Friday 1 April 2011

Tune of the Day: The Flowers of Edinburgh

 Traditional Scottish reel

The earliest appearance in print of this reel (although it is commonly played as a hornpipe at Irish sessions) is in James Oswald's collection of Curious Collection of Scots Tunes, which appeared in London around 1742 and contained this tune as a song entitled “My Love's bonny when she smiles on me”.

As regards the title, the form “Flower of…” usually referenced a woman, although in the case of “Edinburgh” the plural form was appended at some point and stuck. Scottish fiddler Niel Gow noted, however, that the “flowers” of Edinburgh did not refer to women, but in fact referenced the magistrates of the town. It has also been suggested that the title refers to the stench of the old, overcrowded urban Edinburgh, a city fondly referred to as “Auld Reekie”, with reference to the pall of smoke (røyk in Norwegian) that once hovered over the city. Finally, the “flowers of Edinburgh” has also been taken to refer to the contents of chamber pots which were, in the days before modern sewage systems, once disposed of by being thrown into the city streets... with or without warning!

Categories: Celtic Music Reels Traditional/Folk Difficulty: intermediate
Saturday 2 April 2011

Tune of the Day: God Defend New Zealand

 National anthem of New Zealand

The poem “God Defend New Zealand” was written in the 1870s by Irish-born poet and New Zealand citizen Thomas Bracken. A competition to compose music for the poem was held in 1876 by The Saturday Advertiser, and judged by three prominent Melbourne musicians, with a prize of ten guineas. The winner of the competition was the Tasmanian-born John Joseph Woods of Lawrence, New Zealand, who composed the melody in a single sitting the evening after finding out about the competition.

The song became increasingly popular during the 19th century and early 20th century, and in 1940 the New Zealand government bought the copyright and made it New Zealand's national hymn in time for that year's centennial celebrations. In 1976 a petition was presented to parliament asking for it to be made the national anthem, and, with the permission of Queen Elizabeth II, it became the country's second national anthem, on equal standing with “God Save The Queen”.

Thanks to Diana for suggesting this tune!

Categories: National anthems Patriotic Difficulty: easy
Sunday 3 April 2011

Tune of the Day: He Shall Feed His Flock

 from Handel's “Messiah”, arranged for flute and piano

This gentle, flowing double aria for alto and soprano is taken from Handel's celebrated oratorio Messiah. In the original setting, the alto sings the first half in F major, and then the soprano takes over in B-flat for the second half. This simple and beautiful aria is appropriate for Easter, Christmas or any sacred concert or service focusing on the figure of the Messiah.

It is speculated that the first portion of the melody is based on a 17th-century Italian carol, “Canzone d'i zampognari”.

Thanks to Nada for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Arias Baroque Christmas carols Easter music Oratorios Difficulty: intermediate
Monday 4 April 2011

Tune of the Day: The White Cockade

 Traditional Scottish tune

This traditional Scottish tune celebrates the attempt by Bonnie Prince Charlie to reclaim the throne of Britain for the House of Stuart. During the 1745 Jacobite uprising, he plucked a white rose and placed it on his bonnet as a symbol of rebellion. Jacobite troops had no formal uniform, and the white cockade on a blue bonnet became their emblem.

The famous Scottish poet Robert Burns recalled the scene with a line of lyrics he set to the tune in 1790: “He takes the field wi' his White Cockade”. “The White Cockade” was already well-known in the colonies at the time of the American Revolution, as a country dance tune and a fife and drum piece.

Categories: Celtic Music Traditional/Folk Difficulty: intermediate
Tuesday 5 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Two Menuettos by Mozart

 from Sonata No. 5 in C major

And here we are with the third and last movement of W.A. Mozart's Sonata No. 5 in C major. These two happy minuets were written by young Mozart at the age of 8 for Queen Charlotte of England. The second one, marked “en Carillon”, can be a nice exercise in the high register.

Categories: Classical Minuets Sonatas Difficulty: intermediate
Wednesday 6 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Daisy Bell

 aka “Bicycle Built for Two”

This popular piece was composed by English songwriter Harry Dacre in 1892. As David Ewen wrote in his 1966 book American Popular Songs:

When Dacre, an English popular composer, first came to the United States, he brought with him a bicycle, for which he was charged duty. His friend (songwriter William Jerome) remarked lightly: ‛It's lucky you didn't bring a bicycle built for two, otherwise you'd have to pay double duty.’ Dacre was so taken with the phrase ‛bicycle built for two’ that he decided to use it in a song. That song, Daisy Bell, first became successful in a London music hall, in a performance by Katie Lawrence. Tony Pastor was the first one to sing it in the United States. Its success in America began when Jennie Lindsay brought down the house with it at the Atlantic Gardens on the Bowery early in 1892.

In 1961, the IBM 704 became the first computer to sing by singing this song. This performance made of “Daisy Bell” the single most quoted song in science fiction, and was the inspiration for the famous scene in Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey in which the HAL 9000 computer sings the song as it is deactivated.

Thanks to Mia for suggesting this song!

Categories: Love songs Difficulty: easy
Thursday 7 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Orange and Blue

 Traditional Scottish strathspey

Also known as “Brochan Lom” (which is Scots Gaelic for “Thin Porridge”), this tune is associated with the Scottish country dance of the same name, one of the relatively few either wholly or in part in strathspey tempo. The title “Orange and Blue” probably refers to the colors of the Dutch House of Orange, one of whose princes, William of Orange, became a king of England and champion of the Protestant cause in the 17th century.

Categories: Celtic Music Strathspeys Traditional/Folk Difficulty: easy
Friday 8 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Poem by Fibich

 Arranged for flute and piano

Czech composer Zdeněk Fibich originally composed this lovely melody for solo piano in 1894; it was included in the fourth book of a series of 376 piano sketches titled Moods, Impressions, and Reminiscences, Op. 41. The piece was subsequently adapted into the symphonic poem At Twilight, opus 39. Since then, this Poem has been heard in numerous arrangements, the two most popular being those for salon orchestra and for violin and piano.

Thanks to Phil for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Romantic Difficulty: intermediate
Saturday 9 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Caddam Woods

 Traditional Scottish polka

This fast 2/4-time tune is very suitable for country dancing. It was probably composed by Scottish fiddler Adam Rennie, who is sometimes remembered for the 1950s radio broadcasts and recordings with his Scottish Country Dance Quartet. They played throughout Scotland and England, and on several occasions at Balmoral Castle for the royal family.

Categories: Celtic Music Dance tunes Polkas Traditional/Folk Difficulty: intermediate
Sunday 10 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Birdsong

 for Flute and Piano, composed by Wilhelm Popp

German composer Wilhelm Popp was arguably the most famous student of the great 19th-century French flutist Louis Drouet, who was nicknamed “the Paganini of the flute” due to his mastery of double-tonguing. Popp wrote many charming works for flute and piano: the catalogue of his works lists nearly 600 of them! Today we present his “Vogelsang”, also known with the French title “Chant d'Oiseau”. This piece remembers us of Vivaldi's birdlike trills, but is composed in a style which is typical of the Romantic era.

Thanks to Ines for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Romantic Show-off pieces Written for Flute Difficulty: advanced
Monday 11 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Leaving Lismore

 Traditional Scottish tune

This Scottish pipe tune is also a popular song tune:

Tears fill my eyes as swift the boat flies
And speeds me away so far from your shore
As quiet you sleep in dreams that are sweet
My dear island home Lismore.

Lismore (Lios Mòr in Gaelic) is an island of the Inner Hebrides in Loch Linnhe, on the west coast of Scotland.

When set in 3/4 waltz time, this tune also goes by the name Valse Ecossaise, which is French for “Scottish Waltz“.

Categories: Celtic Music Traditional/Folk Difficulty: easy
Tuesday 12 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Je me recommande humblement

 by Gilles Binchois, arranged for flute trio

Along with Guillaume Dufay and John Dunstaple, Gilles Binchois was one of the most famous composers of the early 15th century.

As Binchois avoided large-scale works, his three-part songs are his most important compositions. Typical features include rather short-breathed phrases, triple rhythm, and the apparent repetition of material. These repetitions actually demonstrate Binchois's flexibility, since it is rare for two phrases to have exactly the same rhythmic or melodic contour. The song “Je me recommande” is a fine example of his style, and illustrates many of the features that make Binchois a supreme miniaturist.

Categories: Renaissance Difficulty: intermediate
Wednesday 13 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Shche ne vmerla Ukraina

 National anthem of Ukraine

In 1862, Ukrainian poet and ethnographer Paul Chubynskyi wrote a poem titled "Ще не вмерла Україна" (“Ukraine has not yet perished”), which gained a wide popularity. It also caught the attention of Mikhail Verbytskyi, a priest, who decided to compose music to accompany the text. Upon the declaration of Ukrainian independence in 1917, a number of patriotic works were used as national anthems, including this work, but in 1920 they were all banned by the incoming Soviet regime. It was only in 1991, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, that Ukraine regained its independence and its anthem.

Thanks to Roseanna for suggesting this tune!

Categories: National anthems Patriotic Difficulty: easy
Thursday 14 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Le Coucou

 by Louis-Claude Daquin, arranged for solo flute

Louis-Claude Daquin was a French composer of the Baroque era. He was a virtuoso organist and harpsichordist; his great expertise at the organ, in particular, drew large crowds to hear him. He was known for his “unfaltering precision and evenness” at both the harpsichord and organ.

Daquin's most famous piece is arguably this lively “Le coucou” (“The Cuckoo”) in E minor, which was published in the first book of his 1735 harpsichord suite Pièces de Clavecin.

Thanks to Max for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Baroque Rondos Difficulty: advanced
Friday 15 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Himnusz

 National anthem of Hungary

Also known as “Isten, áldd meg a magyart” (“God, bless the Hungarians”) after its first line, this musical poetic prayer has served as the official national anthem of Hungary since 1844, when Hungary was still a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The words were written in 1823 by Ferenc Kölcsey, a nationally renowned poet, and its currently official musical setting was composed by romantic composer and pianist Ferenc Erkel, although other less known musical versions exist.

Thanks to István for suggesting this piece!

Categories: National anthems Patriotic Romantic Difficulty: easy
Saturday 16 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Allegro con brio by Beethoven

 from Flute Duo in G major

Composed in 1792, Beethoven's Flute Duo in G major was not published during the composer's lifetime, but the autograph has survived. The dedication “for friend Degenharth” (a lawyer amongst Beethoven's close circle of friends) leaves open whether the work was commissioned or a gift. Anyway, neither flute part of this charming duet is technically very demanding, and is therefore well-suited as sight-reading material.

Thanks to Lauren for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Classical Written for Flute Difficulty: intermediate
Sunday 17 April 2011

Tune of the Day: The Slender Rowan

 Traditional Russian song

This Russian folk song tells the sad tale of two trees in love: a sturdy oak and a slender rowan (or mountain-ash), prevented from coming together by a river that divides them.

Why are you abowing, slender mountain rowan,
Bending your head down to the very ground?

And across the highway, over the wide river,
Standing just as lonely, a tall oak hope does give her.

How can I, a rowan, get to that great oak tree,
Than I would not have to bow and sway so lonely.

With my slender branches I would press him tightly.
And with our leaves twining, whisper daily, nightly.

But the little rowan cannot cross the river.
Seems its fate is settled: sway alone forever.

Thanks to Denis for contributing this tune!

Categories: Traditional/Folk Difficulty: easy
Monday 18 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Study No. 4 by Köhler

 from “Progress in Flute Playing”

This étude is taken from the first book of Italian composer Ernesto Köhler's Progress in Flute Playing. It is made up of two parts: a first part in A minor (but full of accidentals) that moves mostly in thirds and a second part in A major.

Thanks to Neri for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Etudes Romantic Written for Flute Difficulty: intermediate
Tuesday 19 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Crossing the Minch

 Traditional Scottish hornpipe

Also known as “McNabb's”, this Scottish hornpipe is sometimes attributed to Pipe Major Donald MacLeod. The Minch is a strait in north-west Scotland, separating the north-west Highlands, and the northern Inner Hebrides, from the isle of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides.

Played at the right tempo, this tune makes a good exercise in triple tonguing.

Categories: Celtic Music Hornpipes Traditional/Folk Difficulty: intermediate
Wednesday 20 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Adieu, m'amour et ma maistresse

 by Gilles Binchois, arranged for flute trio

The theme of lovers parting recurs as a trope in fifteenth-century song. Both Guillaume Dufay and Gilles Binchois, two of the most important Franco-Flemish composers of the early Renaissance, composed popular laments that began with the tearful line “Farewell, my love”. Today we present Binchois's “Adieu m'amour et ma maîtresse”, which was originally composed for three high male voices.

Categories: Renaissance Difficulty: intermediate
Thursday 21 April 2011

Tune of the Day: The New Rigged Ship

 Traditional Scottish jig

This tune is no more so popular as it once was. Some might remember that in the 1970s it was recorded by the English traditional revival band Oak, at the beginning of the resurgence of interest in English traditional dance music played for English dances.

In her 1998 book Dancing Through Time, historian Allison Thompson reports that the English novelist Thomas Hardy (Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge) grew up in a musical family and was an accomplished dance fiddler and accordion player from early youth. Young Thomas played with his father at village dances and, at the age of twelve, was reported to have played “The New Rigged Ship”, a favorite dance, for nearly three quarters of an hour before his hostess stopped him for fear he might burst a blood vessel!

Categories: Celtic Music Jigs Traditional/Folk Difficulty: easy
Friday 22 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Minuetto by Beethoven

 from Flute Duo in G major

After the huge success of the Allegro con brio, here is the second movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's Flute Duo in G major. This stately minuet, all in the key of G major, includes a two-part trio and provides for a return of the initial theme, so that the resulting form is AABBCCDDAB.

Categories: Classical Minuets Written for Flute Difficulty: intermediate
Saturday 23 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Sweet Hour

 Hymn tune by W.B. Bradbury, arranged for four flutes

This is the tune to which William Walford's 1845 hymn “Sweet Hour of Prayer” is commonly sung. The present setting was published in 1861 by William B. Bradbury in his collection titled The Golden Chain. Bradbury composed many popular tunes, including “Jesus Loves Me” and “Just As I Am, Without One Plea”.

Thanks to Seleka for suggesting this tune!

Categories: Christian music Hymn tunes Difficulty: easy
Sunday 24 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Hymnum cantemus Domino

 from Giacomo Carissimi's “Jephte”, arranged for three flutes

Composed around 1650 by Italian composer Giacomo Carissimi, Jephte is one of the most famous early-Baroque oratorios.

The work is based on the story of Jephte in the Old Testament Book of Judges. The king of the Ammonites declared war upon Israel, and Jephte promises that if he is victorious in the battle, he will sacrifice the first creature to come out of his house to greet him upon his return. The narrator describes the fight and defeat of the Ammonites, but sadly Jephte's daughter is the first to come from the house to greet him.

The piece we present today was originally a duet sung by two sopranos in response to Jephte's daughter's song to celebrate the victory over the Ammonites.

Categories: Oratorios Difficulty: intermediate
Monday 25 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Colonel Robertson

 Traditional Scottish pipe tune

This pipe march is said to have been composed by Pipe Major Farquhar Beaton, who led the 48th Highlanders of Canada from 1900 to 1913. He dedicated it to Colonel D.M. Robertson of the Toronto Highlanders, a battalion of the Canadian Army.

The tune later served as the basis of the air to a song, “The Massacre of Glencoe”, written by Jim MacLean in the 1960s. It became very popular, and has been recorded many times since.

Categories: Celtic Music Marches Traditional/Folk Difficulty: intermediate
Tuesday 26 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Gavotte by Handel

 Arranged for flute and keyboard

George Frideric Handel composed this Gavotte in G major for solo harpsichord around 1705. The piece appears in the so-called Aylesford Pieces, a collection of keyboard pieces named after the 3rd Earl of Aylesford.

Categories: Baroque Gavottes Difficulty: easy
Wednesday 27 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Shalom Aleichem

 Traditional Jewish song

“Shalom Aleichem” is a traditional song sung on Friday night at the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath. The liturgical poem was written at the end of the 17th century, and many different melodies have been composed for it. The most well-known melody was composed by the American Rabbi Israel Goldfarb in 1918, while sitting near the Alma Mater statue in front of Low Memorial Library at Columbia University. It was to be part of his Friday Evening Melodies collection, which was published in 1918.

Goldfarb's work is often presumed to be a traditional melody, as the composer himself remarked: “The popularity of the melody traveled not only throughout this country but throughout the world, so that many people came to believe that the song was handed down from Mt. Sinai by Moses”.

Categories: Jewish music Traditional/Folk Difficulty: easy
Thursday 28 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Di Provenza il mar, il suol

 from Verdi's opera “La traviata”, arranged for flute and piano

This beautiful baritone aria is taken from Act II of Giuseppe Verdi's famous opera La traviata.

In this aria Alfredo's father, Germont, reminds his son of his home and family in Provence. Germont had convinced Violetta to leave Alfredo because of her bad reputation, so now he tries to comfort his son by reminding him of “the sea and the soil of Provence”.

Categories: Arias Opera excerpts Romantic Difficulty: intermediate
Friday 29 April 2011

Tune of the Day: The High Road to Linton

 Traditional Scottish tune

Linton is a small town in the Borders region of Scotland and England, strategically located in the center of lowland Scotland. It was a major hub for the old drove road network that fed Highland cattle to the lucrative English markets, and was as much a “cattle town” as any in the American wild west. The “high road” of the title probably refers to an old drove road, also known as “The Thieves Road” due to the numerous bandits which often plagued those who traveled it.

The third and fourth parts of the tune are frequently attributed to the late Scottish dance bandleader and piano accordion player Bobby MacLeod of Tobermory, although, as pointed out by Nigel Gatherer, MacLeod himself did not definitively claim them as his own.

Categories: Celtic Music Reels Traditional/Folk Difficulty: intermediate
Saturday 30 April 2011

Tune of the Day: Nabucco Overture

 by Giuseppe Verdi, arranged for solo flute

Like most of Verdi's opera overtures, the overture to Nabucco is a potpourri of themes, most of which reappear in the opera. After a stately introduction in the brass and a more sinister transition based on the “Il maledetto” chorus from Act II, Verdi spins a gentle variation on the famous chorus “Va', pensiero”, in which the Jewish exiles in Babylon express their yearning to return to their homeland.

Categories: Opera excerpts Romantic Difficulty: intermediate