Fuzzette, the Tarantula for Narrator, Flute, Alto Saxophone and Piano
- Staff Pick
Pan - Journal of the British Flute Society
Many readers will be familiar with Muczynski’s other flute works; this programmatic piece, scored for flute, alto saxophone, piano and narrator, utilises his characteristic style to tell the story of the tarantula, Fuzzette. The story draws on the well-known narrative of The Ugly Duckling, but casts the main character as a hairless tarantula, convinced no one will love her because she is different. The piece alternates the narrator’s storytelling with short interludes from the ensemble to illustrate the tale.
This is a work conceived with young children in mind, and the music manages to balance being accessible whilst illustrating the story, all without sacrificing Muczynski’s own compositional style. While some musical interludes are only a few bars long, the longer ones in particular contain the frequent changes of meter, rhythmic drive and chromatic harmony that those familiar with the composer’s other music will recognise. The opening and closing movements are amongst the longer ones, and here we see the use of a theme representing Fuzette, which starts and ends the piece. The inner movements mirror the story more closely, with music mentioned in the narration and then heard in the ensemble, or otherwise depicting the feelings of the characters.
Flute, saxophone and piano is a relatively unusual combination, but the ensemble provides interesting colours, and Muczynski’s use of the different instruments throughout the piece gives a good level of textural variety. Both flute and saxo-phone have solo sections, and there is a duet between the two instruments without piano. Although there are no major challenges from an ensemble perspective, as with all Muczynski’s works, the playing needs to be rhythmically secure, as the rhythmic interplay between the instruments is an important aspect of the music. The edition clearly lays out the parts and all ensemble entries are clearly cued.
Written in 1962, there are moments where the story feels outdated for a twenty-first century audience (is the biggest prize a young girl can hope for really a proposal from the most hand-some spider in the village?), but this is no different to many other well-loved fairy stories, and that aside, this piece would make an unusual and interesting addition to a children’s concert programme.
From the Publisher
In 1962, the 33-year-old Robert Muczynski had already composed his flute sonata and other mature works, and recently had joined the faculty of University of Arizona, where he remained for the rest of his life. During that year, Muczynski held a Ford Foundation grant to bring his music to the public schools in the Tucson area. The charming-yet-profound result was a narrated work along the lines of Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling. Set in Arizona, Fuzzette is a hairless tarantula who assumes no one likes her for being different – until the handsome and charismatic Pancho falls in love with her for her individualism. Muczynski’s musical setting has all the charm, elegance, and jazz underpinnings of his best-loved works for flute and for saxophone.
Honourable Mention: NFA Newly Pulbished Music Awards 2020
Performance duration (approx): 14'00
Difficulty level, roughly compared to ABRSM exam grades. 0 is beginner, 9 is advanced (beyond grade 8).