image-wm-1-flute-concerto-nielsen cover

Building a Flute Library: Exploring Edition Svitzer

Edition Svitzer is a relative newcomer to the world of flute publishing. Set up in 2001, the flute catalogue is under the experienced eye of Henrik Svitzer, one of the two brothers running this family firm together with their father. All three have worked professionally as musicians, and Henrik studied with Marcel Moyse in the US before holding the position of principal flute in the Royal Danish Orchestra for 21 years. He is now professor at the Royal Danish Conservatory of Music, and his experience in the flute world has proven to be a fantastic basis on which to produce a beautifully produced, intelligently sourced flute catalogue.

Nielsen Flute ConcertoAs this is a Danish company, the music of Nielsen is well represented in the Svitzer catalogue. The famous Flute Concerto is edited by András Adorján, and is probably the best version on the market at the moment. Its unique selling point is that it includes two copies of the solo flute part: the first version has all the important orchestral writing cued on a separate stave, whilst the second version has the orchestral writing arranged for a second flute. This has the obvious advantage of being able to get to know the score completely before standing in front of the orchestra. Care has been taken to highlight the important orchestral lines in both harmony parts and in the piano reduction, which has been made a little less exacting. Altogether this is a very impressive edition and well worth investigating.

Nielsen Concerto - Score Sample

Hot off the press are two brand new volumes of Orchestral Excerpts arranged for 4 flutes. All the major flute solos are here, and although some of the extracts are short, in most cases they cover exactly the bars that might be set for a first flute audition. Flutes 2, 3 and 4 are arranged to cover the accompaniments and to put the solo into an orchestral context. For example, ‘Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben’ from Bach’s St Matthew Passion from Volume 1 has simply the opening phrase accompanied by an arrangement of the oboe da caccia accompaniment. This graphically illustrates just how this beautiful solo works, and will transform a student’s view of it much more effectively than just looking at the score. This aria also appears in Volume 2 in a longer form, where the first flute takes the vocal line leaving the solo to the second flute – another way of all players really getting inside the music. Arias from Mozart’s Magic Flute are also treated in this way, while the enigmatic extract from Mahler’s Ninth Symphony is brought to life by both playing the complex string writing underneath the solo and hearing how that affects performance. These books are an exciting and fresh way to bring these taxing solos to life and if the quartet is good, everyone can have a go!

Another interesting aspect of the Svitzer catalogue is the music for flute groups. An adaptation of Kuhlau’s Piano Sonatina in G major for 10 flutes (piccolo, 7 C flutes and 2 alto flutes) is already proving popular. There is a particular challenge in ensemble playing with such large numbers, and success is often down to the quality of the arrangement. Here it is outstanding. The detail of the piano writing is conveyed by the first 7 parts, with the remaining flute and alto flutes providing a strong bass line. This means that the texture is intricate but there is always something strong to hang on to, especially if you are playing one of the inner parts. The result is quite delightful and will be enjoyed by audiences and performers alike.

This is also true of Ravel’s ‘Le Tombeau de Couperin’ which has been transcribed here by Erik Norby for the so-called ‘Kuhlau Quartet’ of 2 flutes (one doubling piccolo), alto flute and bass flute. Norby was a great orchestrator and he has managed to convey nearly all of the vibrancy and colour of Ravel’s score – quite an achievement! You will need four good players for this as all the parts represent a challenge, especially for the alto and bass. This piece really works though and it’s great for flute players to have access to such a high quality arrangement.

The unusual repertoire for flute and piano listed is also intriguing. Composers such as Poznansky, Stankovych, Graesvold and Weyse are featured together with the slightly more familiar works of Morlacchi and Schneider. Svitzer’s own book of Flute Exercises is also worth a look. Aimed at the professional player with very little time to practice, he has gathered together all the essential material that he has found useful over the course of his illustrious career and set it out in a logical order with advice on how to manage it all. His preface states the ‘the exercises are also made for the love of flute playing’ – a sentiment that could be described to this entire catalogue!


Exploring The 2014 ABRSM Flute Syllabus: Grades 6 and 7

By the time we reach this more advanced level, playing skills should be at the point where the choice of repertoire is based on stylistic considerations rather than technical ones. The 2014 ABRSM syllabus reflects this, with a myriad of pieces to choose from.

The good thing here is that most of the works are originals rather than arrangements. At Grade Six, List A is dominated by Baroque composers but the inclusion of a Walckiers Scherzo in the ABRSM book and a movement from a little-known concerto by Leopold Mozart further down the list means that you also have viable alternatives. The Walckiers in particular will be very popular despite its foray into E major for the lyrical trio, and the ‘bien rhythme et avec verve’ performance direction at the start gives you a flavour of its upbeat style. The Leopold Mozart Presto is similar and perhaps more tricky, but both pieces offer a refreshing change from the ‘there’s nowhere to take a breath’ dilemma. Perhaps the most interesting Baroque piece is actually in the unaccompanied section, again in the ABRSM book, with a sensitive arrangement by Trevor Wye of a Handel Allemande in C minor.

French music is well represented in the List B pieces of both grades. The wonderful Roussel Aria will have a much wider audience as it’s now in the book, and Caplet’s dreamy Reverie is available in The Flautist’s Collection Book 3, a lovely selection of music edited by Paul Edmund-Davies. These two pieces should be on everyone’s radar! For fans of Gaubert, the Sicilienne is still with us, and it is one of his most loved pieces. When bought together with the Madrigal, it represents a very good purchase.

List B opens up still further with two pieces by living artists. The American flautist and composer Gary Schocker is starting to gather a real fan base in the UK, and Spring Energy (or Heigh Ho) from Dances and Daydreams is typical of his quirky style. Here, strong rhythm, changing metre and unexpected harmonies give the almost-familiar melody a twist. Luckily the main theme keeps recurring in various guises to help with the technique, and the ending is suitably abrupt. Another contender for Best Piece of the Syllabus is And Everything is Still… by Andy Scott. Andy is really beginning to make a name for himself, and this is one gorgeous piece. Grab a copy now and enjoy the simple melody which ‘unravels alongside delicate harmonic statements, creating a calm and gentle atmosphere.

Sticking with living composers, Rob Buckland’s Charming Snakes in the ABRSM book will really appeal to those wanting to move away from the more traditional studies for the solo piece. The exotic writing contrasts a rhythmic dance-like figure with a flowing chromatic melody to produce a compelling piece that would stand up very well in a concert.

At Grade Seven, the ABRSM book may be less appropriate, as by now students often wish to purchase complete works. However, it does still have a part to play in introducing unusual repertoire at a reasonable cost. If you missed the Popp Sonatina in C last time round, here is another chance to savour its virtuosic flute writing. You need reasonable fingers for this, but everyone enjoys flashing around in an easy key! The Sonatina by the Dutch composer Jaap Geraedts is a gem – tuneful and rhythmic, with good ensemble skills essential for a successful performance. The charm of André Caplet’s Petite Valse is embodied in the rubato, where almost every bar changes speed. An excellent choice if you have already learned the Reverie at Grade Six, these two pieces together work well in a concert. The excellent With Life (also available in Russell Stokes’ book Tricky Jazz Singles) provides the best change of style for list C.

Away from the AB book there is an even broader range of genres. The pick of the Baroque choices on List A is possibly the B minor Sonata by Telemann. This is quite a dark work, and the two set fast movements have real technical challenges, especially as the writing is all in the lower registers of the flute. The other movements are not so hard, and playing the complete sonata is perfectly possible at this level.

If you prefer something sunnier, you might like to look at the Rondo from the Sonata in D major by the nineteenth century German composer Johann Wilms. This is a lively Allegro, with a spritely theme and a brief D minor interlude. Thirds and sixths abound in the duet style writing with the piano, which helps the ensemble, and the whole piece is very approachable, not to mention enjoyable!

Two works jump out from List B. The first is an absolutely delightful Nocturne by Lily Boulanger from a bargain of an album entitled Flute Music by Female Composers. Worth the money for this wonderful vignette alone, with its beguiling melody and simple accompaniment, this rather special book contains a range of material from the Baroque to contemporary works and will hold your interest for a very long time. Fujiko in Vocalise: Songs Without Words is another good piece by Andy Scott, this time in a more obvious jazz style. Its languid melody becomes ever more improvisatory without losing its melancholy and reflective feeling. Allthe pieces in this album, edited by Clare Southworth, have a song element but they are varied and well worth dipping in to.

Another alternative to the more traditional studies set for the solo list is the Polka from Dynamic Dances by Allen Vizzutti. If you have already used this book at Grade 5, you will appreciate the rhythmic drive of these pieces which evoke the character of the dance with a modern twist.

If you want to play the Kohler Study from Op 33, you might like to purchase the duet part published separately by IMC. This adds another layer of difficulty – performing the solo version will seem very easy by comparison!

These grades are important for a developing flute player and the need for variety as well as technical development has never been more acute. There is a great deal of interesting material here, which will make the task just a little easier.


Exploring The 2014 ABRSM Flute Syllabus: Grades 4 and 5

ABRSM LogoBy the time a pupil reaches the level of the intermediate grades 4 and 5, repertoire needn’t be governed by an exam syllabus. Pieces outside of the ‘exam books’ therefore become increasingly important as a player begins to widen their musical horizons.

The ABRSM books for these two grades offer up some interesting music. At grade four, there is a lovely arrangement of a Cimarosa Piano Sonata which will need delicate tonguing to convey the con eleganza performance direction. I can also recommend trying the Honegger Romance in the same book, as this is an original and unusual piece for flute and piano with some scrunchy harmonies to become accustomed to.

Not everyone will take to it, but Allegretto by Russell Stokes (also in Easy Jazz Singles) is sure to be a winner. If you’re starting to think about some programme planning for pupils’ concerts, this selection is about as varied as it gets!

One of the best pieces on the entire syllabus can be found in the Grade 5 book. Léo Delibes’s Morceau is a wonderful vignette that will really appeal to those with a love of French Flute School music.  Written as a sight-reading test for the Paris Conservatoire, the challenge at this level is both technical and artistic. Perhaps here, the first teacher-pupil conversations about changes of sound could take place.

The Largo and Vivace by Daniel Purcell will introduce pupils to a little-known British composer, while Mike Mower’s Mango Tango will provide some jazz-based interest. The big hit of the Grade 5 book, however, is bound to be The Playful Pony from Luna’s Magic Flute by Blaž Pucihar which is a wonderfully tuneful and happy piece. I’m sure that girls in particular will love it!

The exam books alone are unlikely to keep all teachers occupied until 2017 though, and there is a wealth of lovely flute music further down the syllabus lists. It needn’t cost a fortune either, as there are good value books available which cover several grades. Here are some of my favourites to provide your students with a broader knowledge of repertoire:

List A

If you are a fan of CPE Bach, then the volume of his Six Sonatas could be for you. This book can be used for grade 4, 5 and 6, therefore represents long-term value for money.

Classical Music for Flute by Peter WastallPeter Wastall’s Classical Music for Flute had gone out of fashion over recent years, but it is a great hunting ground for simple pieces in the Classical style. The Sonata in C by James Hook is bright and sunny, and will be really useful in developing the neat articulation needed to bring out the clarity of the writing. This is a charming piece which really deserves its revival, and should be popular for Grade 5.

Another good book to invest in is the Telemann Suite in A minor which covers Grades 3-5. All the movements are lovely, and ultimately it is an ideal work to perform in its entirety with a school orchestra. At under £10 (at time of going to press), it works out just around £3 per grade!

List B

Although Latin Connections contains just one set piece (for Grade 4), this is a book that both teachers and students will absolutely love. ‘What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life’ by Michel Legrand is probably one of the least well-known tunes on a contents page that lists all the greats of Latin music. Add in the benefits of a playalong CD and hours of pleasure can be had for not that much money!

Blaž Pucihar: Flute at PlaySome more of Blaž Pucihar’s beautiful tunes can be found in Flute At Play, which is set for grades 4 and 6. This book is beautifully presented with full colour illustrations and a good quality CD. The music isn’t a pushover, and both Flute At Play in a jaunty A major and Dreamy Flute, with its slow sustained melody, will give a Grade 4 pupil a real workout. Flute At Play consists of ten pieces altogether which form a complete story, so there is plenty of scope for performance away from the exam – if you have enough students at this level, you could have a concert with a different player for each piece!

If you are able to splash out, there are some other lovely things to explore, especially at Grade 5. If you have a really promising student, they may be ready for the Claude Arrieu Sonatine, first movement, which is difficult but well worth the effort. As the whole work is on the Diploma list as well, you might find this student able to perform the whole work at some future date! Gerard Meunier’s atmospheric Au Crepuscule (At Dusk) is a beautiful sweeping melody which will stretch musical flexibility, but once mastered will be returned to many times. All the Goran Marcusson arrangements in the album Frösöblomster (Flowers from Froso) are delightful, with Song of Summer being particularly approachable at this level.

List C

There are two study books in particular that will serve you well at several grades. There’s a lot of good material in Flute Studies Volume 1 published by Breitkopf, including some general practice notes. It starts at a basic level and, exam-wise, will take you through to grade 6. Kohler, Gariboldi et al are included, but set at grade 5 is a challenging Allegro by Pal Jardanyi. Rhythmically simple, the G minor centre modulates constantly, with the E flat major meno mosso section visiting D flat and G flat majors before returning home. Great for expanding aural awareness!

If you would prefer something a little more contemporary, try Allen Vizzutti’s Dynamic Dances. The Flamenco on the Grade 5 list is great, with strong Spanish rhythms (it brings Toreador’s Song from Carmen to mind). This is one of the easier pieces in this book, so it will readily add another dimension to technical work for more advanced players.

There is plenty here to make the exam route more interesting as well as stimulate a young flute player. Enjoy the variety on offer!


Hidden Histories: Being a Flute Detective

Adler-4Whenever we get an older second hand instrument for sale, we research its history and background for its story. Sometimes the maker is obscure and there isn’t much information around, but occasionally a fascinating story is revealed. Often more than a little detective work is required to find an instrument’s story.

This was recently brought to mind, when we had two Adler piccolos for sale. One was marked Oscar Adler & Co while the other was stamped up F. O. Adler.

The first piccolo I was researching was the Oscar Adler. As a maker, Oscar Adler is well-known in woodwind circles: born in 1862, he produced woodwind instruments in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Markneukirchen, Saxony. He held numerous patents: along with a chap named Hermann Jordan, he held in 1903 a patent for an instrument called the Oktavin (page in French), which was a hybrid of a clarinet, oboe and bassoon! By 1902 Adler was the largest woodwind manufacturer in Germany, and the Adler company continues today, concentrating nowadays on oboes and bassoons.

This piccolo was stamped with the Adler roundel with a serial number on the reverse and year of manufacture – 1936 – on the front. The year of the Berlin Olympics in Hitler’s Germany, and the year that Germany reoccupied the Rhineland.

Adler-3Aside from the maker’s stamp on the piccolo body, the headjoint had another mark: Fl. H K Wunstorf. I had no idea what this was: whether it was the name of a previous owner or even if it was another maker’s name. In this case, might the headjoint not be original?

A quick search and it was revealed to me that Wunstorf was (and still is) a German air base in Lower Saxony, not too far from where Adler’s workshop was in Markneukirchen. This air base was built in… 1936!

The Fl. H. K. abbreviation stands for – I believe – Fliegerhorstkommadantur, or Air Field Station Command. So, it seems that this piccolo was purchased by the Luftwaffe specifically for their new airbase and was played by the band of the Luftwaffe! One can only speculate on the rallies that this instrument may have been played at.

This was fascinating to me: what this seemingly innocuous piccolo has seen in its life and the journey it must have made to end up for sale in a music shop in London. The RAF took over the German air base at the end of the war, so presumably this is when the piccolo came in to British hands.

Piccolo by F.O. Adler

F. O. Adler stamp on a piccolo

The second piccolo, which was marked as F. O. Adler, was the first instrument I had seen from this maker. Since I had no information on who this maker was, I turned to the trusty Langwill Index, which is a bible in these situations. It lists thousands of wind instrument makers from the infamous to the obscure: sometimes there is a lot of information, often there is just a scrap, or occasionally there is none at all.

Adler is a fairly common surname in Germany (it means ‘eagle’ – hence the wings sometimes found on a headjoint are called Adler wings, or eagle wings – nothing to do with an inventor), and there are several Adlers listed in Langwill: there are the three Adlers of Oscar’s family tree (his father Johann and brother Robert Oswald who were both also woodwind makers); Adler a brass instrument manufacturer; Eduard Adler a stringed-instrument maker; Frederic Adler of Paris, a bassoon technician and inventor; and Johannes Adler (of Markneukirchen, the same town as Oscar), who started making woodwinds, before branching into brass and strings. But, no mention of an F. O. Adler.

The Oktavin Patent in Music Trade Review

The Oktavin Patent in an 1896 edition of Music Trade Review

I then came across this article in the Patents section of Music Trade Review dating from 1896, which mentions an 1893 patent owned by F. O. Adler and Hermann Jordan, both of Markneukirchen. The text of the patent and accompanying picture shows the Oktavin! Putting two and two together, it turns out that the two Adlers were one and the same, that the initials F. O. stood for Franz Oscar, and that at some point between 1896 and 1903 he dropped the name Franz from the company name. This piccolo was certainly made before 1903 then, but beyond that it is hard to pinpoint a date.

As an aside, during my search through Langwill for F. O. Adler, I discovered one more interesting little snippet that reminds us of conditions in 1930s Germany. Here is part of Johannes Adler‘s entry in Langwill:

“A mid 1930s advertisement stated ‘note the forename – a purely Aryan business!’, an anti-Semitic reference to their local competitor O Adler.”

Perhaps Johannes Adler was envious that his Jewish competitor’s instruments, and not his own, had been purchased by the Luftwaffe. Maybe business was just slow, but either way I thought this was an interesting twist in the tale of these piccolos.


Exploring The 2014 ABRSM Flute Syllabus: Grades 1 to 3

ABRSM LogoThe publication of a new ABRSM syllabus is about as big an event as it gets in the publishing world these days, and having a piece set for grades 1-3 will generate a great deal of interest. The two parts of the 2014 listing (the AB books themselves and the extra set repertoire) will represent a large part of the material used by many flute teachers over the next few years, so it is fascinating to see what we have in store and how we can make it work for us.

The ABRSM books themselves provide a good range of styles for young players to experiment with.  The traditional Irish tunes set at Grades 1 and 2 provide a real finger workout, and Renaissance music makes a welcome appearance at Grade 2 with ‘Que je chatouille ta fossette’, attributed to Attaingnant. This piece appears in Music Through Time Volume 2, but is sure to be played much more often now. There is also a lovely arrangement of a Scarlatti Minuet at this level and a stunning Pergolesi song ‘Tre giorna son che Nina’ set at grade 3 which will need a musical player with a silky sound to perform it successfully.

A Flautist's CalendarThe neglected English composer Keith Amos is included at Grade 1 with ‘Lupin, the Pot-Bellied Pig’, a tuneful march sure to be very popular with younger players.  Grade 2 includes ‘February’s Rain’ from another over-looked book, ‘A Flautist’s Calendar‘  by Richard Kershaw. This is a contender for the loveliest piece set at any level, with a beguiling melody and flowing accompaniment.

There is also some rather obscure repertoire included, especially at Grade 3 where both the Claude Arrieu ‘Chanson de la Pasteur’ and David Gordon’s ‘Amazonian Mood’ will take some learning. If in doubt though, you can stay on safe ground with ‘Edelweiss’ at Grade 1!

The solo pieces have the usual mix of straight study, jazz, and simple tune. Highlights here are Nicky Iles’s ‘Jazz Waltz’ at Grade 1 which is a challenge to swing, and the enigmatic ‘Waltzlet’ by Mike Mower at Grade 2. My personal favourite though is Graham Lyons’s ‘Study in C’ which will keep your Grade 3 pupils happy – no key signature and a witty melody!

And what of the pieces that are not in the books? As this syllabus lasts until 2017 we will all surely need them. Luckily at these early levels it is possible to use the same alternative books for several grades, and these will obviously be the best place to start.

Harlequin Book 1Top of my list is ‘Harlequin’, an imaginative set of pieces put together by Simon Hunt and Cecilia McDowall. Harlequin Book 1 serves Grades 1, 2 and 3 and includes a CD which represents extremely good value. Composers used range from Daquin to McDowall herself, whose Grade 2 Circus Rag is not to be missed!

Another multi-purpose album is ‘Winner Scores All’ which appears at Grades 1 and 3. Here the flute part and accompaniment are sold separately and there will shortly be a CD playalong version too. ‘Truly Scrumptious’ set for Grade 1 is the main attraction, but both the Aria from Mozart’s Don Giovanni and a Grieg Norwegian Dance are tuneful alternatives for Grade 3. As with Harlequin, the repertoire is so varied that the book can be made to work really hard outside the exam environment as well.

Louise Chamberlain (aka Pam Wedgwood) has two pieces from her book ‘Step It Up!’ on the Grade 2 listing. Although both ‘Red Admiral’ and ‘King of Swing’ are jazz-based, this is a nice collection of tunes that most pupils will enjoy, especially as this CD has two speeds for each piece.

Hartbeat’ is an album worth buying for the cover alone! Paul Hart’s light style is already very popular and ‘Rainy Day in Paris’ will not disappoint you. This is the easiest piece in the book, and indeed ‘Lonely and Blue’ actually appears in the ABRSM Grade 4 book. Don’t let that put you off buying it though as there’s a wealth of good material here.

Globetrotters for FluteGlobetrotters’ is another interesting book that appears both in the Grade 1 ABRSM book and separately at Grade 3. Subtitled ‘12 pieces in styles from around the world’ and including a CD, both the Grade 1 ‘Guanabara Bay’ and the Grade 3 ‘Hole in my Shoe Blues’ have lyrics to help learning and a second flute part which really adds to the fun. This will prove to be a very popular book with developing players.

Two books from very well respected composers supplement the unaccompanied music lists. Philip Sparke’s ‘Skilful Studies’ and  James Rae’s ‘Style Workout’ provide interesting contrasts of style, with Sparke’s ‘Classical Theme’ at grade 2 being based almost entirely on a D major scale, whilst Rae’s ‘High Five’ at grade 3 is quite a  challenge. In 5/4 with some tricky rhythms, this will really test all round ability at this level.

However you choose your exam music, have fun and enjoy the new challenges it brings!

Play Flute!

Back-To-School Inspiration

It’s that time of year again, but don’t fret – we’re here to bring some inspiration to the new school term.

For Teachers

The myfife MethodThe myfife Teacher’s Resource Book by Liz Goodwin

This is a teacher’s resource pack to accompany the Fife Book, and if you’ve never thought about using a fife as an introduction to flute teaching, then take a look at this. It is packed with lesson plans, exercises, games, practice sheets and report forms as well as flashcards. Topics covered include ‘Flute Techniques Taught Using the Fife’, ‘Individual or Group Lessons’ and ‘Embouchure Development’ – if you are working with young students, this book could really change your life.

Pneumo Pro Wind Director Pneumo Pro Wind Director

This wacky-looking piece of kit helps beginners to make a good sound from the outset. It is very lightweight and simple, based on a system of fans to help with both air direction and speed. This can be particularly useful if there is a problem producing the sound in the early stages as it is also colourful and fun! Developed by Kathryn Blocki, you can use it in conjunction with her excellent Flute Method. Every flute teacher should have one of these!

For beginners

Razzamajazz Flute Book 1Razzamajazz Flute by Sarah Watts

Learning the flute is so exciting and it really helps if you can start making music at home as soon as you can. The first piece here, ‘B Groovy’ uses just the one note but the CD accompaniment is so good that you feel as if you’re really performing ! Only 10 notes are used altogether and the material can be all used again up the octave. A piano part is included as well. Highly recommended!

Duets for One - Rickard & CoxDuets for One arranged by Rickard and Cox

This book is crammed with 16 pieces that range Pachelbel’s Canon to Scarborough Fair. It is very flexible: the book itself has a melody and a harmony part, the CD has performances and separate parts as well. Not presented in a progressive order, it seems easier to just dot about and play what you fancy. Starting with the harmony part, there is then real incentive to improve and play the melody line. Great supplementary material.

For Intermediate Players

Light Aerobics - Clare SouthworthLight Aerobics by Clare Southworth

If you feel you need to zip up your flute technique, this book of exercises could be just the thing to give you a kick start. Each section follows the same format – principle, method, exercise and notes, allowing you to move at your own pace. Tone, finger work and articulation are all covered, together with rhythm and finding your singing voice. There is also material suitable for groups. Clare’s introduction tells you how to use the book to its best advantage, so get working!

Mighty Boom Ball Speaker Mighty Boom Ball Speaker

It’s really easy to record yourself on your smartphone now and this is a great way to see if you’ve improved. The Mighty Boom Ball is a natty little gadget which is small enough to fit on your keyring, but can turn almost any object into a loudspeaker. Suggestions range from a cardboard box or bike helmet to a picture frame or microwave – wherever you are, you will find something to convert in to a speaker!

For the more advanced:

Lefreque Sound BridgeLefreque Sound Bridge – Dutch original sound solution.

As used by Emily Beynon. If you would like to give your sound a real boost then this could be just the gadget for you. It consists of 2 small brass plates which attach with plastic strips to both the headjoint and the body of your flute. The improvement in sound is astonishing! This device really has to be tried to be believed.

Know The Score - Mark TannerKnow the Score by Mark Tanner

If you are thinking about taking a performance diploma that involves any sight-reading, this great little book will really help make the test seem easier. Mark Tanner has divided up the task into various bite-size elements, for example tempo, tonality and final polish, which help to organise the brain rather than scramble it. He guides you through the first pieces and then leaves you to your own devices. This is an excellent buy, even if an exam is not on the horizon.

Bass Flute

Building A Flute Library: Music for Bass Flute

Bass FluteIt’s an exciting fact that bass flutes are becoming both cheaper and more widely available. Many flute groups now have one and schools and colleges are starting to use them too. The solo music written for this lovely instrument is also developing, which gives us a great opportunity to explore all its possible colours to the full.

If you are in the lucky position of having regular access to a bass flute, the best place to start is with music you already know. Keeping in the low register will help you find your balance before you venture into the higher reaches of the instrument. Baroque sonatas are a really great way to branch out, but try the Fauré Sicilienne or the easier works of Gaubert to really start exploring those expressive low sonorities.

Whilst it is still true that most original repertoire is challenging both in terms of instrumental technique and musical style, there are some pieces that are more approachable. You can always rely on Gary Schocker to come up with something appropriate, and his Small Sonata for a Large Flute is very well put together. The opening Moderato stays mainly in the low register with gentle running semiquavers, and a typical Schocker-style engimatic melody weaves its spell in the substantial slow movement Cantabile. The Snappy third movement will extend your technique considerably with the crisp rhythms needing good articulation. Flutter-tonguing and a larger note range add yet more interest.


Blessings and Celebration by Phyliss Avidan Louke is also very easy on the ear as well as the eye. Blessings is prayer-like and works really well on the bass. The rhythmic Celebration is dance-like and fun.

image-16-blessings-and-celebration-or-fl-or-afl-and-accLouke Blessings and Celebrations Alry music17042013_0000

For something more atmospheric, try Karuna by Bill Douglas. Based on the Sanskrit word for compassion, this short piece has a hypnotic quality, created by a repetitive semiquaver pattern and eastern sounding intervals. Ideally suited to the bass, this really enables you focus on its wonderful timbre.

Karuna - Low-Res Sample

At some point though you will want to start investigating the world of the more exotic. Extended techniques, accompanying electronic sound tracks, and seemingly impossible rhythmic combinations can all seem to make this part of the journey rather daunting. Yet the bass flute is ideally suited to this genre, so are here are two gems to get you started:

She Cried by Shiva Feshareki is a slow solo piece which uses simple rhythms and limited extended techniques to make it’s mark. Feshareki is very specific about sounds here, with glissandi and note bending complementing the instructions to vary the tone itself, and this is a marvellous piece for anyone to try.

Michael Oliva’s Moss Garden for bass flute and electronics will extend your range even further. You will need a decent sound system for performance but just to practise this with your computer to hand will be a great experience. There are not many notes here, but the low frequencies of the the track coupled with the bass flute sonorities enable Oliva to achieve the beautiful simplicity conveyed by the title.


And finally, the Alto and Bass Flute Resource Book by Christine Potter takes an interesting look at various aspects of both the low flutes. There are tips on buying a new flute, general playing advice and useful information about repertoire. This is full of good things that will help you on your way.

View the range of music available for bass flute at

Gareth Davies

An Interview with Gareth Davies

Gareth DaviesThe following interview with London Symphony Orchestra Principal Flute Gareth Davies interview was originally posted on Principal Chairs. He talks about everything from the LSO to auditions, colleagues in the orchestra, preparing for auditions, his Royal College of Music teaching appointment and his new book about the LSO on tour.

Hi Gareth! Thanks for coming to chat with us. As a lot of our subscribers are recent graduates could you tell us what you found to be the challenges in bridging the gap between college and professional work?

Well when you start at college it’s difficult to know what’s expected of you in the workplace. You’re obsessed with all the things you have to get right like exams, and other things, and you compare yourself with other flute players around you. It was quite an eye-opener when I went out and did a bit of freelance work. It is difficult to pick up your first date, but I remember turning up for an audition as a rookie student flute player and in the same room as me were three well-known, established flute players, all warming up about to audition before me. That’s when I realised that one can be the best flute player in the college, but when you’re out you’re judged against every other flute player and that’s a quite big leap to make.

So how did the audition go?

I got the job! It just depends; if there was a job going in the London Symphony Orchestra then you know that a lot of other principals would be going for that. Having said that, there is always room for somebody else. I mean, take Adam Walker for example; he was 21 when he got the job [co-principal LSO] and of course there were other excellent flute players going for that seat. If you don’t get the job in one orchestra it doesn’t mean that you won’t somewhere else. All orchestras have a different style of playing. There is no right and wrong way of approaching this kind of thing.

What aspects of your job do you feel college couldn’t prepare you for?

I was at the Guildhall, but it has changed a lot since then! At the time I played in lots of repertoire sessions with just the wind, which were really useful, but we did very few concerts. For instance, I played second in Symphony Orchestra in a concert and that’s all I did in the entire time. The concert we did was Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony. It has taken me almost 20 years to come up against that piece again and it took it off!

It’s interesting that what college didn’t prepare me for is the repertoire. The dream is to come out of college and get a job in the Berlin Phil, LSO, LPO etc., but the reality is that most people will come out and start doing small shows, local orchestras and dates in muddy fields playing the 1812 Overture. The Overture is really hard! Certainly when I was at college no one ever told me that.

Actually, one thing I really try to work on with colleges (since I have been in the LSO) is doing rep. sessions on standard repertoire that you are likely to actually play in real life. The first time I played in the LSO I had to sit down and virtually sight-read. Martin Parry, who was second flute then, had broken his ankle and I had substitute. It was Mahler 2 and I had to learn it pretty quickly. I got the score, looked at it and relied on my nerves for the concert. I felt that the college really did not prepare me for that. To be fair, there is no way it could have prepared me for that situation.

Usually you prepare for weeks for a concert and you practice for hours. I simply do not have the time for that now. I would be lucky if I could look at the music we’re playing in the next concert for an hour. You have to be quick and flexible. I think that was the biggest shock when I moved from college to the profession.

How did you prepare for the auditions?

When I applied for the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra I was 22. I think I was in the last day of the auditions when they were probably just ‘sweeping-up’. I made sure I knew the excerpts.

I had a few ‘moments’ at college, like when I failed both of my technical exams, mainly due to laziness. I didn’t listen to the excerpts in context, just learnt the notes. Fortunately, I made that mistake at college so when I went to a real audition I was better prepared. When I went for that job I certainly didn’t expect I’d get it. I had no experience and the last time I had played in a Symphony Orchestra was about a year before at college. Since I’d left youth orchestra I’d played first flute only five or six times, so I prepared myself to just go in and do it. It was the end of the day, so I thought “what the heck, I’ve got nothing to lose!” I had had a few dates with some London orchestras just before, so I knew I wasn’t totally rubbish!

I didn’t think that I did particularly well in the audition, but no-one does, do they? It’s the same in a concert situation – I can play much better in my practice room, partly because I can play things three or four times! So I drove home after the audition and had an answer-phone message (pre-mobile phone era!) from the Bournemouth, offering me a trial. I was completely gob-smacked! I wasn’t a genius or anything, I had simply prepared.

I think it is important not to treat auditions with a “do-or-die” mindset. When I am on the panel for auditions I really want people to play well and it can be really boring listening to the Mozart again and again with varying degree of success, and the same three excerpts with the same mistakes. It’s a bit like going to a nightclub and the bouncer looks you up and down and says “Yep, you’re alright. You can come in.” Once you get a trial, then you really can impress.

It’s a whole different ball-game doing the concerts. I remember the first concert I did about three months after I got offered the trial: I got the music straight away (Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra) and learnt it. The problem was, I couldn’t get the part. I had to buy the score and write the flute part out by hand, which is why I really don’t have much time for students who turn up for classes with the excuse “I couldn’t find the excerpt!”. I never set excerpts to trick people. It’s all standard stuff.

Anyway, back in Bournemouth after the Bartok we did the complete Vaughan Williams Symphonic Cycle with Richard Hickox and I got offered the job pretty quickly after that. I think Bournemouth have a tradition of taking risks on good, young players. Karen Jones was my predecessor and it may have been her first job too. I really enjoyed it there and I think one of the reasons I got the job was that I was able to get on with people. I think they like attracting younger players and they thought “why not take a risk”. I am very glad they did because that’s when I actually started to learn!

How usual is it for people to get jobs straight out of college these days?

Well, take a look the LSO: we had two positions vacant in the last four years. The principal flute job was won by Adam Walker when he was 21. He had little bits of experience, but not a huge amount. But, he has a lot of natural ability, he works hard and learns unbelievably quickly. He’s a fantastic player and a great colleague.

The second flute position was won by Siobhan Grealy. I will not tell you how old she is because that would be very un-gentlemanly of me! Her and I are about the same age now and the LSO is her first job, so I think you’ve got your answer there. Some people are always going to be superstars and some people develop much later. First and second flutes are very different jobs too. Siobhan was a very experienced freelance player and having that support is important. I think second flute is a much harder job to fill, actually.

Congratulations on your new RCM professorship appointment!

Thank you very much! I’m very excited.

What are you intending on bringing to the department?

I will bring my flute. Definitely! [Laughs]. But seriously, it has taken me a long time to know what I think about playing the flute. I’ve always been an intuitive player, never a technician. I’ve had all sorts of problems. I am, by no means, a perfect player and I make mistakes all the time, I get nervous etc. When I am tired I fall into bad habits, especially when we’re away on tour for weeks; it’s just so easy to do. So it has taken me a long time to come to conclusions about things.

Somebody asked me the other day about ‘support’; the holy grail of air support! I suddenly realised that I have been as guilty of using that phrase as all of my teachers, but very few people can tell you what that actually means and what you actually have to do. There are things I can teach and things I can’t.

For example I can’t teach you how to get the right element of fantasy in the solo in Daphnis, or how to get the right mixture of pathos in Mahler 10. In many ways I do not want to do that because that is entirely open to your interpretation, which may be different to mine, but that is cool. What I can teach is the mechanics.

However, it wasn’t until recently that I became confident to be able to say “this is how I do it”. I’ve been thinking about it recently, partly because my daughter has taken up the flute. I’ve been thinking that I am 41 now, I’ve been playing professionally for nearly 20 years, and I didn’t feel ready to teach younger players until recently. I am still learning myself; I learn from teaching I do, or when I’m sitting down the section playing alto flute with Adam on principal I can learn stuff from him.

I always try to learn from musicians on other instruments too, which I think is so important. Playing in an orchestra is about playing in a team. I don’t do a huge number of recitals, apart from the recent one at RAM for the BFS artist series. I don’t actually like the flute repertoire! The reason I love playing in orchestra is that I have the opportunity to play Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart and Strauss! In the flute rep. there is one piece written by a great composer and it’s played to death. So I really enjoy being part of the team in the LSO.

It’s nice to have your moments to shine, but there is something about being a part of the core sound of the woodwind section which is so brilliant. When you do get the solo, like in Daphnis, it is great, and playing on the sound that the LSO makes is just extraordinary. I don’t really like teaching orchestral excerpts because they get done in a specific way which is so different to playing with the rest of the section.

For example, Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony is terrifying to play by yourself, but when you play it with the second flute player its not quite so terrifying, and then when you play it in an orchestra it’s ok … not easy but not terrifying because you’re part of the team. I’ve done this many times: I turn pages in a piece and suddenly there is an ‘excerpt’ and I start panicking! So I’m constantly relating solo things back to orchestral ways, especially in terms of intonation, sound and flexibility.

You have to be so flexible to play in an orchestra and I’d like to bring an awareness of this in approaching solo pieces to my students at RCM.

We’ve heard you’ve written a book! What prompted you to do that?

I started writing a tour blog for the orchestra in 2007 when we first started doing things like that. I enjoyed doing it and it gradually it became a bit of an obsession of mine. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words now! I found it became more and more difficult to describe concerts as I started to run out of adjectives quite quickly…. “it was a sensational concert”, “a marvellous concert” etc. So, it ended up being much more about what it was like being away in New York, for example, or what it was like being away from your family for months at a time. People also enjoy hearing about the backstage gossip!

The blog became more of a description of what it is like to be a musician, rather than a dry description of concerts from a musicologist. Lots of people said to me “oh, you should write a book”, but I couldn’t just regurgitate the old stories because that would just be boring!

2012 was the centenary of the LSO going on tour to New York for the first time; we were the first European orchestra to tour the US in 1912, which was a long time ago. 100 years to be exact!

To cut a very long story short, I was talking to our archivist, who found a diary which was sent to us and which I found very interesting. It was actually a diary of Charles Turner who was the timpanist on that very tour in 1912, a founding member of the LSO in 1904. So this diary described that tour to the US. He describes what they ate, what the living was like; he said New York was dirty and that they didn’t really like it and so on. Then another diary surfaced, written by Mr Nisbet who was the second flute player. His wasn’t quite as interesting!

What I realised from those diaries was how different and similar things were compared to now. Some things haven’t changed a bit. So after reading the things they did in New York back then I thought ‘if one was to simply change the names of the people and places, it would virtually be the same as today.’ I started comparing it all and the research just got bigger and bigger. The book is basically comparing the 1912 and 2012 tours. Anyway, so it’s coming out in May. I really enjoyed writing it and it’s something I would like to do more of. We’ll have to see if anybody buys it!

Last question! Do you think that Principal Chairs is a useful resource?

Yes, I think it’s a really useful thing and I do wish it was around when I was at college. As I said, I wrote out the part for Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra. It was time consuming, I did it myself and then had to figure out what to do from recordings.

Because I’d left college by that point, I didn’t have a teacher to go to and get help. So to have all that online ready, and to have Michael’s advice would have been invaluable. Michael is a fantastic player and experienced in orchestras; he really knows what he is doing!

Principal Chairs

Reproduced with kind permission of Principal Chairs, the leading website for orchestral audition preparation.

Andy Scott

Composer Profile: Andy Scott

Andy Scott“Andy Scott is a hugely talented composer using his artistry to communicate fresh ideas through a traditional sound.” – Bramwell Tovey.

If you are not familiar with the music of Andy Scott perhaps now is the time to do some exploring! Scott is a sax player but he is of great interest to flute players as a composer. He won a British Composer’s Award in 2006 – an indication of the quality of his output.

As you might expect, his style is jazz-based but not exclusively so. Perhaps the best way into his music would be to start with the beautiful And Everything Is Still….Here the gentle melody floats above enigmatic harmonies to produce a lovely piece of quiet simplicity. This has universal appeal and is a real stunner.

Not all his music is that straightforward though! Three Letter Word was originally commissioned for sax by the Park Lane Group but Andy made this challenging arrangement specifically for Paul Edmund Davies. There is virtuoso flute writing from the outset with a great deal of improvisation in the style. It’s a really exciting piece, which despite its slower finale, ends dramatically and with a real surprise.

You’d like something somewhere in the middle? Salt of the Earth is not without its challenges either, and you’ll need a good finger technique as well as a feel for the Latin/jazz idiom to do it justice. The smaller note range, one sharp key and simpler rhythms lend a slightly lighter character to the writing but, as with most of his works, you will need a really good pianist. This great piece is really fun to play so it’s well worth the effort!


Andy Scott’s music also provides a happy hunting ground for those who want to work with instruments other than the piano. Paquito is a fast salsa, which pays homage to Paquito d’Rivera and is scored for flute and harp. Again it is quite difficult, but also playful and fun:

My Mountain Top represents a total difference in style. Centre stage is the narration of haunting words by Lemn Sissay, around which Scott weaves a magical mix of sonorities. Ethereal sounds created by the keyboard allow the alto flute to add colour with a mix of timbral trills and plaintive melody. This is definitely not a play-along experience, but is instead a work of great intensity and power that is most compelling.

Music for solo flute is also well represented. Eighteen is ‘funky and hard-edged’ and Scott recommends a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude when performing. KBM is more improvisatory with contrasting sections of free melody and rhythmic groove. In his collaboration with fellow sax player Rob Buckland, Scott also has a volume of easier pieces to his name. Changing Times is a selection of 12 short pieces aimed at the grade 6–8+ level – the perfect way to get started in this genre.

Andy Scott is a prolific writer. He has already written substantial sonatas for both flute and piano and flute and harp as well as Eight Pieces and Café Europa, two volumes of easier gems, this time for flute and piano and again with Rob Buckland.

Most of these pieces can be heard on the Bad-Tempered Flute CD, which will be a good starting point for your explorations. Given that there is plenty to choose from whatever your level or instrumentation, what are you waiting for?

Albert Cooper in the doorway of his shop.

RS 2012 Scale

Albert Cooper in the doorway of his shop.

Albert Cooper in the doorway of his shop.

RS 2012 is slightly different from the original Cooper Scale. As Cooper admitted, there was always room for improvement and this has now been done. That said, I am sure there will be corrections in the future, continuing Cooper’s work. The alterations are small, but to those with sensitive ears, they are significant when expressive intonation is employed.

It was a pity that those who criticised RS 2012 did so before trying it. The comments posted here about the new Scale were made before the only prototype was available.

Burkart Flutes have made several flutes to this scale; Stephen Wessel has now started to use this scale on his flutes too.

Flutemakers are welcome to use the figures freely and without acknowledgement, if they wish. The explanation of the Revised Scale 2012 can be seen at and a link at the bottom of that page will take you directly to the figures.

Trevor Wye

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