5 Minutes That Will Make You Love the Flute


In the past we chose the roughly five minutes to make our friends fall in love with classical music, piano, opera, cello, Mozart, 21st century composers, violin, baroque music, sopranos and Beethoven.

Now let’s convince these curious friends to love the flute. We hope that you will find a lot to discover and enjoy here. Leave your choices in the comments.

The flute is one of mankind’s oldest methods of creating a beautiful sound and is based on the most basic sign of life: breath. The earliest specimens made of bone, wood or reed come from the Paleolithic. The flute is often associated with elegiac, poetic, angelic things – with purity – but also with the world of magic; In mythology, Orpheus seduces the underworld by playing the flute. In this excerpt from Gluck’s Orpheus opera, the flute is extremely sensual and, with its lyrical ascent, leads us from earthly to heavenly joys.

Johann Joachim Quantz was a German flautist and flute maker who composed hundreds of sonatas and concertos for the instrument. Every time he wrote something, Frederick the Great, his pupil, paid him a large sum equal to the price of a cow for each concert. He died incredibly rich. This is the third movement of Quantz’s Concerto in G, a piece I learned as a child.

About twenty years ago I met a protégé of the famous flautist James Galway. The young upstart was Andrea Griminelli, who invited me to a concert – an adventurous union for a serious classical soloist and a loud, irreverent rock musician. I wrote and we recorded a duet: “Griminelli’s Lament”. We still play it and Andrea often does a nice piece written by his other buddy, Ennio Morricone: “Gabriel’s Oboe”, the theme from the movie “The Mission”. In this melody, Andrea combines his flawless nuance and technique with a pop sensibility that many classical players lack.

Dai Fujikura, the composer of these haunting monologues for bass flute, compares them to “a cold cloud of air that floats silently between the peaks of a very icy cold landscape and cuts slowly but like a knife”. Listen as Claire Chase casts a spell using sounds that seem to belong to another geological age, like gusts of wind tightening the mouth of a cave. Some notes split into two parts or vanish into thin air while here and there you can hear the ghost of a human voice passing through the instrument.

Hubert Laws is best known as a jazz flutist, but he was classically trained at the Juilliard School and has long included interpretations of classical music in his repertoire. This joyful Bach arrangement from his 1971 album “The Rite of Spring” is great for people who like jazz but don’t have much to do with classical – or if you’re not into both, you might fall in love with both! At the beginning, listen to the beautiful and original cadenza by which you recognize Bach, sometimes jazz-style, sometimes straighter. (And when you have nine minutes left, check out his haunted and fast-paced version of Ravel’s “Boléro,” which begins with a rare bass flute passage and ends with a blissful Chick Corea piano solo.)

CPE Bach’s flute concertos date from his tenure at the court of Frederick the Great, who was also a flautist, and they are brilliant representations of the Sturm und Drang movement of the 18th century, which aimed to enhance the emotional impact of art. In the last movement of the Concerto in D minor the orchestra sways violently and sets the stage for five minutes of relentless flute virtuosity, often interrupted by dramatic silence and amazing harmonic turns. When I perform it, I love watching the audience be amazed. it is brewing a storm like no other flute concert.

The piano, my instrument, was perfected in the 19th century; Hence, it can be challenging for contemporary composers to reinvent it. The situation is different with the flute, which was not always widely used as a solo instrument. In his five etudes from 1974, Isang Yun expanded the possibilities of the flute by drawing inspiration from both contemporary Western approaches and traditional Korean music, including ancient instruments such as piri and daegeum.

Take the composer and conductor Pierre Boulez at his word: “The Faun’s flute brought new breath to the art of music; What was overthrown was less the art of development than the concept of the form itself. ”If Debussy’s“ Prelude à l’Après-midi d’un Faune ”actually represented the beginning of modern music, what a beginning: sinuous, elegant , sensual. The flute comes to the fore in the music, which enchants in its ups and downs and makes you fall in love with the orchestra and the flute again.

I am often drawn to the remarkable warmth of the flute’s lower register – for example the opening of Debussy’s “Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un Faune” – and I especially love the bass flute. Marcos Balter’s “Pessoa” for six of them shows this instrument in an unusual and beautiful way: it interweaves a sighing quality with vocalization and pitches that bend, neck flutter and key clicks that shift in stereo effect, and multiple pitches stacked on top of them will create resonant sound pads.

Regardless of the style of the music or the cultural context it sings from, it is the flute’s ability to pierce the heart that moves me the most. “The Price of Everything” from “Suite for Frida Kahlo” is one of my favorites from the phenomenal James Newton. He is celebrated as a jazz flutist, but like many creative musicians he also has an active career as a composer for orchestras and classical ensembles. In this piece he sings effortlessly and gracefully through the upper register with his huge sound. In our times of contention, his brilliant performance and the title of the piece remind us of what is really important: to seek humanity in one another.

The first time I heard the shakuhachi was at a house concert, I knew I had to pursue this piercing sound. But when I tried to play one that day, I couldn’t make a sound. I borrowed a shakuhachi, found my first teacher, and devoted the past four decades to study, achievement, and teaching. It’s a strict tradition that goes remarkably well with Western classical music. A formative recording for me was Kohachiro Miyata, who performed “Honshirabe”. It led me to understand that music is not just sound, but also silence.

Those exciting four minutes hooked me on that little metal tube when I was 13, and they keep me tied to this day. Alternately it hurts, tempts, howls like a siren and breaks out into poetry. This is music that grabs the listener and refuses to let go. There is no such solo flute piece. “Density 21.5” unfolded genre-dissolving possibilities for the instrument and its repertoire and inspired performances by titans of avant-garde jazz and classical music alike; Harvey Sollberger’s 1975 rendition still shocks me with its honesty, brutality, and grace.

You could compile a list of flute highlights based solely on Claire Chase’s “Density 2036,” her amazing project of commissioning new solo programs for each of the 23 years leading up to the centenary of Varèses “Density 21.5”. These premieres have already offered an encyclopedic vision of the instrument – sometimes even within a single piece, like Marcos Balter’s “Pan”. This is a myth that is told through music, but it’s also a tour of the flute family (including panpipes, of course) and the possibilities of full-body performance that leads to the final “Soliloquy”: an ending that rattles, claustrophobic and darkly sensual at the same time is.

One of the richest flute solos in the repertoire actually shows the making of the first flute. Towards the end of the ballet “Daphnis et Chloé”, Daphnis pretends to be the god Pan, who formed reeds into pipes – panpipes! – to musically mourn the loss of a nymph he was chasing. But in Ravel’s sultry score, the song that appears is at least as seductive as it is melancholy. And even playful: this pan can’t help but dance.

After the voice and the drum, is the flute our oldest instrument? Blowing through a hollow tube creates a timbre that reaches deep into our soul. Our modern flute can do everything: fast, repeated notes, large jumps, dynamics that range from a whisper to a scream. But even in its mildest form, it is this sound that makes the flute irresistible. The great Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu wrote his exquisite “Air” for solo flute in 1995. You can hear every color of the instrument: intimate like a lullaby in its low register, ethereal like the wind up high.

Anthony Braxton’s “Composition 23C” offers an unforgettable amalgam of musical languages. If the mutual appearance of trumpet and bass initially suggests a jazz combo, their melodic partnership with Mr. Braxton’s flute shows a clever misdirection. By going through constant repetitions and gradually unfolding motifs in a lock step, the group plays a shine on minimalism with the additional advantage of improvised percussion. This was an aesthetic that Mr. Braxton had early access to as a member of the Philip Glass Ensemble. But the light-hearted conciseness of his approach to style is a unique, joyful experience.

In 1943, when the Second World War was raging, Prokofiev took a break from his audacious film music for “Ivan the Terrible” and wrote his Sonata for Flute and Piano in D. At first glance, this piece may seem brilliant. But right in the first movement, after the flowing, lyrical main theme, the music runs through episodes of dark, wandering harmonies and unsettling twists and turns. Shortly after its premiere, violinist David Oistrakh urged Prokofiev to use the piece for his instrument. But I very much prefer how the bright, piercing tones of the flute stand out – and even take over – from the piano in the original version.

I met Karlheinz Stockhausen in November 1982 at the Conservatory in The Hague when he was giving concerts and master classes. This month I performed some of his works. A week after his departure I received a call asking if I would like to come to Kürten. Stockhausen wanted to write flute music for me, and “Kathinkas Gesang”, the second act of the opera “Saturday From Light”, was born. After that he dedicated many works for flute to me. One is “Thinki” (his nickname for me), a 1997 birthday present.

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