Wednesday 1 September 2010

Tune of the Day: The Lonesome Boatman

 Irish slow air

This tune was composed by Finbar Furey of the Irish folk band The Fureys. There are many different versions of the piece around, and even its author plays it in many different ways! That's why the sheet music only provides the basic structure of the melody, without going too much into detail; it's up to you to add ornamentations, according to your own personal taste. The main tune is usually preceded by an improvised introduction, which is often made up of glissandi and bird calls (although not exactly in the style of Vivaldi) and is played at a fairly slow tempo.

Categories: Celtic Music Slow airsDifficulty: intermediate
Thursday 2 September 2010

Tune of the Day: Allegro

 from Sonata in C major by George Frideric Handel

The second movement of Handel's Sonata in C major for recorder and continuo is in 3/8 time. With its 132 bars, it is among the longest movements of the Opus 1 sonatas.

Categories: Baroque SonatasDifficulty: intermediate
Friday 3 September 2010

Tune of the Day: Libiamo ne' lieti calici

 from “La traviata” by Giuseppe Verdi

“Libiamo ne'lieti calici” (literally, “Let's drink from the merry chalices”) is the most famous duet from Verdi's La traviata, one of the most well known fragments of opera around the world, and an obligatory performance for any great tenor. The song is categorised as a brindisi, which is Italian for “toast”. Those who have performed it include Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, Enrico Caruso, Andrea Bocelli, Anna Netrebko and many others.

The duet is performed by Alfredo and Violetta in the first act of the opera, at a late-night party at Violetta's house. Alfredo is a young man in love with Violetta, and he is convinced by his friend Gastone to show off his voice, so he sings this drinking song.

Categories: Drinking songs Opera excerpts RomanticDifficulty: intermediate
Saturday 4 September 2010

Tune of the Day: Fantasia for Solo Flute No. 4

 by Georg Philipp Telemann

It's been a while since we last posted a Telemann Fantasia, so here we are.

Telemann's Fantasia No. 4 for Solo Flute is in the key of B-flat major. It is structured like a “modern” sonata in three movements, slow-fast-fast. More precisely, it starts with an Andante which has many jumps between the first and second register, then switches to a triple-time Allegro, and finally ends on a Presto in da capo form.

Categories: Baroque Fantasias Written for FluteDifficulty: intermediate
Sunday 5 September 2010

Tune of the Day: Rose of Alabamy

 Traditional American folk song

“Rose of Alabamy” is one of those songs that was popular during the era of minstrel bands, right before the outbreak of the American Civil War. Publishers released numerous versions of different verses, but the author of the melody, which was written in 1846, remains unknown.

The 1976 Clint Eastwood film The Outlaw Josey Wales shows scenes of a wounded confederate soldier singing several verses from the song.

Categories: American Civil War Traditional/FolkDifficulty: easy
Monday 6 September 2010

Tune of the Day: March in D major

 Attributed to C.P.E. Bach

This piece appeared in the second of two volumes of works that Johann Sebastian Bach presented to his wife Anna Magdalena. A number of the compositions in this second volume are of questionable authorship, though they are often listed on J.S. Bach's works list. Other family members, including Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, are known to have written some of the pieces, one of which might have been this charming March in D major. The piece has a playful melody, and shows that kind of irresistible charm and bouncy exuberance that has typified so much of Mozart's early keyboard works.

Categories: Baroque MarchesDifficulty: easy
Tuesday 7 September 2010

Tune of the Day: Larghetto

 from Sonata in C major by George Frideric Handel

This supple aria starts Handel's Sonata in C major for Recorder and continuo. Despite the movement being a Larghetto in C major, it concludes with a one-bar Adagio in G major.

Here are the links to the other movements of the sonata: Allegro, Larghetto, A tempo di Gavotta, Allegro.

Categories: Baroque SonatasDifficulty: intermediate
Wednesday 8 September 2010

Tune of the Day: Cantabile

 by Niccolò Paganini, arranged for solo Flute

Originally written for violin and piano, this well-known “Cantabile” in D major seems to have been composed not for public use but rather for the private enjoyment of Paganini and his circle. Here we find the composer's virtuoso fireworks tamed, his bag of tricks closed. Far removed from the pyrotechnic “Caprices”, the Cantabile is instead a gorgeous Italian vocalise.

Thanks to Mauro from Italy for suggesting this piece!

Categories: RomanticDifficulty: advanced
Thursday 9 September 2010

Tune of the Day: German Dance No. 3

 by Ludwig van Beethoven, arranged for Flute quartet

As was his practice with most of his dances in his early years, Beethoven scored his 12 German Dances for orchestra first, then transcribed them for piano. The instrumentation he employed in the orchestral rendition of the third dance, which we present today in an arrangement for four flutes, was oboes, bassoons, horns and strings. Among the twelve dances, this third one is particularly notable for its skillful polyphonic writing.

Categories: Classical Dance tunesDifficulty: intermediate
Friday 10 September 2010

Tune of the Day: Allegro

 from Concerto No. 3 “Il Gardellino” by Antonio Vivaldi

Published in 1728, Antonio Vivaldi's set of six Concertos for flute was not only the first collection of flute concertos published in Italy, it was nearly the first set of flute concertos ever published. Among these concertos, the most famous is arguably the one nicknamed “Il Gardellino” (or “Il Cardellino”), Op. 10 No. 3, a piece of program music that describes the singing of the goldfinch. The flute imitates the bird's singing, competing with the accompaniment in a series of rapid figurations. The opening Allegro, in particular, is as light and evanescent as the opening of “Spring” from The Four Seasons.

Categories: Baroque Concertos Written for FluteDifficulty: intermediate
Saturday 11 September 2010

Tune of the Day: Fantasia for Solo Flute No. 5

 by Georg Philipp Telemann

Telemann's Fantasia No. 4 for Solo Flute is in the key of C major. It starts with a Presto in which the flutist seems to play both the melody and a pedal tone. This fast introduction alternates twice with a slow Adagio, then leaves the place to the fugato writing of the second movement, an Allegro in 9/8 time. Another Allegro, this time in the style of a canarie (a fast dance from the Renaissance and Baroque eras), ends the Fantasia.

Categories: Baroque Fantasias Written for FluteDifficulty: intermediate
Sunday 12 September 2010

Tune of the Day: Eternal Father, Strong to Save

 aka The Navy Hymn, arranged for two flutes

This hymn was written by William Whiting of Winchester, England, in 1860, as a poem for a student of his, who was about to travel to the United States. In 1861, John B. Dykes, an Anglican clergyman, composed a tune named “Melita” for this hymn. “Melita” is an archaic term for Malta, an ancient seafaring nation and the site of a shipwreck involving the apostle Paul mentioned in the Bible.

The hymn, found in most hymnals, is known as the “Navy Hymn” because it is sung at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. It is also sung on ships of the Royal Navy, and has even been translated into French.

Thanks to Susan for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Hymn tunes Marches Military musicDifficulty: easy
Monday 13 September 2010

Tune of the Day: The Skaters' Waltz

 by Émile Waldteufel, arranged for Flute solo

“Les Patineurs” is a waltz by French composer Émile Waldteufel. Known in English as “The Skaters' Waltz”, it was composed in 1882 and was inspired by the Cercle des Patineurs (“Ring of Skaters”) at the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. His introduction to the waltz can be likened to the poise of a skater and the glissando notes invoke scenes of a wintry atmosphere. The other themes that follow are graceful and swirling, as if to depict a ring of skaters in their glory.

Extremely simple and catchy, Waldteufel's Waltz once enjoyed a popularity rivaling that of the works of his near contemporary, Johann Strauss, Jr. It has featured in dozens of films, from the earliest talkies to the present, including the Academy Award-winning Chariots of Fire.

Categories: Romantic WaltzesDifficulty: intermediate
Tuesday 14 September 2010

Tune of the Day: Down by the Bay

 Traditional children's song

This children's song is possibly of Greek origin: a traditional Cephalonian song called “Yialo Yialo” has the same melody. This version can notably be heard during the wedding scene in the 1961 film The Guns of Navarone. The most famous version, however, was performed by Canadian singer Raffi, and appears on his 1976 album Singable Songs for the Very Young.

In recent years, the song has gained much popularity as a campfire song in Scouting in the UK.

Categories: Campfire songs Nursery rhymes Traditional/FolkDifficulty: easy
Wednesday 15 September 2010

Tune of the Day: Allegro

 from Concerto No. 3 “Il Gardellino” by Antonio Vivaldi

This is the third and last movement of Vivaldi's Concerto in D major for flute, strings and basso continuo. Written in 3/4 time, it is vigorous and dance-like.

Find here the other two movements of the Concerto: the opening Allegro and the famous Cantabile.

Categories: Baroque Concertos Written for FluteDifficulty: intermediate
Thursday 16 September 2010

Tune of the Day: Fantaisie

 by Gabriel Fauré, for Flute and Piano

We have received so many requests for this piece that we had to get it, even if we knew that preparing it would take much longer than usual.

This famous work is dedicated to Paul Taffanel, often called the father of the modern French school of the flute. He was a busy man, active at the Opéra de Paris, in the Conservatoire concerts, as the leader of the Orchestre de la Société des Instruments à Vent, and, from 1893, as a professor at the Conservatoire. Fauré was appointed professor of composition there in 1896, and it was almost inevitable that Taffanel should ask him, in the spring of 1898, to write a sight-reading piece (the Morceau de lecture) and a concours composition for the July examinations. Fauré decided to pass the orchestration of his incidental music for Maeterlinck's play Pelléas et Mélisande, on which he had been feverishly working, to his pupil Charles Koechlin, so he could get to grips with the concours piece. The “Fantaisie” for flute and piano occupied him from the beginning of June until at least mid-July.

The piece opens with an E-minor sicilienne of great charm, but soon gets to a C-major Allegro filled with lightning-fast pyrotechnics. Writing to Koechlin, Fauré complained:

I am drowned in the Taffanel and plunged up to my neck in scales, arpeggios, and staccati! I have already perpetrated 104 bars of this irksome torture […]

The first performance of the Fantaisie was given by the concours winner, Gaston Blanquart, on July 28, 1898.

Categories: Fantasias Romantic Written for FluteDifficulty: advanced
Friday 17 September 2010

Tune of the Day: The Boys of Malin

 Traditional Irish reel

“The Boys of Malin” is a very common session tune, especially in County Donegal, Ireland. Malin is one of the most northerly villages on the island, and Malin Head is Ireland's most northerly point (it is not in Northern Ireland, though more northerly than any part of it). The tip of the Head is known as Banba's Crown, Banba being one of the mythical queens of Ireland.

Categories: Celtic Music Reels Traditional/FolkDifficulty: intermediate
Saturday 18 September 2010

Tune of the Day: La notte

 by Antonio Vivaldi, arranged for solo Flute

In 1728, when the publisher Le Cène ordered six concertos for transverse flute, Vivaldi went to no great trouble to supply them: he merely transcribed several existing recorder concertos. These jewels of his Opus 10 have been ever since amongst the composer's best-known works, and rightly so: the engaging chirping of the Goldfinch (“Il Gardellino”), the turbulent Storm at sea (“La tempesta di mare”), and most of all the unforgettable ghosts and nightmares of Night (“La notte”) are eloquent proof of his unequalled ability to conjure up an atmosphere in just a few bars.

“La notte” is unique among the Opus 10 concertos: in fact, it is the only one in a minor key, and the only one to have six movements, while all others just have three. Moreover, the second and fifth movements have descriptive titles, respectively “Fantasmi” (“Ghosts”) and “Il Sonno” (“Sleep”). Because of the challenges in the fast movements, this is probably the most difficult of the Opus 10 concertos, too.

Categories: Baroque Concertos Written for FluteDifficulty: intermediate
Sunday 19 September 2010

Tune of the Day: My Old Kentucky Home

 by Stephen Foster, arranged for Flute and Piano

The first draft of “My Old Kentucky Home” appeared in Stephen Collins Foster's workbook under the title “Poor Uncle Tom, Good Night”. It was published in New York in 1853. According to folklore, Foster was inspired to write the song when, while traveling from his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to New Orleans, Louisiana, he stopped in Bardstown, Kentucky to visit his cousins, and saw their magnificent Federal Hill mansion. However, while Foster's trip to New Orleans is well-documented, his stop in Kentucky has not been conclusively substantiated. Also problematic is that the lyrics refer not to a mansion, but a “little cabin”. Also, Foster's trip took place in 1852, after the first draft of the song had already been written. Foster's only documented trip to Kentucky occurred in 1833 when his mother took him to visit relatives in Augusta and Louisville.

“My Old Kentucky Home” was adopted by the Kentucky General Assembly as the official state song in 1928. The song is sung annually at the Kentucky Derby with the accompaniment of the University of Louisville marching band. The tradition began sometime between 1921 and 1930, by which time it was established as the music played while the horses are led to the post parade. The University of Kentucky, in Lexington, also plays “My Old Kentucky Home” prior to each home football game and at the conclusion of its basketball games.

Categories: Minstrel songs Traditional/FolkDifficulty: easy
Monday 20 September 2010

Tune of the Day: Fantasia for Solo Flute No. 6

 by Georg Philipp Telemann

Telemann's sixth Fantasia is in the key of D minor. It starts off with a lyrical slow movement marked “Dolce” (which is Italian for “sweet”), divided into two parts, each repeated. Therefore, if you plan to add Baroque embellishments, it is better to save them for the repeats. The middle movement is a fast Allegro in fugal style, which leads into a rapid “Spirituoso” resembling a rondeau.

Categories: Baroque Fantasias Written for FluteDifficulty: intermediate
Tuesday 21 September 2010

Tune of the Day: The Gravel Walk

 Traditional Irish reel

Here is another famous reel from County Donegal, Ireland, which has a tradition of adapting Scottish tunes. The tune is also known as “The Gravel Walks to Granny”, Granny being a remote, uninhabited glen where locals from the villages of Ardara and Kilcar used to summer their sheep. When they went to gather them in autumn they would access Granny by climbing up the gravel paths, thus the name.

This tune is often played in a set with The Boys Of Malin, which is also traditionally set in the key of A.

Categories: Celtic Music Reels Traditional/FolkDifficulty: intermediate
Wednesday 22 September 2010

Tune of the Day: Valse de l'adieu

 by Frédéric Chopin, arranged for solo Flute

This famous waltz was written in 1835 and dedicated to Maria Wodzińska, with whom Chopin had fallen in love; however, her father did not want her to marry a young, poor musician. That's why this is also known as “The Farewell Waltz”.

The beginning theme of the piece, marked con espressione (“with expression”), is melancholic and nostalgic, and reaches a small high point with a fast flourish. The second part is marked con anima (“with soul”) and is somewhat more cheerful that the previous theme, but soon gives way to the same first theme. After this second rendition of the first theme is a third, more playful theme, marked as dolce (“sweet”).

Categories: Romantic WaltzesDifficulty: intermediate
Thursday 23 September 2010

Tune of the Day: Semper Fidelis

 by John Philip Sousa, arranged for solo Flute

It was with “Semper Fidelis” that John Philip Sousa had his first runaway hit, in the process creating what is arguably the prototype for the great American march. Sousa wrote the march in 1888, in response to a request by President Chester A. Arthur for something more appropriate than “Hail to the Chief” for use at official functions. Unfortunately, Arthur died without ever hearing “Semper Fidelis”.

Sousa considered this to be his “most musical” march, and it became the official march of the U.S. Marine Corps, whose motto “Semper Fidelis” is Latin for “Ever Faithful”.

Categories: Marches PatrioticDifficulty: intermediate
Friday 24 September 2010

Tune of the Day: Doraji

 Traditional Korean song

“Doraji” is a folk song popular among the ancient Korean and Chinese peoples. The song originated from North Korea. The doraji of the title is a beautiful wildflower, which is usually called the Chinese bellflower in English. This white flower grows on the shady slopes of Korean mountains.

“Doraji” and “Arirang” are the two folk songs that represent North and South Korea. Interestingly enough, they are both performed in triple meter.

Categories: Traditional/FolkDifficulty: easy
Saturday 25 September 2010

Tune of the Day: Il Carnevale di Venezia

 by Giulio Briccialdi, for Flute and Piano

The famous folk tune known as “The Carnival of Venice” has been the subject of many varied arrangements and transcriptions, yet none more virtuosic than Giulio Briccialdi's version for flute and piano. The Italian flutist and composer's arrangement, which consists of a theme, several variations and a final coda, has notably been recorded by James Galway, and included in at least three of his albums.

Beginners beware: this piece is a real technical workout, and is best suited to advanced players. If you find it too difficult, you can try out Demersseman's arrangement of the tune, which is way easier.

Categories: Romantic Show-off pieces Variations Written for FluteDifficulty: advanced
Sunday 26 September 2010

Tune of the Day: The House of the Rising Sun

 Traditional American folk song, popularised by The Animals

The most successful commercial version of this tune was, of course, the one recorded by the English rock group The Animals in 1964, which was a number one hit in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.

Like many classic folk ballads, the authorship of ”The House of the Rising Sun” is unknown. Alan Price of The Animals has claimed that the song was originally a sixteenth-century English folk song about a Soho brothel, and that English emigrants took the song to America where it was adapted to its later New Orleans setting. The oldest known existing recording is by Appalachian artists Clarence Ashley and Gwen Foster and was made in 1933. Ashley said he had learned it from his grandfather, Enoch Ashley.

The song might have been lost to obscurity had it not been collected by folklorist Alan Lomax, who, along with his father, was a curator of the Archive of American Folk Song for the Library of Congress. On his 1937 expedition to eastern Kentucky Lomax set up his recording equipment in Middlesborough, and recorded a performance by Georgia Turner, the 16-year-old daughter of a local miner. He originally called it “The Risin' Sun Blues”.

Categories: Traditional/FolkDifficulty: easy
Monday 27 September 2010

Tune of the Day: Overture from The Marriage of Figaro

 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, arranged for solo Flute

Le nozze di Figaro, ossia la folle giornata (The Marriage of Figaro, or the Day of Madness) is a four-act opera buffa (comic opera) composed in 1786 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, based on a stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais. Although the play by Beaumarchais was at first banned in Vienna because of its satire of the aristocracy, considered dangerous in the decade before the French Revolution, the opera became one of Mozart's most successful works.

The overture is especially famous and is often played as a concert piece. This effervescent number does not make use of any thematic material from the opera itself, but captures the essence of the work superbly. Mozart is said to have intended to insert a slow interlude, in the old Italian tradition, just before the recapitulation, and to have omitted it only because he hadn't time to write it down; he thus reunited the two parts of the Allegro, giving the piece a lively, genial character throughout.

Categories: Classical Opera excerptsDifficulty: intermediate
Tuesday 28 September 2010

Tune of the Day: She Moved Through the Fair

 Traditional Irish air

This traditional Irish folk song exists in a number of versions, and has been recorded many times by artists such as Margaret Barry, Anne Briggs, Dominic Behan, Alan Stivell, Loreena McKennitt and Sinéad O'Connor. The song was first collected in County Donegal by poet Padraic Colum and musicologist Herbert Hughes, and published in a work entitled Irish country songs in 1909. According to Ossian's Folksongs and Ballads Popular in Ireland, the tune dates back to Medieval times.

This tune is in mixolydian mode, which is like major mode with the exception that the seventh note of the scale is lowered by a semitone. In the key of A mixolydian, for instance, you would play G-natural instead of G-sharp.

Categories: Celtic Music Traditional/FolkDifficulty: easy
Wednesday 29 September 2010

Tune of the Day: Tristesse

 by Frédéric Chopin, arranged for solo Flute

This piece was originally composed by Frédéric Chopin as an étude for solo piano. It is a slow cantabile study, and marks a significant departure from the technical virtuosity required in études before Chopin's time. It concentrates on melodious phrasing and legato ambiance of performance more than technical skill. It has been classified as a tone poem for piano by some critics, and is highly regarded as a quality manifestation of Chopin's love for Romantic opera and Poland, where he was born.

A famous anecdote relates how the composer, while teaching this particular work to a pupil, broke down and cried out, “Oh, my homeland!”. Chopin was said to have also noted this piece as the most personal piece he composed, stating that

In all my life I have never again been able to find such a beautiful melody.

This Étude is also known as “Tristesse”, meaning “sadness” in French.

Categories: Etudes RomanticDifficulty: intermediate
Thursday 30 September 2010

Tune of the Day: Bahay Kubo

 Traditional Filipino folk song

“Bahay Kubo” is a traditional Filipino folk song. It tells of a small hut (kubo in Tagalog) made out of nipa palm leaves, with the variety of vegetables surrounding it. The song was composed when the first American teachers arrived in the Philippines to educate the Filipinos. Reportedly, the name was popularized by the Americans, as they were fascinated to see a “cube house” or, as it has been known ever since, a “bahay kubo”.

Categories: Nursery rhymes Traditional/FolkDifficulty: easy