Category Archives: Hidden Gems

Idyll – The English Flute Unheard by James Dutton

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE REPERTOIRE

When my pianist Oliver Davies and I started researching suitable repertoire to include on our album “Idyll”, we had no idea how much of interest we would find across a huge range of styles and eras. The only proviso was that the composers had a connection with the Royal College of Music, either as a student/professor or both. As we were both alumna (Oliver was also a professor for over forty years as well as founder and head of the Department of Portraits and Performance History) it was an obvious choice. Our producer Mike Purton also urged us if possible to find works that had never been recorded before for commercial release. This we achieved almost totally – one movement of the Robin Milford Sonata had been recorded with strings in a different arrangement, some of the Armstrong Gibbs Suite had been recorded by Richard Adeney many years before, and finally perhaps most excitingly, the only existing recording of the Sonata by Stanley Bate was a version only available on subscription and with the purchase of the sheet music in Paris – by Marcel Moyse accompanied by his son Louis. Rarefied company to say the least! Sadly this is one of the works that although still in copyright is no longer in print – more research is needed to see if it could be reissued at some point.

It turned out that only three of the nine works we ended up choosing to record were still in print. Oliver’s in-depth knowledge of repertoire of all kinds across the 20th century and access to the library at the RCM as well as his own collections meant we were unearthing some wonderful pieces which had lapsed into almost complete obscurity. It was a fantastic project to breathe life back into works that very few flautists had ever played, certainly in the recent past. Now the CD has been released, it has been very pleasing that reviews have also highlighted the quality of the repertoire that we have discovered. These are works that have been unjustly neglected and are more than worthy of performance.

Here then I’ll introduce you to those works which are available from the publisher’s archives, printed on demand – though almost entirely unknown.

Robin Milford: Sonata in C major

The Sonata in C major by Robin Milford is published by Thames. Written in 1944 it is a charming work, full of invention and character that could have only come from an English composer of that period. Milford studied with Vaughan Williams, and his illustrious teacher said of him – “If I wanted to show the intelligent foreigner something that could only have come out of England, I would show him some of the work of Milford”. Perhaps a slightly un-PC turn of phrase for the 21st century, but the sentiment is nonetheless very strong!

Robin Milford was a fascinating, though ultimately tragic figure in the music industry. He was the son of Humphrey Milford, founder of the Oxford University Press. He became very well-known as a composer of songs, many of which are still popular. His musical style is very definitely “English pastoral” – he refused to be swayed by European modernism, and ultimately this became his downfall, as his writing was seen to be more and more anachronistic for the period. He suffered from depression for most of his life – and the untimely death of his young son Barnaby at the age of just five must have been almost too much to bear. Eventually he took his own life in 1959, after having received the cruellest of requests from the OUP – he was required to collect all the unsold copies of his manuscripts from their warehouse.

Not the happiest of personal lives then, but his music radiates sunshine, albeit tinged with melancholy at moments. The Sonata in C is in three movements, the first full of sparkling motifs, a gloriously melodic and singing second movement (this also exists as a standalone work called Interlude,  arranged for flute and strings).

The final movement might give the illusion of being like a jig, but it actually demands a much more measured approach to fully appreciate the details of the harmonies and invention. In Milford’s obituary one critic noted “his emotional range was limited”, though one rather more percipient observer wrote “his music is fresh – and it will come fresh to those of a future age”. I hope that age is now!

Cecil Armstrong Gibbs: Suite in A major

Probably the most well-known of the composers that we chose was C. Armstrong Gibbs. The “C” stands for Cecil, though he hated the name and variously switched between just using his two surnames or adding the initial. He enjoyed the patronage of Adrian Boult who encouraged him to attend the Royal College of Music where he studied with Vaughan Williams, later joining him as a fellow composition professor. Like Milford he wrote a huge number of songs, as well as some very popular instrumental works. The most famous is probably “Dusk”, for piano or small orchestra, and proved extremely well-loved. It was even requested to be played at the future Queen Elizabeth the Second’s 18th birthday party at Buckingham Palace.

Again like Milford, Armstrong Gibbs did not embrace the sweep of modernism and new composition styles emerging from Europe. His Suite in A  (published Oxford University Press) dating from 1956 seems wildly out of touch with other works from that era, but it has a craft and approachability all its own. Written in five movements – Prelude, Minuet, Sarabande,  Gavotte and Quick Dance it blends the baroque feeling of the Suite form with popular music, and even a hint of the Last Night of the Proms in the final movement!

It is not a technically demanding work, but even so there are many details and nuances within all the movements that demand serious thought. Appoggiaturas abound, ready to trap the unwary! The Sarabande is a truly gorgeous little movement – just a couple of minutes but full of stately beauty and sombre reflection – a lot of emotional content for something that seems superficially straightforward. This work was a lot of fun to put together, and at around 13 minutes it’s a nice solid recital piece that deserves to be heard more often!

Cyril Bradley Rootham: Suite in Three Movements

The Suite in Three Movements by Cyril Bradley Rootham was written in 1921 – one of the two works dedicated to Louis Fleury on the CD. I believe this is truly a masterpiece in miniature and without doubt one of my favourite works on the recording. Rootham was a highly regarded teacher – among his pupils were Arthur Bliss and Armstrong Gibbs (though he was for organ, not composition)

Published by Chester it is not a long work at only nine minutes, but it is possessed of some truly wonderful writing for the flute and piano. The style is rather modal, shot through with hints of Holst and Vaughan Williams. Again the overall appearance may be of simplicity, but to capture the true essence one has to delve deeper. The opening Passacaglia is particularly haunting, and to bring out the varying textures of each iteration of the theme demands much concentration in  balance between the instruments in their different registers. I was really taken by the last section in which Rootham splits the theme between flute and piano – it has the feeling of wisps of smoke blowing on the wind, and to seamlessly blend the line together takes real thought and refined duo playing. The Saraband is fantastically expressive with swooping lines from the flute and great interplay between the instruments. The Jig which follows is surprisingly complex – when one just looks at the flute part alone, it’s hard to see what the fuss is all about – but this illustrates exactly how important it is to analyse what’s going on underneath as well – the piano part has a minefield of details: changing harmony, different voicing of chords, subtle changes of direction that give the whole a really satisfying feeling in just about a 90-second movement! I really loved working on this piece.

Richard Henry Walthew: Idyll

The title track “Idyll” was written by Richard Henry Walthew in 1907, and dedicated to the pre-eminent English flautist of the day Eli Hudson. It was first performed by Albert Fransella on September 5th of that year at the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts.

There was a real personal connection with this work for me – Walthew’s great-grandson David is the former principal clarinet of the Band of the Scots Guards, where I have been principal flute for over twenty years, though soon to be retiring! Oliver has been a friend of the Walthew family for many years, and his knowledge of the work’s existence led us to finding it in the British Library. The original publishers, Stainer & Bell, was co-founded by Richard Walthew. The work is still in copyright though out of print, but dialogue is underway to potentially bring the work back to a wider audience. It was recently chosen to be broadcast on Classic FM alongside one of the movements from the Armstrong Gibbs Suite – I was very proud that it was included in their playlist, and hope that this will persuade the publishers that it will be worth bringing back to life in score form as well as on the recording. I would love other flautists to get to know all these pieces and consider programming them in their own recitals.

Now available!

The basis for this article was originally published in Pan Magazine (Journal of the British Flute Society) in March 2018, and permission for this version has been kindly given by Carla Rees, editor of the magazine.

 

James Dutton

jamesduttonflute.com

 

 

 

“Heavenly – an enchanting album….a great British flautist” – Classic FM June 2018

“Beautifully played…these are two instinctive musicians with sensitivity and intelligence” – Pan Magazine March 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trubcher Publishing

Publisher Profile: Trübcher Publishing

Roz Trübger, founder of Trübcher Publishing, is very enterprising and clearly loves the flute. She has an impressive catalogue of music to her credit with a wide spread of titles. Educational resources, obscure repertoire and ensemble music are her three main niches, and every book has either an accompanying CD or an online audio clip to help you along.

A Listers’ is a highly respected series which aims to facilitate the learning process of core repertoire. All the pieces come with a standard flute part edited by Trübger herself, a piano score, a second flute part and a CD with a 2-speed playalong. Teachers who have limited keyboard skills obviously find this format invaluable, but there is also the advantage of being able to play these pieces as flute duets with or without accompaniment. Meanwhile, the dual speed CD backing tracks help with home practice.

A-Listers features important works such as sonatas by Bach and Handel, concertos by Mozart, Vivaldi, Quantz and Gluck as well as single pieces such as the Fauré Sicilienne, all of which are vital in the building of a strong flute foundation. This collection is a good way to teach this mainstream repertoire.

Trübger has unearthed some real gems for her ‘Forgotten Music‘ series. Again, each title is fully supported by an audio resource, which although computer generated, does give you confidence that you are in the right area. Little-known composers such as Macfarren and Graeff might entice you, and there are other gems that time has forgotten. The Romance in A by the English amateur flute player James Mathews is a wonderful piece, written in 1868 in a Romantic style and beautifully straightforward to play. It’s worth the money for the front cover alone, as the photo of Mathews with his extraordinary gold flute is quite something! The highlight of the series so far however, has to be the Romance by Alfred Bruneau. Written in about 1884, he has accompanied his sumptuous melody with a flowing accompaniment. Pure French pleasure!

As you might expect, Trübger’s arrangements for flute ensemble all work extremely well. She really knows how to handle the spacing of the instruments, which is so important to the success of any transcription. Her choice of repertoire is intelligent, with a wide range of styles to choose from. You could start with the Widor Toccata for four piccolos – not an obvious choice of instrumentation perhaps, but one that is highly effective in the right hands! The famous semiquaver theme is evenly distributed between all four parts encouraging listening skills to develop both accuracy and intonation. The audio clips are again electronic and the speeds chosen are deliberately quite slow. Here, this results in quite a pretty sounding performance but acoustically the piece offers a great deal in terms of skill and stamina, not to mention entertainment!

Von Suppe’s Pique Dame Overture is another excellent arrangement. This is for 6 flutes and the addition of piccolo, alto and bass, together with optional cymbals, gives added scope for textural variety. The style is easy to access and the writing straightforward, with just the right amount of independence in the parts. Both the piccolo and bass flute are less busy than the rest which is good both technically and aurally. The G major key and familiar rhythms also help here, and although 6 parts can seem daunting at first, the overriding aim is to give confidence to developing players as they tackle more substantial works.

If you are feeling yet more adventurous try Six Sweets by Marin Rabadan for 5 flutes and alto flute. Don’t let the title here lull you into a false sense of security: this should be played at helter-skelter speed with all six instruments cascading around the opening section! The central blues is more restrained and the closing vivo has great rhythmic drive. The style is jazz, the ensemble needs to be very tight. It’s a fantastic workout!

Whatever you choose to play from this lovely and very individual publisher, satisfaction is almost certainly guaranteed!

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!

Hidden Gems: Christmas Music for Flute Choir

There is now so much choice of Christmas music available for flute choirs that it’s difficult to know where to start. In this post I’ve selected some of my favourites which I can really recommend.

Carol settings abound and the choice can be alarming. The best policy is to pick your carol, and then stick to those arrangers that are proven or whose pieces you have previously enjoyed. My personal favourites are Amy Rice Young, Ann Cameron Pearce and Ricky Lombardo, and all of them have contributed music to which you can return year after year.

In The Bleak MidwinterFor example, the Pearce version of ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ atmospherically shares the tune, accompaniment and descant evenly between the parts and uses the lower instruments to great effect. This is also true of her arrangement of the ‘Wexford’ carol.

‘Wassailing’ by Rice-Young has dances from Somerset and Gloucestershire as well as the traditional one from Yorkshire – this is a simple arrangement, even if it is in A major. Her ‘First Nowell’ (sic) is bright and breezy as is the pairing of ‘Good King Wenceslas’ and ‘Sing We Now of Christmas’.

Lombardo’s ‘Trilogy of Carols’ utilises the versatile expandable format. It only takes four players to perform this, but there are actually 8 parts, including alto and bass flute options plus parts for string bass and percussion.

You might also like to investigate the ‘Peace Collection’ by Paul Horn. The textures here are simpler, making them ideal for the less experienced group. I particularly like the ‘Carol of the Bells’ from Volume 3 for the way in which it builds and subsides – most effective.

Foreign carols can often provide a good programme contrast. Take the ‘French Nativity Suite’, 3 carols set by Kelly Via. ‘Il est Ne’ is well-known and surprisingly has some swing-rhythm in the accompaniment, but the less familiar 14th century carol from Provence ‘Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella’ is handled simply. Pat-A-Pan is more of a challenge – upbeat with a 5/8 central section and complex ensemble writing which is as enjoyable to play as it is to listen to. Meanwhile, the ‘Scandinavian Suites’, again put together sensitively by Rice-Young are just lovely tunes which completely illustrate the countries from which they originate. ‘Two Preludes for December’ by Claudia Bissett will also delight audiences. Scheidt and Praetorius provide the music here and she arranges for double flute choir skilfully.

Sample Music from Two Preludes for December

You could take the humorous option. Merging Christmas songs with traditional carols is a favoured route with surprisingly good results! ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ (Rice-Young again!), punctuates the main theme with carol snippets. Great fun could be had here with some audience participation. Darlene Dugan’s ‘A Patchwork Christmas’ stitches together various carols to give us ‘Noel in a Manger’, O Song of Joy (Jesu, Joy and O Tannebaum) and ‘Joy on Deck’. On a slightly different tack, Lombardo’s ‘Santa’s Symphony’ (again in the expandable format) combines carols with popular classics. Watch out for Eine Kleine, 1812 Overture, The Nutcracker and even some Brahms! This is such fun and perfect for most Christmas occasions – a real winner. Jingle Bell Prism, another gem from Ann Cameron Pearce, is a classic. Here she gives this song the real treatment – 7 different styles from a 16th century Venetian Madrigal to Boogie-Woogie and Beach Rock. It works
perfectly well with C flutes only but will take a bit of practice. Oh so worth it though!

And finally – what about a Christmas piece that is completely original? Kathleen Mayne’s ‘Christmas Overture’ tells the story of the Nativity. The beautiful opening melody in F minor sets the scene of the ‘Cold, Still Bethlehem Night’ before the music becomes more rhythmic for ‘The Visit from the Magi’. Playful music depicts ‘The Curious Stable Animals’ before the lilting ‘Mother Mary’s Lullaby’ builds to an eventual grandioso conclusion. Lasting 6 minutes this is a substantial piece that will reward the work needed to perform it well and enhance any Christmas concert.

Composer Profile: Amanda Jane Fox

Amanda Jane FoxI absolutely love the music of Amanda Fox. She is a wonderful combination of classically trained flute player and natural jazz pianist. She has an amazing way of performing her own music, her rhythmic understanding being instinctively different from the ordinary musician. She once described to me an astonishing list of styles that she has drawn from. These included Bach, Rachmaninoff, Elton John, Carol King, Debussy, Chaminade and several jazz musicians – very much a mixed bag. She is also quite a character! She never stops talking, and is infectiously enthusiastic about all she does.

Amanda’s writing for the flute is impressive. Take “Infinity” for example. This is a big work and a great test of stamina for all those not blessed with her natural capacity for long phrases! She has an undoubted talent for melody, and all her flute music has gorgeous tunes. The opening of “Infinity” is stunningly beautiful – the kind of tune that you could sing walking down the street and feel happier for having done so. She also has a formidable flute technique, so plenty of notes woven around the jazz-influenced cross-rhythms add to the challenge. It’s a real crowd pleaser!

If you want something a little quieter, “In the Clouds” is my favorite of Amanda’s slower pieces. Dedicated to her father and composed shortly after his death, it’s a very moving piece with an abundance of yet-more–beautiful melodic themes accompanied by strong romantic harmonies. Or you could try “Reflections,” with its tranquil melodies and subtle, gentle colouring.

Her most recent piece is “Levitation,” which was written for me to play at last year’s NFA Convention in California. It starts with another one of her sensual melodies, and her special blend of harmony and rhythm conjures up all kinds of swirling emotions. If you look closely, you can certainly see influences of Gaubert and Poulenc, but it is really her natural jazz/funky style that shines through. Frequent changes of both key and tempo take place as, section by section, it all seamlessly flows like a journey to end triumphantly on a high. “Levitation” is an uplifting piece celebrating Amanda’s fight to recover from her constant battle with ME.

Amanda can play and sing all her own music, and a visit to her website will unearth gems of popular songs that she performs in her own inimitable way. Her latest mp3 download available there is “Destiny”, yet another example of wonderful writing for the flute. The tune is so lovely that you just don’t want to end!

So if you hadn’t heard of Amanda Fox before, perhaps now is the time to discover her, and indulge yourself in beautiful music!

Amanda Jane Fox’s music is available at Just Flutes: Infinity | Reflections | In The Clouds | Levitation.