Tag Archives: repertoire

Exploring the new ABRSM 2018 Flute Syllabus: Grade 5

Blog snapshot – my recommendations at a glance!

A question for you  – what makes a good grade 5 flute player?

It’s notoriously difficult to excel at this grade so it is perhaps an interesting exercise to think about which of the following your potential candidate might possess before matching them up with repertoire. :

  • The basics – a more developed sound with increased finger speed, and snappier tonguing
  • More stylistic awareness which results in the choice of a balanced programme
  • Confidence in their playing and the ability to take ownership of the performance

The ABRSM book for this grade is very strong and will challenge all these questions most  successfully. But even so there is plenty of variety and quality to be found elsewhere. There will come a time when  the examiners will be very happy to hear some new music!

List A              

This  is a classic list including the usual mix of Handel, Telemann and Beethoven, plus an arrangement of the Dvorak Humoresque. The  Allegro from the Sonata in G major by  Pietro Locatelli from 300 Years of Flute Music will also be very popular and used a great deal.

This compilation is also included at grades 4, 6, 7 and  8 – another great value purchase!

Drouet: Rondeau from Sonata in A minor (Three Little Sonatas)

If you didn’t include the Cantabile from this Sonata for grade 4, here is another chance to explore Drouet’s charming style. Easy on the eye, ears and technique, this is a good way to learn about structure as the movement uses repeats and da capos in a more intricate way than usual. You’ll love it!

Frederick the Great: Allegro assai from Sonata in A minor, Spitta No. 21

The music of the flute enthusiast Frederick the Great has been overshadowed by that of his teacher Quantz and is not often played. This Allegro, together with another one set for grade 7 are both really interesting.

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Mainly set in the middle register, the articulation is tricky but the small range of notes used helps to limit the technical demands. It’s rhythmically engaging and lovely to play. You can purchase this Sonata separately but if you have fallen head over heels for Frederick’s charms, this and the equally appealing Sonata No 76 set for grade 7 are available in one volume!

Giuseppe Rabboni: Sonata No 10 in D minor from Sonatas for Flute and Piano 

If these sonatas have passed you by, you are in for a real treat! Although the book appears expensive it is set for grades 6 and 7 too, and includes a demonstration and playalong CD. This is beautiful and worth the purchase price alone!

The great thing about all these Sonatas is that they are all so tuneful. You do need your wits about you for this one though. A great sound and musicality will help but poise and a sense of style are essential to bring this fabulous slow movement to life!

List B

There are more stunning tunes on this list which contains some little-known pieces which are soon to become famous!

Bock and Harnick: Sunrise, Sunset from Roll Over Bach arranged by Adam Gorb

One of the great songs from Fiddler on the Roof and the arrangement is lovely.There is a real duo feel here with the evocative sweeping melody passing between flute and piano in the opening section. The famous chorus doesn’t appear until bar 34, and even then it’s still split between the instruments. This is more akin to a fantasy than a straightforward transcription,  which if played beautifully, could be most effective.

Richard Lane: Caprice

This is a very appealing if rather quirky piece. The rhythms are relatively simple and the whole piece lies nicely in the middle of the flute so the principal task here is to learn the notes in the passage work and accomplish the main tonguing patterns.The partnership with the piano will deliver the interesting harmonic style and, best of all, it’s only a minute long!

 

Wilhelm Popp:  Spanish Dance from Romantic Miniatures Vol 1

This is yet another fantastic piece! It’s one of those gems that sounds more difficult than it actually is, so it’s  great fun to play! The straightforward rhythmic structure and technical challenges are simply presented to get you off to a flying start. It’s then possible to play it at the correct Bolero speed which is so evocative of Spain. All you need then is a pair of castanets!

List C:

There isn’t really a dud on this list – you can’t go wrong!

Bizet: Gypsies Dance from A Bizet Notebook arranged Simon Hunt

It’s such a treat to be able to play these good solo flute arrangements of Carmen for an exam. A treasure of a book, it’s very good value especially as it is set for grades 3, 6 and 7 as well. This famous dance is quite short so the detailed finger patterns will be the focus of attention here. Everyone knows this tune though and that always makes practising easier!

 

Helen Madden: Icing on the Cake  from 20 Fantastic Studies

I love this book of well-written original studies by Helen Madden, all of which have great titles. Each one has practice tips too. This one is technically demanding and the composer herself recommends slow practice. A clear incentive perhaps?  You also need really good control of dynamics to fully bring out the character which should be ‘stylistic and bold’. If you like real jazz you’ll love this.

 

Investing in music at this level is still difficult to encourage, but with this amount of choice the task of persuading parents to part with their money should be much more straightforward!

Find this exam music and more using the Just Flutes Exam Music Finder

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!

ABRSM Logo

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.

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.

small-sonata-sample

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.

moss-garden

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 justflutes.com

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.