SELECTED UNACCOMPANIED FLUTE WORKS
When planning a balanced recital program, it is important to take history, stylistic factors, compositional techniques, and melodic diversity into consideration. The chosen pieces in this recital program demonstrate a wide range of time periods and styles, all for unaccompanied flute. However, these works also include similarities such as the use of dances, certain types of technical demands, and harmonic structures. In this paper, I will discuss the emergence and the development of unaccompanied flute repertoire and will provide advice for making informed decisions when programming unaccompanied flute recitals. I will then compare and contrast the stylistic and technical demands of the pieces on this program in order to justify their selection.
The flute is one of the oldest instruments from human history. Different versions of the flute have appeared in many diverse regions and cultures of the world. Since most of the evidence of these flutes is found in artwork and texts, it is hard to determine the sound of these ancient instruments. In Ancient Greek culture, among others, the flute was used in pastoral settings, bearing association with shepherds, hunters, and mythology. It is believed that primitive flutes were used as a hunting tool to attract animals while others would fire arrows. It is surprising that such a barbaric instrument would later evolve greatly to earn an important place both as a solo instrument and in ensemble settings. While no known transverse flutes that have survived from the Middle Ages, artwork from around this time shows a flute-like instrument existed and was played sideways. These flutes had no keys, were likely made of wood or bone, and were in one solid cylindrical piece.
Human advancements in technology and craftsmanship led to the development of the flute During the Renaissance era, as people moved away from the prehistoric bone flute to a keyless wooden flute. This advancement to what would be called the transverse flute also corresponded with the rise in the instrument’s popularity. The Renaissance transverse flute, depicted in art from that time, suggests that “the flute was usually found together with other instruments in mixed ensembles.” The flutes of the Renaissance came in three or four different sizes: bass, tenor, altus, and descant. These four types of flute would perform together like a quartet, then known as a consort. The earliest surviving manuscript of flute music is Pierre Attaingnant’s two chanson collections of 1533 which includes four flutes or recorders. This is an example of how flute quartets would perform many of the same four-part pieces as vocalists of the era, which were not very virtuosic or technically demanding.
Although the flute increased its popularity during the Renaissance, the Baroque era was the period in which the flute became an important solo instrument. During the Baroque, the flute faced its most significant innovations in its design and construction, which would raise its importance as a viable and pleasing musical instrument. New developments to the design included improved mechanics, tone quality, and intonation. Industrial improvements also increased the amount of consistently made flutes which could be produced. This more pleasing sound for the listener and increased accessibility for the performer sparked interest, which led to the flute’s position as a prominent solo and ensemble instrument.
Until the Baroque era there were no known solo flute pieces; the instrument was only used in ensemble settings. The first Baroque work for the solo transverse flute, published in 1702, was Michel de la Barre’s Pièces pour la flute traversiere avec la basse-continue.” During this time, there was an equal rise in quality flute players as well as composers writing for solo flute. Sir James Galway writes that “better flutes led to better players, whose performance encouraged more composers to write more pieces.” It is important to note that these composers were not trained in playing flute, including George Frideric Handel, George Philip Telemann, and Antonio Vivaldi. Their works have remained an essential part of the repertoire not only for solo flute, but also for other genres such as chamber and orchestral music. Telemann’s Six Sonatas, Op. 2 were published in 1727, and his Twelve Fantasias for Solo Flute followed later in 1732-33. The Fantasias expanded the technical proficiency required of the performers which placed higher demands on the instrument makers in order to facilitate the technique and tone quality required.
This trend of technical, tonal, and manufacturing advances would continue to push the repertoire throughout the Baroque and Classical eras, resulting in the modern flute used today. This flute, made of metal, uses delicate keyed mechanisms made possible through the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s. Since the flute is now manufactured at such a high quality, performers have continued pushing the boundaries of technique, range, dynamics, and extended techniques. Sigfrid Karg-Elert’s Appassionata Sonata, Op. 140 (1917) for unaccompanied flute shows its high demands from the performer by using extreme range, dynamics, technicality, chromaticism, and changing tone colors. Whereas in Luciano Berio’s Sequenza I (1958) for unaccompanied flute, the composer experiments in new compositional techniques such as “the first proportional (spatial) rhythmic notation and the first known use of multiphonics for flute.” This recital program demonstrates the wide-range of the solo flute repertoire from the Classical period to twenty-first-century works and shows how the change in the flute mechanism influenced composers throughout the years.
Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach (1714-88)
Sonata in A Minor H. 562, Wq. 132 for unaccompanied flute (1763)
Born in Weimar, Germany, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-88) was the second surviving son of Johann Sebastian Bach. Georg Philipp Telemann was his godfather from whom he took his middle name. His father, Johann Sebastian Bach, was his only music teacher and the keyboard was the only instrument he seriously studied. Even though C.P.E. Bach was musically trained most of his life, in 1731 he entered the University of Leipzig to study law, and three years later transferred to the University of Frankfurt an der Oder. During his studies, he made a living by giving keyboard lessons as well as composing and directing public concerts and ceremonies. He used his skills in the liberal arts to keep strict financial records and he also wrote a practical treatise, An Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments (1755). After receiving his law degree, he served as the harpsichordist of his chamber music group in the court of King Frederick II of Prussia and later King Frederick the Great in Berlin.
Frederick the Great was an amateur flutist who commissioned C.P.E. Bach to write music for him. Frederick’s flute teacher was Johann Joachim Quantz, one of the pioneer flutists and composers of the eighteenth century, and Bach accompanied him on many performances. However, Frederick severely limited Bach’s stylistic freedom. Compared to other musicians in the court, he was underpaid and limited to mostly accompanying flute music. Eventually, this caused him to leave and serve as musical director for Hamburg’s five principal churches: the Michaeliskirche, Jakobikirche, St Katharinen, Nikolaikirche and Petrikirche. He also took over Telemann’s position as Kantor and music director in Hamburg, which he maintained until his death in 1788.
C.P.E. Bach lived in the mid-eighteenth century through the transition between the Baroque and early Classical eras—otherwise known as the galant period. Although influences from his father and the Baroque style are clear, he eventually made a transition beyond his father’s teachings, to compose in the new Classical style later in his life. He fused knowledge of his father’s high Baroque style into his preference for the French galant style and its German counterpart, the empfindsamer style (sensitive style). The galant style uses simple harmonies, light textures, and free form of music, which contrasted greatly from the more fugal and mathematical compositions of the Baroque era. However, Doris Powers states that “shifting the paradigm of our thinking would relieve us from placing Bach merely as a stepping-stone between the Baroque and Classical eras and would allow us the freedom to examine his contributions anew. From this we might be persuaded to view the man and his works in a different light.” Some even considered him as a “proto-Romantic” composer because of his interest in musical experiments, improvisation, and aesthetic values of touching the heart.
Similar to the galant style, but more specific to German literature and instrumental music was the empfindsamer Stil, of which Bach was a pioneer. This was a movement across Europe which primarily started with British literature. The primary goal of this style was to cause an emotional response more than an intellectual response to music. The empfindsamer Stil is usually identified in instrumental music by its conservative use of ornamentations compared to the previous time period, as well as its use of instrumental recitative.
Sonata in A Minor H. 562, Wq. 132 for unaccompanied flute (1763)
The Sonata in A Minor for solo flute by C.P.E. Bach was composed in 1747 in Berlin, but it was not published until 1763. The Sonata in A Minor is one of the earliest examples of unaccompanied flute, after his father’s Partita in A Minor for Flute. His father’s work is in the same key and both are for solo flute, but beyond these basic elements, the pieces are very different. It is especially notable that C.P.E. is progressive with his use of movements. The Sonata in A Minor includes three-movements titled “Poco Adagio,” “Allegro,” and “Allegro,” different from the more established fast-slow-fast works and suites of his father.
The first movement, “Poco adagio,” provides an immediate example of empfindsamer Stil which contrasts from his father. CPE Bach achieves this by featuring a recurring lower note, which serves as a bass line, alternating with the higher melody. The style of this movement is characterized by dramatic harmonic shifts, sudden changes in character, and his use of an entire measure of silence to create suspense, of which are examples of the empfindsamer Stil. These differences set C.P.E.’s Sonata in A minor apart from his father’s Partita.
As opposed to his Baroque predecessors, C.P.E. Bach includes more information in his scores about dynamics, articulations, and ornamentations. In the Baroque era it was expected by the performers to make their own interpretive decisions without these aspects having to be marked in the score. In the following example of J.S. Bach’s manuscript of Partita in A Minor, the performer must choose when and where to slur, all dynamics, where to breathe, and where to add ornamentations (Example 1).
The ornamentations alone inspire even deeper questions; for example, should the performer start ornamenting from the note above or note below or on the note? In contrast, C.P.E. Bach included dynamics and written out ornamentations in his publication of his Sonata in A minor. In his manuscript, he also places slurs over the phrases to help the performer understand the intended phrasing (Example 2).
Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933)
Sonata “Appassionata” in F# minor op. 140 for flute alone (1917)
Karg-Elert was born on November 21, 1877 in Oberndorf, Germany. His father, Johann Baptist Karg, a newspaper editor and writer, was already in poor health by the time Sigfrid was born. He was the youngest of the six children who survived out of twelve. When Karg was five, the family decided to move to Leipzig. The same year, he started his first piano lessons and music training with Bruno Roethig, cantor at Johanneskirche, who discovered the child’s talent. At the age of twelve, Karg composed a number of works without having any training in music theory including sacred works for choir which were later presented to the composer Emil von Reznicek.
Soon after, with Reznicek’s financial support, Karg entered the Leipzig Conservatory as a piano and composition student. To help pay for his studies, he started to work as a piano teacher at the Magdeburg Conservatory. Grieg encouraged Karg-Elert to study contrapuntal technique, Classical and Baroque forms, and dance idioms of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which had lasting impact in Karg-Elert’s compositions.It is only speculation, but Grieg and Karg-Elert are assumed to have met through their mutual connection to the Leipzig Conservatory.
In 1919, he was appointed as a music theory and composition instructor at the Leipzig Conservatory. During his years in Leipzig Conservatory, Carl Simon Publishing Company of Berlin recommended Karg-Elert to compose for harmonium, commissioning works and concerts for the instrument that had been installed in their concert hall during its brief popularity in the early 1900s. The harmonium is “a small reed organ patented in 1842 which features a three-octave keyboard, one set of reeds and a single blowing pedal.” He found this instrument suitable for his musical aesthetic, expressiveness, and tone color and his most noteworthy works are for harmonium and the organ.
Karg-Elert’s compositional style, much like C.P.E. Bach, varied through his lifetime and was a sort of hybrid between the established styles of his time. It is believed by Lore Elizabeth Scott that “he was known to be torn by his dual nature he inherited from his parents.” His works used Baroque and Classical imitation, German Romantic expression, influences from Claude Debussy, and impressionist sounds borrowed from the French, and contemporary techniques similar to Arnold Schoenberg and Alexander Scriabin. His later compositions demonstrate a developed original style which blends chromaticism and expanded harmonies with Renaissance and Baroque styles. For instance, in his Caprice No. 30, Op. 107 for flute, by including a chaconne, Karg-Elert features a compositional technique common of the Baroque era, specifically of the composer Johann Sebastian Bach, a style of music which served as a foundation for him.
During World War I, Karg-Elert joined the 107th Infantry Regiment band as an oboist, where he served for three and a half years. He spent his time learning various instruments, including the flute, oboe, saxophone, horn, and clarinet. One of his most influential colleagues was Carl Bartuzăt, flutist and fellow member of the same band. In addition to his position in the military band, Bartuzăt was a flutist in the Gewandhaus Orchestra and professor at Leipzig Conservatory. Karg-Elert’s decision to compose for flute was due to being exposed to not Bartuzăt’s skillful playing but also his use of the new Boehm system flute. In Karg-Elert’s preface to the 30 Caprices, he writes, “these Caprices are therefore meant to be a synthesis of the possible progressive technique demanded by the character and construction of the modern flute, above all the unparalleled ‘Boehm flute’…” Around the same years he was in contact with Bartuzăt, Karg-Elert composed eight additional pieces for flute:
- Canzona, op. 81 for soloists, choir, flute obbligato, and organ (1912)
- Sonata appassionata, op. 140 for flute alone (1917)
- Sinfonische Kanzone, op. 114 for flute and piano (1917)
- 30 Caprices, op. 107, for flute alone (1918-1919)
- Sonata in B-flat major, op. 121 for flute and piano (1918)
- Impressions exotiques, op. 134 for flute and piano (1919)
- Suite pointillistique, op. 135 for flute and piano (1919)
- Jugend, op. 139 for flute, clarinet, horn, and piano (1919)
Out of all these pieces, Sonata appassionata and 30 Caprices are two of the most highly demanding but are also two common pieces in the advanced flutist’s repertoire.
Sonata “Appassionata” in F# minor op. 140 for flute alone (1917)
This work for solo flute was composed on August 10, 1917, but it was not published until 1921. It was composed the same year as his Sinfonische Kanzone, and one year before the Sonata for Flute and Piano in B major. It is not known who gave the premier performance, but it is safe to assume it was Carl Bartužat, since the work was composed around the time Karg-Elert was part of the regiment orchestra in Leipzig. This is the composer’s only solo flute composition, besides his 30 Caprices, and is one of the earliest twentieth-century works for solo flute.
This sonata for solo flute has been given the subtitle Appassionata, or “passionate,” which describes a state in which one is easily moved towards anger or temperament, or can be used if one expresses strong emotions. The title itself says a lot about how the piece is to be performed, with passion and intensity as the essence of this piece. In addition to the title, Karg-Elert indicates the passionate feeling or style through markings of his score. Throughout the piece he uses terms such as “Sehr lebhaft und mit starker Leidenschaft” which translates to the very lively and passionate at the beginning of the piece. By adding tenuto markings Karg-Elert achieves a more emphasized and expressive linear melodic line as well as dynamic contrasts which helps to bring out the melody and contrast with the lower notes which are the accompaniment (Example 3).
He is also very specific in terms of what he wants from the performer, providing clear information on the score. For example, he uses terms like “aufgeregt” (excited), “etwas drängend” (somewhat urgent), “sehr innig” (very intimate), or “immer fieberhaft erregt bis zum Schluß” (always feverishly excited to the end), in order to convey the emotions as close as to composers’ intentions as possible (Example 4).
This work was composed four years after the solo flute piece Syrinx (1913)by Claude Debussy, which is a standard in the flute repertoire. As mentioned before, Debussy was one of Karg-Elert’s sources of inspiration; however, this is only slightly apparent when comparing Syrinx to Sonata Appassionata. Both pieces contain frequent use of chromaticism, common of the impressionist style, however, it is hard to say if this piece was intentionally written to imitate Debussy. The importance of Syrinx, in relation to Karg-Elert’s work, is that it was the first major solo flute piece since C.P.E. Bach’s Sonata in A minor, a time span of roughly 150 years. Debussy opened a new door to more expressive solo flute writing, which Karg-Elert continued with Sonata Appassionata. This work would continue to inspire the next generation of composers who wrote for solo flute such as Arthur Honneger, Paul Hindemith, Andre Jolivet, and Jacques Ibert. This creates a lineage of solo flute works expanding the possibilities of the repertoire, beginning with C.P.E. Bach and extending to composers of the 1900s, with Karg-Elert’s Sonata Appassionata serving as a connection.
This piece is similar to C.P.E. Bach’s sonata in the way in which a high melody alternates with a harmonic line below. An example of this is in the opening statement (Example 5). The high notes are written as longer note values than are actually performed, in order to help the performer visualize the melody, along with the use of phrase markings above the music. This may look different from the C.P.E. Bach sonata (Example 6), because notation is much more developed; however, the same principle of drastic register differences forming two separate parts on one instrument still applies.
This piece is not only like the Classical style of C.P.E. Bach, but it also uses elements upon which future composers of the late Romantic period and the twentieth century would build. The composer gives more markings in the score, uses extended ranges of the instrument, includes more technical passages, pushes the limits of the instrument and the performer, and uses extreme dynamics, timbre, and range. These trends in flute solo music would lead to the future compositions such as Varèse, which is a composer also represented in this recital.
Edgard Varèse (1883-1965), Density 21.5 for flute alone (1936)
Born in December 1885, French composer Edgard Varèse spent his early childhood split between Paris and Burgundy. He originally studied mathematics and engineering at the request of his father Henri Varèse, but around 1900, Varèse started his music studies with Giovanni Bolzoni and later with Albert Roussel (composition, counterpoint), Charles Bordes (pre-classical music), and Vincent d’Indy (conducting) at the Schola Cantorum. In 1905, he entered the Paris Conservatoire to study composition with Charles-Marie Widor. He then moved to Berlin in 1907 where he heard Schoenberg’s atonal works such as Pierrot lunaire (1912). Most of Varèse’s compositions written in Europe were destroyed in a Berlin warehouse before he left for New York City in 1915.
In the 1920s, he wrote a series of compositions which were innovative and influential in their rhythmic complexity, their use of free atonality, and forms not principally dependent on harmonic progression or thematic working. During this time, he also founded several groups to promote contemporary and experimental music works such as the International Composer’s Guild in 1921 and the Pan American Association of Composers (1928-34). His desire to compose and perform contemporary works was more popular within the International Composers’ Guild, which organized performances of Varèse’s pieces as well as chamber works by Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, Alban Berg, Anton Webern, Carl Ruggles, Henry Cowell and many others. The Pan American Association of Composers was founded by Varèse, Henry Cowell, Charles Ives and Carlos Chávez. The main focus being to give concerts with works by composers from North, South, and Central America and also promote experimental music in the USA, Latin America, and Europe. The Pan Association was one of the first to support performances of American music outside of the USA.
Before Verèse left Paris in 1933, he wrote to the Bell Telephone Co. and the Guggenheim Foundation to raise funding for a new electric-instrument, the “dynaphone,” which was introduced to him by René Bertrand. However, his attempt to obtain funds was denied which caused him to become deeply depressed for many years. Nevertheless, Varèse would end up being so important to the innovation of electronic music that he is considered the “father of electronic music” whose technologies and electronic sounds inspired many later musicians such as Steve Reich. Varese was the first composer to use recorded sounds in a composition with his work Déserts, premiered in 1954. This piece alternates between four instrumental sections and three sections made up of manipulated recorded sounds, the electronics serving as interludes between instrumental sections. This compositional style of Déserts laid the foundation for future pieces which would further intertwine the electronics and instrumental parts.
During the time between being denied by Bell and Guggenheim and composing his work Deserts, Verèse suffered from depression. He composed Density 21.5 for solo flute during this time, and he did not complete another composition for a decade afterwards. This is important to know when performing Density 21.5. The performer should attempt to capture his feeling of having no hope and dying desire to compose because of his mental state.
Density 21.5 for flute alone (1936)
Density 21.5 was written in 1936 and commissioned by Georges Barrère in order to feature his new platinum flute made by William S. Haynes. The title of the piece directly references the density of platinum, 21.45 grams per cubic centimeter. According to the New York Flute Club, of which the flute maker Haynes was president, this flute owned by Barrère was the first of its kind manufactured in the United States. Density 21.5 was premiered at Carnegie Hall by Barrère in the same year it was composed.
As mentioned earlier, the first major solo flute piece after C.P.E Bach’s Sonata in A Minor was Debussy’s solo flute piece Syrinx. Density 21.5 is another milestone work composed for unaccompanied flute, like Syrinx in its innovative additions to the future of unaccompanied flute repertoire. These two works are from an important era in unaccompanied flute composition, each with its own unique addition. Syrinx was the first piece in this genre to be written by a major twentieth-century composer, and Density 21.5 marked the beginning of avant-garde flute compositions. Between these two important works, from 1913-36, fifteen or more other pieces for unaccompanied flute were composed, including another major work by Karg-Elert. These works represent some of the most frequently studied and performed unaccompanied pieces for modern flutists.
Density 21.5 is a relatively short piece,lasting only about four minutes. Varèse uses the extreme ranges of the flute, extreme dynamics, articulation, expressiveness, and key clicks indicated with “+” to give a percussive effect (Example 7).
Varèse explored the range limits of the platinum flute, which was known for its ability to play through extreme registers as compared to previous models. The opening three note figure serves as the compositional material for the remainder of the piece (Example 8). These three-note motives heard throughout the piece are rhythmically related, however he does not duplicate the theme’s exact intervals as one might expect out of thematic development from previous eras. Even though this three-note motif provides a feeling of “sameness” by repeating the same rhythm, there are no identical measures in the entirety of the piece.
The piece is an exploration of one extended melodic line, which continually transitions through pitch-class and rhythmic variations. There are four big sections which are indicated with different tempo markings. The beginning tempo indication is “quarter note equals 72” which followed by the instruction: “Always strictly in time – follow metronomic indications.” The composer does not want the player to use any kind of rubato or to deviate from the tempo. In m. 28 the tempo is indicated as “quarter note equals 60,” and in m. 40 it goes back to the tempo of the first statement (quarter equals 72); at this point, the same opening motif appears in different pitches. The last tempo change is on the second beat of m. 49, when the tempo drops back to quarter equals 60, almost like a coda.
What is interesting about Density 21.5 is that he does not provide any characteristic indications other than to strictly follow the tempo. However, providing frequent dynamic changes, varying between triple and duple rhythms, and subito effects, Varèse successfully brings an unexpected but dramatic mood to the piece. Additionally, even though the player is strict with the time, the music itself already has a forward linear motion with its triple and duple variations. Listeners are not able to hear the down beat of each measure because of the way he organized the notes and rhythms. The reason the composer is strict with the time is because there is no need to stretch the notes that are already written as stretched. Taking too much time as the performer would lose the forward motion and detract from the dynamic effects.
Jean Françaix (René Désiré) (1912-1997), Suite pour Flûte Seule (1962)
French composer and pianist Jean Françaix was born into a musical family: his mother was a singer and teacher, and his father Alfred was a composer, pianist, musicologist, and director of the Le Mans Conservatoire. Françaix first studied at the Conservatoire of Le Mans with his father and later continued at the Paris Conservatory where he studied piano with Isidore Philipp. Early in his career, Françaix was discovered by Maurice Ravel, who wrote to Françaix’s father: “Among the child’s gifts I observe above all the most fruitful an artist can possess, that of curiosity: you must not stifle these precious gifts now or ever, or risk letting this young sensibility wither.” In 1922, Françaix’s family sent his piece for piano called Suite Pour Jacqueline to the publication company Editions Sénart who put this young musician in touch with Nadia Boulanger. Boulanger later took charge of his study of composition and played or conducted the first performances of several of Françaix’s works, notably at the salon of the Princesse de Polignac. During his studies at the Conservatoire, Françaix demonstrated excellent skills on the piano, gave performances on his own work, and won a premier prix at the Conservatoire de Paris in 1930.
Françaix’s rich oeuvre includes vocal, choral, solo instrumental, chamber, orchestral, film scores, operas, ballets, and traditional forms and genres such as concerto, symphony, and cantatas. He cultivated a unique aesthetic by exploiting the resources of traditional instruments, drawing on sources of the past, and imitating the colors of French composers such as Ravel. He took pride in claiming a position among neo-classical composers. Françaix’s use of traditional formal structure in his works supports his identification as a Neoclassical composer. Lyrical melodic writing and the use of Baroque and Classical forms like suites and sonatas are commonly seen in Françaix’s due to his foundation of musical education. This work, Suite pour Flûte Seule, is a prime example of this because of his title, “suite,” and movement names based on dances, such as “pavane,” “saltarelle,” “allemande,” “menuet and trio;” each of these movements also adheres to their individual dance styles. This alludes to earlier Baroque dance suites he would have studied earlier in life.
Suite pour Flûte Seule (1962)
Françaix’s music embodies French neoclassical qualities in his use of traditional forms and harmonic structures influenced by masters of the Baroque and Classical eras, such as Bach, Mozart, and Haydn. Françaix’s Suite pour Flûte Seule adds to the tradition of solo flute works of Baroque composers which have been inspired by J.S. Bach’s Sonata for Flute Solo and C.P.E. Bach’s A Minor Sonata for Flute Solo. As in Karg-Elert’s Sonata Appasionata and C.P.E’s Sonata in A Minor, Françaix also creates two voice structures throughout on the fifth movement, “Menuet,” of Suite pour Flûte Seule, which is observablein his score (Example 9). He notates in this movement two different instrumental parts on one line, showing that the flutist should bring out the differences between the bass line and the melodic line.
Françaix’s Suite is a modern adaptation of the traditional suite form, a collection of French dances. The movements are closely related to the famous Baroque suites, which were “some of the most fashionable dances in French history.” However, the first movement, “Caprice,” is unique to Francaix’s own style and makes it more of an adaptation towards the twentieth-century style. The root of the word “caprice” is “capri” meaning “goat” in Italian, and the literal meaning of “caprice” is a sudden, impulsive, and seemingly unmotivated notion or action. The word is related to “Capriccio” which first appeared in the second half of the 16th century in Italy and it was used in connection with pieces of music for voices or instruments, and instrumental pieces, particularly keyboard ones. A caprice was not a common dance movement used in a traditional Baroque suite. Karg-Elert uses the word “caprice” to bring out the style of this movement which includes sudden dynamic shifts and unexpected melodies going from leaping melodies to the long lyrical line (Example 10).
The second movement is a “pavane,” referring to a stately court dance of the 1600s. While this short movement reminscents the pavane of the earlier time period, the added embellishments, dynamic shifts and the use of chromatic line in the entire movement, blends this old dance with Karg-Elert’s modern writing (Example 10).
The second movement Pavane is followed by a Saltarelle which is technically the most challenging of the movements. The French word Saltarelle derived from Italian Saltarelle, which is a rapid Italian dance, usually in triple metre and involving jumping movements. Francaix also characterised Saltarelle by using triplets in 4/4 time with a rapid tempo. The suite’s fourth movement is an Allemande, a slow dance which was born in Germany but reached its height of popularity in eighteenth-century France. The style of this movement contrasts greatly from the previous lively dance, giving the listener a time to be calm and reflective. The Allemande also features the French tierce de picardie, or picardy third, in the final bars of the piece. This is achieved through the final cadence ending on a major chord instead of the minor chord fitting the key of the movement. After the Allemande, the suite is wrapped up by a lively Menuet and a traditional Marche.
The Suite pour Flûte Seule’s use of traditional Baroque suite movements, in combination with Francaix’s expansion of the more modern style in the “Caprice,” make it a great example of how earlier flute works transitioned in style while still maintaining a tradition. From the works of Bach to Francaix, there are innovations each step of the way, but with the neoclassical movement there is a particularly strong correlation between the multiple styles of unaccompanied flute works.
Luciano Berio (1925-2003), Sequenza I.
Luciano Berio was born in Oneglia, Italy in 1925. He was born into a musically trained family; both his father Ernesto and grandfather Adolfo were organists from whom Berio received his training. He started to play the piano in his early years and performed with chamber groups from the age of nine. Through this training he became familiar with chamber music by Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, and Dvořák, which helped him grow as a professional musician with a solid background in the classical tradition. He ended his career as a pianist after injuring his hand in an explosion in the military training when Italian leader Benito Mussolini forced Italians into military service. After Berio’s service in the military, he studied composition in Milan with Giulio Cesare Paribeni and Giorgio Federico Ghedini, as well as conducting with Carlo Maria Giulini and Antonino Votto.
In 1952, Berio took a trip to the United States to study with Luigi Dallapiccola at the Tanglewood Music Festival. During this time, Berio began intense study of the twelve-tone system as well as became familiar with electronic music, which would later become one of his signature areas of composition. Just two years later, he created Italy’s first electronic music studio at the RAI Milan, and continued this work by establishing Studio di Fonologia Musicale the following year. In the late fifties, Berio experimented with concepts such as the interaction of acoustic instruments and electronically synthesized sounds such as in Momenti (1957), as well as experimenting with relationships between sounds and words such as in his works Thema, Omaggio a Joyce (1958). However, in the sixties, he began experimenting with more complex instrumentation to achieve new musical timbres, like in his work Tempi concertati (1959). Berio spent most of the 1960s teaching at Mills College (1962-64) in Oakland, California, and later at the Juilliard School in New York City (1965-71) where he began the Juilliard Ensemble, which champions contemporary music. Even though Berio injured his hand during the military service, he was still able to accompany the voice class in his school to earn a small income throughout his time in Milan. There he met vocalist Cathy Berberian, an American studying voice in Milan on a Fulbright Fellowship, who became his wife in 1950. The relationship between the two was influential on Berio’s development. He started to investigate the resources of the female voice, particularly his wife’s voice, who premiered several of his works in the 1960s such as Epifanie (1959-60), Circles (1960), and Sequenza III for voice (1965). “Sequenza” is the name Berio assigned to the fourteen compositions for solo instruments or voice, in which uses extended techniques and explores the idiomatic potential of these individual instruments or voices. Several of these works were later revised for the other instruments by the composer himself. The set of fourteen Sequenzas are:
Sequenza I (1958, rev. 1992) for flute
Sequenza II (1963) for harp
Sequenza III (1965) for female voice
Sequenza IV (1965) for piano
Sequenza V (966) for trombone
Sequenza VI (1967) for viola
Sequenza VII (1969) for oboe (Sequenza VIIb for soprano saxophone)
Sequenza VIII (1976) for violin
Sequenza IX (1980) for clarinet (Sequenza IXb for alto sax and Sequenza IXc bass cl.)
Sequenza X (1984) for trumpet and piano resonance
Sequenza XI (1987) for guitar
Sequenza XII (1995) for bassoon
Sequenza XIII (1995) for accordion
Sequenza XIV (2002) for cello (Sequenza XIVb for double bass)
Sequenza I per flauto solo (1958, revised in 1992)
The first Sequenza wasfor solo flute, written in 1958 for the Italian flutist Severino Gazzelloni (1919-92). Sequenza I is not only important for being the first of the series of sequenzas, but also for being one of the milestone works for unaccompanied flute following Debussy’s Syrinx andVarese’s Density 21.5 (1936). Berio’s Sequenza I is a virtuosic piece which requires the interpreter’s careful attention to notation. Berio found many performances of this piece dissatisfying. In early 1966, Swiss flutist Aurele Nicolet was preparing a recording of Sequenza I and sent it to Berio to receive feedback from the composer. In response to the recording, Berio wrote in a letter:
“This piece has already been recorded several times, unfortunately always in an imprecise manner … I have MM 70 indicated, that should be interpreted with a little flexibility, which permits one to respect these proportions of time and speed. At the time I wrote Sequenza I, in 1958, I considered the piece so difficult for the instrument that I didn’t want to impose on the player specific rhythmical patterns. I wanted the player to wear the music as a dress, not as a straitjacket. But as a result, even good performers were taking liberties that didn’t make any sense, taking the spatial notation almost as a pretext for improvisation. Certainly, some sort of flexibility is part of the conception of the work. But the overall speed, the high amount of register shifts, the fact that all parameters are constantly under pressure, will automatically bring a feeling of instability, an openness which is part of the expressive quality of the work – a kind of ‘work-in-progress’ character if you want.”
The letter by Berio provides a great source and perspective to the piece. Severino Gazzelloni and Aurele Nicolet’s performance of the Sequenza I is available on online platforms, and is the most informed recording available because of the early feedback given by Berio himself. These recordings could serve as a reference to flute players to understand the composer’s intentions.
Berio’s intention in Sequenza I was to use precise and metered notation in the first edition. He used spatial notation to indicate the note proportions in the Sequenza I,which he believed would allow for some freedom in execution. Berio stated, “in the Sequenzas as a whole there are various unifying elements, some planned, others not.” This open style of composition helps us to know that multiple interpretations are possible, leaving the artist to finalize the creative process, either through pacing, form, interpretation of motivic ideas, or with space between notes. Also, Berio wrote the original Sequenza I, written in 1958, without the bar lines. Usage of spatial notation and having no bar lines caused misunderstanding of the composer’s intention (Example 11).
Berio used very non-traditional notation for the Sequenza I. The time between notes is determined by their physical distance. Below are some of the notations that Berio preferred to use in this piece (Example 12). In the first example, a single curved flag indicates that the note is played very short. The example in the middle, shows the duration is proportional to the length of the beam and the last note marked with a fermata on the top indicates an unspecified duration.
Years later, Berio was still dissatisfied with some performances of Sequenza I and also not entirely pleased with his own notational style. Thus, he edited a new version published by Universal Edition in 1992. The new edition of the piece provided a clearer metrical framework and understanding the duration of the notes (Example 13).
Even though Sequenza I is technically challenging for the flute, it still solidified its place in the flute repertoire and is still performed often in many competitions. The 1958 Edizioni Suvini Zerboni version includes the original notation and the Universal Edition from 1992 has the newer, conventional notation. This work not only requires a high level of playing ability, but also a complex understanding of the compositional language and the composer’s intention behind the notation.
Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), Tango-Études pour flûte seule, no. 3 (1987)
The Argentinian composer and virtuoso bandoneón (square-built button accordion) performer Astor Piazzolla is known for his reinvention of the tango. He was born in Buenos Aires in 1921 and emigrated to New York in 1924 with his family. In 1937, he returned to Buenos Aires where he studied classical music with Alberto Ginastera and also gave concerts and made tango arrangements for bandleader Anibal Troilo. His symphony composed in 1954 won him a scholarship to study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. Upon studying with Boulanger, Piazzolla composed according to the classical tradition, but Boulanger encouraged him to keep his unique tango culture and his instrument bandoneón when she mentioned: “Astor, your classical pieces are well written, but the true Piazzolla is here, never leave it behind.” The following year he returned to Argentina and created the club “Jamaica” where he performed his own music with his newly formed group called Octeto Buenos Aires; later, he formed the Quinteto Nuevo Tango. In 1974, Piazzolla left Argentina and went back to Paris where he composed a bandoneón concerto and a cello sonata for Russian cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich.
Piazzolla’s unique tango style includes elements of fugue, extreme chromaticism, dissonance, jazz, and expanded instrumentation. This new form became known as tango nuevo or new tango. Piazzolla devoted his life to tango nuevo which consists of elements from jazz and classical music. His tango nuevo brought reborn interest to the traditional tango by using expanded styles borrowed from atonality, pedal point, polyphony, chromaticism, jazz, and rock. While all of these factors did expand the traditional tango, Piazzolla’s genius is in how he still retained the general and recognizable tango form. He also challenged traditional tango by writing for unique instrument combinations, composing works for solo flute, flute and guitar, string quartets, and orchestra.
Piazzolla’s new tango style first found approval in France and the USA. In Argentina, where tango is a central force of culture and national pride, some purists were maddened by the liberties taken from tradition, even to the extent that in the late 1960s, Argentina’s government criticized Piazzolla for his new style of music. Piazzolla’s music was more widely accepted by the 1980s, even in his native country Argentina. During those times his music was also taken up by the classical performers such the well-known Kronos Quartet (American string quartet based in San Francisco) who commissioned Five Tango Sensations in 1989. Piazzolla composed a vast amount of music, more than 3000 works. His music is well-known and is sought out by every kind of accomplished musician, from jazz, classical, opera, and rock and roll. Piazzolla’s tango nuevo revolutionized tango and brought it from Argentinian night clubs to concert halls all over the world.
Tango-Études pour flûte seule, no. 3 (1987)
The six Tango-Études pour flûte seule were composed in 1987, towards the end of Piazzolla’s career. The Tango-Études are Piazzolla’s only solo work written for a single line melodic instrument. He composed works for solo instruments, such as Cuatro piezas breves (1944) for piano and Pedro y Pedro (1981) for bandoneón, but these instruments provide a polyphonic or chordal texture other than one melodic line.
There are six études which are well-written and use conventional notation style in terms of dynamics, articulations, and tempo. Classically trained flutists approach these etudes as they would learn a conventional piece, first by learning all the correct notes, rhythms, and following the composer’s indications. However, there are different performance practices in the tango style. The tango approach to performance has more in common with genres such as jazz and Baroque music. The styles are based on written framework and rules but largely influenced by improvisation and imitation. For example, in works by Bach or Telemann, the written notation serves as a basic guide to the music, but it does not provide complete instructions for dynamics, embellishments, or articulations. The artistic decisions made by the performer impact the music as much as the composer’s written guidelines. There are stylistic decisions and performance practices not written on the score which make a performance more meaningful, and these factors must be considered before the flutist can achieve a moving performance.
In Tango-Études, Piazzolla uses certain recognizable elements of tango nuevo such as tonal ambiguity, frequent metric changes, and polyphonic texture. This is similar to style brisé, a broken, arpeggiated texture used in Baroque music. The following example shows both the metric changes and the style brisé with the use of arpeggios (Example 13).
Those similarities also can be found in Étude no. 3; however, instead of using metric changes, Piazzolla uses a hemiola-like rhythmic pattern to imitate metric changes, which adds more swing to the music (Example 14).
Tango-Études are not the most technically challenging etudes for the flute, however they are worth studying in order to learn to bring out the tango style. Not understanding the performance practice of these works may cause common performance issues. For example, Tango-Étude no. 3 sits mostly in the middle register and only a few passages expose the higher register. One challenge found in no. 3 is Piazzolla’s use of accents with a ff marking in the middle register, in an attempt to bring out the tango rhythm; this is more challenging on the flute than the bandonian (Example 15). The Étude no. 3 is subtitled as “Molto marcato e energico” meaning a lot more like a hammer and energetic within a rapid tempo.
Those similar challenges are also present in the Density 21.5 by Edgard Varèse who also uses sudden dynamic changes and sharp articulations in the lower and middle register of the instrument (Example 16).
In the Étude no. 3, Piazzolla quotes a theme from a popular Chilean song called The People United Will Never Be Defeated (1975), by composer Sergio Ortega (1938-2003). Following examples shows how Piazzolla takes the theme and infuses it to the Étude no. 3 harmonically and melodically (Example 17-18).
Piazzolla shows his knowledge of conventional compositional forms by hinting at a ternary form to the Étude no. 3. The formal structure of this etude is as follows: A (mm. 1–31), B (mm. 49–60), A (mm. 61–92). He introduces new material between mm. 32–48, when he quotes Ortega’s song, which could be considered as A’ material. The A section is titled as “molto marcato e energico,” B section as “meno mosso e piu cantabile,” with ad libitum added in m. 55, and the last A section “tempo primo,” ends with the same material as the first A section. Piazzolla’s use of devices such as fermatas, ad libitum, and different tempo indications show Piazzolla’s implication to embrace the more improvisatory style of the tango.
The chosen pieces in this recital program paper demonstrate a wide range of time periods and styles, from the Classical period to the twenty-first century, all for unaccompanied flute. However, despite their various styles and eras, these works also include similarities such as the use of dances, certain technical demands, compositional devices, and harmonic structures. It is important to take history, stylistic factors, compositional techniques, and melodic diversity into consideration when selecting a well-balanced recital in order to reflect accurately the diversity and evolution of flute repertoire.
All of the pieces from this recital sound different stylistically, but after exploring each work and the collection of works more in depth, this paper has shown clear connections between each piece, forming a long line of commonalities which reflect the advancement of the solo flute repertoire. For example, there are influences from J. S. Bach’s A Minor Partita in Sonata in A Minor by C.P.E. Bach; these are also found in the works of Jean Françaix and Sigfrid Karg-Elert. Even though Piazzolla wrote in a completely different style, influences of previous composers for unaccompanied flute are still found in his works, sometimes appearing as a melody, as a form, or through his use of motivic ideas. It is important to mention that there is no major composition for unaccompanied flute between the time when C.P.E. Bach composed his Sonata in A Minor (1763) and Debussy’s Syrinx (1913). So, in a way, Debussy opened a new door for twentieth-century composers and influenced later composers with his unique compositional style, while also using a door which had been opened by composers generations before.
C.P.E. Bach used elements upon which future composers of the late Romantic period and even throughout the twentieth century would build. The composers each push the limits of the instrument and the performer, in their own unique ways, which lead to future compositions such as the ones discussed by Varèse and Berio. It is my hope that this paper will serve as a guide for those selecting solo flute recital repertoire which contains musical variety and historical significance while demonstrating the advancement of the flute as a solo instrument.