harpsichord or cello), and once the flute enters with its spacious theme, the bass line repeats fairly steadily. After a variation on the theme in the melody, the final section essentially repeats the movement's opening measures.

Categories: Baroque Sonatas Written for FluteDifficulty: intermediate
Tuesday 24 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Loure

 from Telemann's Concerto a tre in F major, arranged for two Flutes

This Loure, a slow dance of the Baroque period, is the second movement of Georg Philipp Telemann's Concerto a tre for Flute, Horn and continuo.

Thanks to Anne for requesting this piece, and thanks to José Luis for contributing it!

Categories: Baroque Loures Written for FluteDifficulty: intermediate
Wednesday 25 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Primeiro amor

 Waltz by Pattápio Silva

“Primeiro amor” (Portuguese for “First Love”) was written by Brazilian flutist and composer Pattápio Silva (1880–1907). During his short life, Silva wrote more than a thousand compositions and arrangements, many of which are still being recorded today by prominent musicians.

Thanks to Ezequiel for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Latin American WaltzesDifficulty: intermediate
Thursday 26 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Aria from the Goldberg Variations

 by Johann Sebastian Bach, arranged for Flute solo

The Goldberg Variations are a set of an aria and 30 variations for harpsichord composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. First published in 1741, the work is named after Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, who may have been the first performer.

The aria is a slow sarabande in 3/4 time, and features a heavily ornamented melody. It is played at the beginning of the Variations, and then repeated at the end of the work. It is also found in Book II of the 1725 Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, copied by Bach's wife herself. In this instance, the aria bears neither the name of the composer nor the title of the piece: it is therefore possible that the author of this wonderful piece is anonymous. However, as musicologist David Schulenberg has pointed out, “the Aria is neither Italian nor French but specifically German galant in style, and certain details point directly to Bach, especially the beautiful broadening out of the rhythm into steadily flowing notes in the last phrase”.

Categories: Baroque Sarabandes VariationsDifficulty: intermediate
Friday 27 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Dona nobis pacem

 Traditional canon

“Dona Nobis Pacem” is a song traditionally sung to a Latin text; the words, which mean “Give us peace”, come from the Latin Mass. The origin of the melody is unknown, although it is sometimes attributed to Italian Renaissance composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. It is often sung as a three-voice canon, and played this way it makes a simple but nice Renaissance-style flute trio.

Thanks to Nic for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Canons Traditional/FolkDifficulty: easy
Saturday 28 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Larghetto

 from Sonata in C major by George Frideric Handel

Here is the third of the five movements of Handel's Recorder Sonata in C major. It is not to be confused with the first movement, which is also marked “Larghetto”. This piece features a very clear and simple melody, and is excellent for experimenting with Baroque ornamentation.

Categories: Baroque SonatasDifficulty: intermediate
Sunday 29 August 2010

Tune of the Day: La Strasbourgeoise

 Traditional French song

“La Strasbourgeoise” (“The Song of Strasbourg”) is a French military song dating from the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, after which France lost the region of Alsace-Lorraine. There are several versions of this song, which is also known as “L'enfant de Strasbourg” (“The Child of Strasbourg”).

Thanks to Isaure for suggesting this tune!

Categories: Marches Military music Traditional/FolkDifficulty: easy
Monday 30 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Andalouse

 by Emile Pessard

This charming piece for Flute and Piano was written by French Romantic composer Emile Pessard. With its use of characteristic modes and rhythms, it captures the sound and spirit of flamenco music, which has its origins in Andalusia in the south of Spain.

Thanks to Jessica for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Romantic Written for FluteDifficulty: intermediate
Tuesday 31 August 2010

Tune of the Day: Slow March

 from Handel's “Scipione”, arranged for Flute duet

This march is taken from the opera Scipione, composed in 1725 by George Frideric Handel. The opera's hero, Scipio, is a Roman centurion who has recently conquered New Carthage. He is in love with the captive Berenice but magnanimously releases her to her beloved Allucius, an Iberian Prince.

After Handel's death his operas fell into obscurity and only since the 1960s have they been rediscovered in the opera house. The famous march from Scipio has however remained popular since its first performance and has been the Regimental Slow March of the British Grenadier Guards since the 18th century.

Categories: Baroque Marches Opera excerptsDifficulty: easy