Sunday 1 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Blue Bonnets Over the Border

 Traditional Scottish jig and march tune

This Highland pipes march in four parts was transcribed as far back as 1869 in a collection of pipe tunes made by a Mr Ross. “Blue bonnets” was slang for Scotsmen, and we thought they were so named because of the blue hats worn by the men of the 1745 Jacobite uprising. One of our readers (Gavin), however, sent us the following:

Actually, it is not a Jacobite song. Rather, it is a traditional song referring to the inter-border “reiving” (basically bandit wars) between England and Scotland that took place in the centuries well before the '45. As Protestant Lowland Scots, the men of the Borders actually took up arms against the mainly Highland Catholic Jacobites (the Jacobite wars being civil wars, not a war between England and Scotland). This explains why “Blue Bonnets” is the regimental march of “The King's Own Scottish Borderers”, a Lowland Scots regiment that fought against the Jacobites. The blue bonnet was the traditional headdress of the border folk.

Sir Walter Scott wrote a song about blue bonnets going over the Border, and included a version of it in his 1820 novel The Monastery.

The tune appears in the 1968 song “Sky Pilot” by Eric Burdon & The Animals. This was in fact a recording of the pipers of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, captured by Burdon while performing at a school. It is said that he later received an angry letter from the UK government (or possibly the Crown) over his use of the recording in the song!

Categories: Celtic Music Jigs Marches Traditional/Folk Difficulty: intermediate
Monday 2 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Larghetto by Telemann

 from Canonic Sonata for Two Flutes No. 3

This Larghetto is the slow central movement of Georg Philipp Telemann's third Canonic Sonata. As with all of these sonatas, the two players play the exact same melody, but one measure apart. Trill endings have been written out, so that you can instantly know which accidentals to play.

Categories: Baroque Canons Sonatas Difficulty: intermediate
Tuesday 3 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Monymusk

 Traditional Scottish strathspey

This Scottish pipe tune takes its name from a village in Aberdeenshire, Northeast Scotland. “Moneymusk” comes from the Gaelic “Muine Muisc”, meaning a noxious weed or bush. The tune was apparently composed by fiddler Daniel (sometimes Donald) Dow in 1776, and first appeared in his Thirty Seven New Reels as “Sir Archibald Grant of Monymusk's Strathspey”. It quickly became ubiquitous in Scotland, Ireland, and North America. Printed versions are legion, both in the key of A and in G. Sometimes the title names not a tune but a dance, and it is often described as a tune for the “Highland Fling”, a popular dance in the Scottish fashion.

Categories: Celtic Music Flings Strathspeys Traditional/Folk Difficulty: intermediate
Wednesday 4 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Siciliano by J.S. Bach

 from Flute Sonata No. 6 in E major

This is not the famous Siciliano from Flute Sonata No. 2, but the lesser known one from Sonata No. 6 in E major. The movement itself is in the key of C-sharp minor, the relative minor of E major, and is in binary (AABB) form. With its distinctive dotted rhythms, this 6/8-time pastoral piece can almost be seen as a sort of slow-motion gigue.

Categories: Baroque Sicilianas Sonatas Written for Flute Difficulty: intermediate
Thursday 5 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Speed the Plough

 Traditional English/Scottish/Irish reel

This reel is extremely widespread in English-speaking traditions, and can be found in the repertories of fiddlers throughout North America, Ireland, Scotland and England. Some say that it was composed in 1799 by John Moorehead of County Armagh, Ireland, a famous violinist who acquired some renown in the latter 18th century. “Speed the Plough” has been attributed to others as well, including English conductor and composer Sir Henry Bishop.

The phrase ‘God speed the plough’ is derived from a wish for success and prosperity in some undertaking, and is many centuries old, occurring as early as the 15th century.

Categories: Celtic Music Reels Traditional/Folk Difficulty: intermediate
Friday 6 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Bei des Mittlers Kreuze

 from Schubert's Stabat Mater in F minor

This soprano aria is the second movement of Franz Schubert's Stabat Mater in F minor, D.383, composed in 1816. The Stabat Mater was originally a 13th-century Roman Catholic hymn to Mary, which has been set to music numerous times by many composers. Schubert's work, however, is a very particular one, since it is based on a German text by poet Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, who made a very free adaptation of the original poem.

Thanks to Dawn for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Romantic Difficulty: intermediate
Saturday 7 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Corn Riggs Are Bonnie

 Traditional Scottish tune

This tune dates from the 17th century, and a country dance of the same name was frequently taught by country dance masters in Scotland in the 19th century. Both the tune and the dance were also well-known in County Donegal, Ireland.

The tune has words (“It was upon a Lammas night / When the corn rigs were bonnie”) written to it by the Scottish national poet Robert Burns, and they are still popular. An arrangement of Burns' song notably appears in the 1973 thriller film The Wicker Man.

Categories: Celtic Music Reels Traditional/Folk Difficulty: intermediate
Sunday 8 May 2011

Tune of the Day: De plus en plus se renouvelle

 by Gilles Binchois, arranged for flute trio

Gilles Binchois' chanson “De plus en plus se renouvelle” is one of the Renaissance composer's most famous compositions, even if it is found in only two manuscripts (his other chansons make up to nine appearances in 15th-century manuscripts). Some of the melodic material from this piece was later used by Johannes Ockeghem for a mass, the “Missa De plus en plus”.

Categories: Renaissance Difficulty: intermediate
Monday 9 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Quel mazzolin di fiori

 Traditional Italian folk song

This folk song comes from Northern Italy, and is one of the most famous songs of the Alpini, a mountain infantry corps of the Italian Army. It is about a girl who wants to donate a bouquet of flowers to her boyfriend, but is sad because she knows that on Saturday her boyfriend went to visit another girl, called Rosina.

Categories: Traditional/Folk Difficulty: easy
Tuesday 10 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Readings Ground

 from “The Division Flute”

This piece is taken from the first volume of The Division Flute, published in London in 1706 and originally conceived for recorder and continuo. It is generally attributed to John Reading (pronounced “Redding”), an English organist and composer of the 17th century, not to be confused with his son, who was also named John and is now chiefly remembered as an important music copyist.

Categories: Baroque Variations Difficulty: intermediate
Wednesday 11 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Kenmure's On and Awa'

 Traditional Scottish jig

This traditional melody appears under a variety of titles throughout England, Scotland and Ireland, and dates to at least the 18th century. The Scots national poet Robert Burns wrote the lyrics “Kenmure’s up and awa', Willie” to this air while on a visit to Kenmure Castle, New Galloway. In Ireland the tune is usually known under the title “I Will if I Can”, or “The Kinnegad Slashers”, while Northumbrian musicians generally know it as “Hexham Races”.

Categories: Celtic Music Jigs Traditional/Folk Difficulty: easy
Thursday 12 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Andante by Köhler

 from Forty Progressive Duets for Two Flutes

This flute duet is taken from the second volume of Ernesto Köhler's Forty Progressive Duets, Op. 55. The two flutes are not treated equally: the first flute plays the melody and the second flute the accompaniment. What is peculiar about this duet, however, is that it regularly alternates between 4/4 time and 3/4 time, so that it could almost be classified as a 7/4-time piece.

Categories: Romantic Written for Flute Difficulty: intermediate
Friday 13 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Il était un petit navire

 Traditional French folk song

This traditional French song, whose title can be translated as “There Was a Little Ship”, is now considered a children's song, despite its macabre tone. The song tells the story of a young shipwrecked sailor who is about to be eaten by the other sailors. They discuss how to cook him, and what sauce to use. Happily, the young sailor is saved by a miracle when a number of small fishes jump into the “little ship”.

The song might refer to the 1816 wreck of the French frigate Méduse, the most infamous shipwreck of the 19th Century. It can notably be heard in Jean Renoir's 1937 film Grand Illusion.

Categories: Nursery rhymes Traditional/Folk Difficulty: easy
Saturday 14 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Allegro from Winter

 from “The Four Seasons” by Vivaldi, arranged for solo flute

Today we present the third and final movement from Antonio Vivaldi's violin concerto Winter, which is part of the famous set known as The Four Seasons. This Allegro begins slowly, as if to convey one's bracing for the cold. Gradually the music comes to life, but with frosty swirls and the wind howling and chilling. The pacing slows in the latter half as another dark mood threatens to overtake the proceedings, but the music suddenly springs to life with great vigor, and the work ends in a positive, if somewhat tense mood.

Here is the sonnet that goes along with this movement:

Walking on ice, and moving cautiously,
With slow steps, for fear of falling;
Spinning around, slipping, falling down,
Again walking on ice and running fast
Until the ice cracks and splits;
Hearing Sirocco, Boreas, and all the winds at war
Burst forth from the bolted doors
This is winter, which nonetheless brings joy.

Thanks to Benny for requesting this movement!

Categories: Baroque Concertos Difficulty: advanced
Sunday 15 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Reel of Tulloch

 Traditional Scottish reel and strathspey

This tune was originally a very popular 17th-century bagpipe piece, probably composed at Tulloch in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It has been used for a specific dance which is always performed to the tune, and it has been quite dominant at Highland dances. This dance, which is also called “Reel of Tulloch”, is said to have originated in the 18th century when, on one stormy Sunday, the minister at Tulloch was late and the congregation began to dance to keep warm.

Categories: Celtic Music Reels Strathspeys Traditional/Folk Difficulty: intermediate
Monday 16 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Largo e dolce by J.S. Bach

 from Flute Sonata No. 3 in A major

The central movement of Johann Sebastian Bach's Sonata No. 3 in A major for Flute and Harpsichord is marked “Largo e dolce”, just like the central movement of Sonata No. 1. The movement itself is in the key of A minor, with the flute singing a slow, poignant melody and the harpsichord sometimes providing restless counter material, sometimes echoing the flute.

Categories: Baroque Sonatas Written for Flute Difficulty: intermediate
Tuesday 17 May 2011

Tune of the Day: El vito

 Traditional Spanish folk song

“El Vito” is an old folk tune and dance from the Spanish region of Andalusia. The piece also has various sets of lyrics to it, whose origins can be traced back to the 16th century. As a song, it was notably performed by Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé and mezzo-soprano Teresa Berganza.

Categories: Traditional/Folk Difficulty: easy
Wednesday 18 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Allegro assai by Telemann

 from Canonic Sonata for Two Flutes No. 3

Here is the third movement of Georg Philipp Telemann's third Canonic Sonata, a highly articulated 12/8-time Allegro assai in D major. Remember that this duet is written as a canon, so both players actually play the same part, just one measure apart.

Categories: Baroque Canons Sonatas Difficulty: intermediate
Thursday 19 May 2011

Tune of the Day: O ma belle rebelle

 by Charles Gounod, arranged for flute and piano

This gorgeous mélodie was composed by Charles Gounod in 1842, using a text by Jean-Antoine de Baïf, a French poet of the 16th century. It was published in 1855, as the second of Gounod's 6 mélodies. The pattern of the accompaniment looks very simple: a single left-hand note in the bass clef followed by three in the treble, an alternation between left and right hand that suggests the strumming of lute or guitar. At the same time, however, the bass of the piano accompaniment delivers a counter-melody that gives a somewhat Renaissance feel to the piece.

Thanks to Françoise for suggesting this song!

Categories: Lieder Romantic Difficulty: intermediate
Friday 20 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Allegro by Handel

 from Flute Sonata in E minor

It is not known when Handel's Flute sonata in E minor for flute and continuo, HWV 375, was composed, but it was first published in 1730. It is sometimes referred to as “Halle Sonata No. 2”, following the assumption that it was an early work, composed during Handel's boyhood in Halle, before 1703. This cannot be true for this particular sonata, however, because the second movement (which we present today) is a transposition into E minor of the Allegro from Handel's Sonata for oboe in C minor, HWV 366, which dates from 1711–12.

Thanks to Ines for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Baroque Sonatas Difficulty: intermediate
Saturday 21 May 2011

Tune of the Day: The Hills of Glenorchy

 Traditional Scottish jig

This old Scottish tune dates back to at least the 18th century. In Ireland it is usually called “The Jolly Corkonian”, but even in Scotland one can find many different versions and titles for the same tune. It is traditionally played in the keys of E or A, either minor or Dorian (that is, like minor but with the sixth degree raised a semitone).

Categories: Celtic Music Jigs Quickstep Traditional/Folk Difficulty: easy
Sunday 22 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Waltz from Eugene Onegin

 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, arranged for solo flute

This beautiful waltz is taken from the beginning of Act II of Tchaikovsky's lyric opera Eugene Onegin, first performed in 1879. The main theme (starting at measure 39 of our transcription) is a very catchy one; one may well wonder from where did Tchaikovsky get such an endless supply of tunes!

Thanks to Kent for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Opera excerpts Romantic Waltzes Difficulty: intermediate
Monday 23 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Ach, ich fühl's, es ist verschwunden

 from Mozart's “The Magic Flute”, arranged for two flutes

This aria is sung by Pamina in Act II of Mozart's famous opera The Magic Flute. Pamina tries to speak with her beloved Tamino, but since Tamino must suffer the test of silence, he silently refuses to answer, and Pamina believes he no longer loves her.

Ah, I feel it, it has disappeared
Forever gone love's happiness!
Nevermore will come the hour of bliss
Back to my heart!

The present arrangement is taken from a collection of numbers from the opera published in 1792, a publication that is not listed in the Köchel catalogue.

Categories: Arias Classical Opera excerpts Difficulty: intermediate
Tuesday 24 May 2011

Tune of the Day: A la nanita nana

 Traditional Spanish folk tune

This Spanish lullaby and Christmas carol is a villancico, a musical form that was very popular in the Iberian Peninsula in the 18th century. This is a somewhat unusual carol, combining a tender lullaby with rhythms of popular Latin authenticity. The change from minor to major mode is a feature of certain Spanish folksongs, and is also found in some Cuban music.

“A la nanita nana” was featured in the 2006 Disney Channel Original Movie The Cheetah Girls 2, which earned it international popularity.

Thanks to Britt for suggesting this tune!

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Allegro assai by Bach

 from Flute Sonata No. 6 in E major

The final “Allegro assai” from Sonata No. 6 in E major is one of the most overtly virtuosic movement in Bach's works for flute. It is in the form of a quick baroque polonaise, and demands faultless technique and skillful articulation.

Categories: Baroque Polonaises Sonatas Written for Flute Difficulty: advanced
Thursday 26 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Amarilli, mia bella

 by Giulio Caccini, arranged for flute and piano

Giulio Caccini was an Italian composer and singer of the very late Renaissance and early Baroque eras. He was one of the founders of the genre of opera, and one of the single most influential creators of the new Baroque style. He was predominantly a composer of solo song accompanied by a chordal instrument (he himself played harp), and it is in this capacity that he acquired his immense fame. He published two collections of songs and solo madrigals, both titled Le nuove musiche, in 1602 and 1614. Among the most famous and widely disseminated of these is the madrigal “Amarilli, mia bella” (“Amaryllis, my lovely one”).

Categories: Arias Baroque Madrigals Difficulty: easy
Friday 27 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Allegretto by Köhler

 from Forty Progressive Duets for Two Flutes

Here is a duet from the first volume of Ernesto Köhler's Forty Progressive Duets, Op. 55. After the exposition of the main theme, which opposes a sixteenth note run to a more lyrical melody, a short slow section in the key of G-flat major (beware the accidentals!) is introduced. The two flutes are treated almost equally in the very first part of the duet, but the second flute is subsequently relegated to an accompaniment role based on a characteristic rhythmic pattern.

Categories: Romantic Written for Flute Difficulty: intermediate
Saturday 28 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Lochaber No More

 Traditional Scottish air

This slow air has been a favorite tune of Scottish pipers, who use it as a funeral march or lament. It was the poet Allan Ramsay who in 1724 set the words “Lochaber No More”, about an enlisted Highlander's nostalgia. As related by J. Murray Neil in The Scots Fiddle, “It is on record that, in the old days, the playing of this nostalgic Gaelic air to the Highland regiments on active service abroad had such a profound adverse effect on the morale of the men, that eventually it had to be banned.”

The tune is known in Ireland as “Limerick's Lamentation”.

Sunday 29 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Allegro by J.S. Bach

 from Flute Sonata in E minor

The concluding movement of Bach's Sonata in E minor for flute and continuo is a dark and quick Allegro, extremely busy and energetic, often engaging the accompaniment in full-fledged counterpoint. Like the other Allegro of the E-minor Sonata, this final movement contains some long passages of sixteenth notes which leave little time for breathing.

Categories: Baroque Sonatas Written for Flute Difficulty: advanced
Monday 30 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Study No. 2 by Köhler

 from “Progress in Flute Playing”

Here is another study from the first book of Ernesto Köhler's Progress in Flute Playing. This is a gay, extroverted Allegretto, mostly based on G-major scales and arpeggios, which also features some short B-minor, D-major and chromatic passages.

Categories: Etudes Romantic Written for Flute Difficulty: intermediate
Tuesday 31 May 2011

Tune of the Day: Soave by Telemann

 from “Sonates sans Basse à deux Flutes traverses”

This is the first movement of the first of Georg Philipp Telemann's Sonatas without Bass for Two Transverse Flutes, or Two Violins, or Two Recorders, although in some editions this particular sonata is referred to as Sonata No. 2. This first movement is marked “Soave” (pronounced So-ah-ve), which is Italian for sweet, soft, gentle.

Categories: Baroque Sonatas Written for Flute Difficulty: intermediate