Tag Archives: challenging

tetractys

Publisher Profile: Tetractys Publishing

Tetractys Publishing is the brainchild of Carla Rees, home to her own compositions and arrangements as well as the many pieces that have been written for her. The range of material on offer here is vast. Obviously the catalogue is heavily weighted towards contemporary music for low flutes as this is Carla’s main area of expertise, but there’s much else to tempt you as well.

Her adaptations in two volumes of the JS Bach Cello Suites [volume 1]  [volume 2] for alto flute are a wonderful way of developing skills whilst using great music. Breathing and stamina are often a problem on low instruments, but if you can manage these it will really help. Aside from suggested articulations, the music is left for you to edit as you wish and you will be able to return to them many times, always finding something new. There are versions [volume 1] [volume 2] adapted specifically for bass flute too.

 

 

One of the most interesting pieces of contemporary music for solo alto is Adam Melvin’s Hyperlodic Interpretations written in 2003. Influenced by the jazz musician Eric Dolphy, the format is slow introduction (poco rubato – aggressive) followed by a rhythmic main section which is always driving forward. A much slower jazz melody follows before the momentum increases to the end. The fluctuating time signatures allow for flexibility in the interpretation and the basic multiphonic and portamento techniques are very approachable. If you are feeling adventurous, give this a try.

Another winner is Moss Garden by Michael Oliva for bass flute and electronics. This wonderful piece is all about texture (‘an exercise in simplicity’) with the slow moving flute writing merging into the accompaniment to create the magical world of a Japanese garden. The electronic part is supplied as a download and you will need some basic equipment for performance. It’s so worth the effort though as this unusual piece would enhance any flute recital programme.

If you fancy something a little more mainstream whilst staying with living composers, Attitudes by Jon Jeffrey Grier for 2 alto or C flutes might fit the bill. This is a very striking duet which aims to ‘capture the states of teenage people’. In three movements, the writing is quirky, and at times virtuosic. Although there are no advanced techniques to master and the rhythmic footprint is mainly straightforward, the challenge is in the dovetailing of the parts to blend as one. ‘Flirty’ is rather fragmentary with short rhythmic figures dancing around each other, whilst ‘Pouty’ uses tremolando and trills to provide the colour. ‘Ansty’ is an exciting whirl of notes which will bring the piece to a rousing conclusion.

 

 

Another work for virtuosos but from a completely different world is Carla’s own arrangement of The Flight of the Bumblebee by Rimsky-Korsakov for piccolo, flute and alto flute. This is a brilliant romp which is just so great to play!

Quatraine II for 3 piccolos and alto flute is one of Carla’s original compositions. Her aim was to pit ‘the chattering piccolos’ which are given angular leaps and short phrases against ‘the sonorous tone of the alto’ with its mainly melodic line The result is a perfect fusion of sounds that perfectly conveys the differing characters of the instruments. Whilst seeming ultra-modern, Quatraine is very approachable to play, giving you the best of all worlds!

 

Recent publications have included a large range of mainstream works that Carla has transcribed for ensemble. Again, the emphasis is on low flutes, so the result is completely different to that of more conventional arrangements. Crucifixus in 8 Parts by Antonio Lotti is scored for 6 altos and 2 bass flutes with contrabass if available, but three alternative C flute parts are also included. Tuning, balance and stamina are the issues here, but this simple work can sound really effective if played well.

 

 

More conventionally, the Quantz Concerto in G for two flutes is scored for 2 solo flutes, 2 flutes, 3 altos, bass and optional contrabass. The concerto grosso feel of this has been captured skilfully. The beautiful slow movement in particular contrasts unison tutti passages with intricate solos accompanied by a simple bass line.

 

 

Another winner is the arrangement of the Donizetti Flute Sonata for solo flute, 2 flutes, 2 altos and bass. Again Carla has transcribed sensitively, spacing the parts to allow the solo flute to carry over the main group. The solo part is original, and all the intricacies of the piano writing are seamless integrated into the other flute parts. This is an incredibly good way to showcase a lovely but rather neglected work.

 

 

If you would prefer to play an original work, Rainbow Measures by Rob Keeley, (2 piccolos, 4 flutes, and 2 altos) is another effective work that will challenge your ensemble skills. Lasting 9 minutes and ‘imagining each player as the colour of a rainbow’, the swirl of notes, rhythms and textures coupled with varying tempos and extreme dynamic changes results in a very colourful piece that will be a joy to accomplish.

 

 

The Tetractys catalogue also includes many of the works written for Carla’s flexible group Rarescale. One of the most compelling of these is Andrew McBirnie’s Mechanical for alto flute, cor anglais and bass clarinet, a short 2 minute piece in which continuous semiquavers passed around the group are punctuated isolated notes and rhythmic cells. The exactness of the writing really conveys the predictability of the machine and is utterly mesmerising.

 

Tetractys is so much more than just ‘niche music’. Delve further and you’ll uncover gems galore and there’s something for everyone.

Tomasi - Trois Pastorales

Building a Flute Library: Unusual Flute Music for Three Advanced Flutes

Right now there is great deal of exciting music available for three flutes, so if you are lucky enough to belong to a good trio there is plenty to keep you interested.

Suite Pastorale by Jean-Michel Damase is a great place to start. Enigmatic harmonies underpin approachable rhythms, the Pastorale of the title being evident throughout. The second movement Pastourelle flows gently as if dreaming, the finale Rondeau is a lovely jaunt, but the first movement, Carillons, is just beautiful:


If you prefer your lyricism a little more grounded you could try any of the trios by Caspar Kummer. Trio Op.53 is wonderfully Romantic in style – pure flute music. Written in a conventional fast/slow/fast movement format, his melodies weave their magic throughout. This is a true delight.


Perhaps one of the most esoteric pieces for this combination is Morton Feldman’s Trio, written in 1972. On paper, it seems that there is little to this – just 2 pages of score containing nothing faster than a quaver or higher than a middle register G flat. The interest is in all the harmonies that clash and resolve constantly throughout:


Another compelling work which relies on texture is Celtic Knotwork by Edward McGuire. The “knotwork” effect can be easily heard by the close interweaving of all three parts. The opening Lento evokes misty mornings with bagpipes in the distance and this is followed by the more lively Slip Jig. The cadenza in canon is really effective, and the work ends as it began.


The little known trio Three Pieces for Three Flutes by Pal Rozsa is worth a look. Each of the three movements is well-constructed with a good balance of writing between the parts. The harmonies are sometimes deliberately quite bare, allowing the timbre of the flutes to prevail. Tune and accompaniment this isn’t, but it’s very appealing all the same:


Trois Pastorales by Henri Tomasi also uses some more unusual harmonies. Tomasi really knew how to write for flutes and this is full of challenges for each player. The beguiling melody in Bolivienne is passed around effectively, whilst the atmospheric Cretoise fluctuates in mood. The Sicilienne Saltorello will especially wow an audience! If you haven’t tried Tomasi before, do give this a try – even if it is at the higher price end.


Currently active composers are also taking to write for this combination, which is great news. Try Elkido Suite by Lars Floee if you like a more straightforward variety of contemporary music. Each movement here is ‘inspired by a different culture’ with Szitakoto (Bartok’s Hungary) and the Japanese Sakura both being very approachable. Balkanski Mish-Mash is more difficult, and the changing time signatures at speed will test an ensemble. Granada is a whirlwind of notes to bring the work to an exciting climax.


Last but not least, Niederau by Gary Carpenter is not for the faint-hearted! The three movements here will need some work as there is little in the way of melody or rhythmic unity to help. It’s a great piece though and will really pay dividends in the end!


This is just a small selection of repertoire available, but I hope it gives you a good starting point to explore more of the great repertoire for this combination.