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Uncommon Sheet Music for Flute and Alto Flute

On April 21, 2013, Flute Focus published the foreword to Noteworthy Sheet Music's transcription of Claude Debussy's Première Rhapsodie for alto flute. This interesting and enlightening foreword, written by flutist Peter H. Bloom, is presented below in it's entirety. 

 

Transcription of Claude Debussy's Première Rhapsodie For Alto Flute

Foreword to Noteworthy Sheet Music's recent publication of a transcription of Debussy's Première Rhapsodie For Alto Flute by Peter H Bloom

 

Most flutists, especially those who've become interested in performing on alto flute, are well acquainted with the long and storied tradition of the Morceaux de Concours of the Paris Conservatory. From the early nineteenth-century through the present, candidates for graduation from the conservatory have been required to perform a prescribed examination piece, morceau de concours, before a jury of professors. With rare exceptions, a special morceau was commissioned for each instrument every year.

Often written hastily and with attention to then-current stylistic and technical concerns, the majority of the Morceaux des Concours are undistinguished, derivative, dated, and by definition, mediocre. Sometimes, however, a composer found the constraints of deadline, orchestration, and duration to be inspiring; and occasionally the commission of a Morceau de Concours results in an enduring treasure. Claude Debussy's Première Rhapsodie for clarinet, written for the examination of 1910, is such a gem.

First performed in July of that year by eleven (!) candidates for a jury that included Debussy himself, the Première Rhapsodie was immediately well received by players and auditors alike. Clarinetists, for over a century, have considered it an essential element in the repertoire.

I hadn't, as a flutist, been particularly knowledgeable about the Première Rhapsodie until I received the roster of a masterclass I was preparing to present. Among the participants was a clarinetist who had chosen to perform Debussy's Première Rhapsodie. I decided that the best way to become familiar with the piece was to adapt it, as well as I could, to the flute.

My sense of the Première Rhapsodie progressed quickly from challenging, to charming, to utterly captivating, but adapting it to the concert flute wasn't going to work. The range was wrong, the sonorities didn't work, and the "Debussy-esque" sensibility just didn't translate. While I was considering what a shame it was that we flutists couldn't poach this exquisite item, I returned to practicing the obbligato to Schubert's Der Hirt auf dem Felsen in its alto flute transcription (also published by Noteworthy Sheet Music) and inspiration struck.

Noteworthy Sheet Music editor-in-chief Carol Vater responded to my suggestion with enthusiasm and immediately set to work on this sensitive and beautifully edited transcription, for alto flute, of thePremière Rhapsodie. Purists may argue that such a re-imagining of this piece is sacrilege. Perhaps, but consider that the clarinetist to whom the piece was dedicated, Prosper Mimart (and many of his students), performed with the "reed up" technique and a both-lips-in embouchure that produced a sound unlike that of most clarinetists today.

As we adopt Debussy's Première Rhapsodie, we should be mindful that the composer's instructions to the clarinetist (especially concerning articulations, paired slurrings, and dynamics) will require extra attention and insight from the flutist. Here we have an opportunity to apply Marcel Moyse's principles of artistry through emulation.

P.H. Bloom, December 29, 2012 ©

Flutist Peter H. Bloom performs diverse chamber music from period-instrument performances to new music premieres. He is also a noted jazz artist. He concertizes widely, appears on 35 recordings, and is a winner of the American Musicological Society's Noah Greenberg Award. He has given lectures, workshops and master classes across the globe on such wideranging topics as historical performance, new music, jazz and improvisation. Mr. Bloom serves as Editorial Consultant for Noteworthy Sheet Music, LLC. His own transcriptions of the Bach Chaconne, Schubert Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, and Hatton/Longfellow The Wreck of the Hesperus are available at www.NoteworthySheetMusic.com.

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This fascinating and highly informative article (PHB © February 2018) was written by flutist Peter H. Bloom as a foreword to NSM's edition of Salute to New York, A Song for the Flute.  It provides interesting historical details regarding the composer and flutist Louis Drouet, his 1854 U.S. performance of Salute to New York, the New York Crystal Palace venue, and Hall & Son's flutes.

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Louis Drouet Salute to New York, a Song for the Flute

“This Song was performed by Mr. Drouet at the Grand reopening of the American Crystal Palace, May 1st (sic) 1854 ...” i

Inspired by the London “Great Exposition (1851),” New York investors imagined their own Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations. In July of 1853 their enormous glass and cast iron “Temple of Industry and Art” was opened for business.ii Despite monumental architecture, magnificent displays, and an enthusiastic public, the Crystal Palace was near financial ruin within months.

Desperate shareholders concurred that their only hope for fiscal salvation was to engage new leadership. After considerable cajoling, legendary showman Phineas T. Barnum reluctantlyiii assumed the presidency of The Exhibition.  Barnum arranged a re-inauguration ceremony (complete with a 3.5-mile-long, 3-hour parade from City Hall to the Crystal Palace at 42nd St. at Sixth Avenueiv) to coincide with his installation as president of the operation.  Following the parade, at 3 PM on Thursday May 4, 1854,v Barnum addressed the multitude assembled for a rededication the Temple.  His impassioned oration exhorted manufacturers, inventors, and merchants and extolled the American virtues of innovation, cooperative competition, and entrepreneurship.  A press account reports: “Mr. Barnum’s speech was followed by the soft music of the flute by M. Drouet, which, notwithstanding the immense space it had to fill, gave the audience extreme delight.”vi Delighted they may have been, but it’s unlikely, given the appalling acoustics of the gargantuan glass greenhouse, that the audience actually heard the performance.vii

Louis-Francois-Philippe Drouet (1792-1873) is one of the most highly esteemed flute virtuosi in history.  Innumerable contemporary press accounts of his concert triumphs throughout Europe attest to his technical brilliance and exquisite musicianship.  He was a prolific and accomplished composer, author, flute theoretician, and pedagogue.  His many etudes are still prescribed as tools for flute mastery. His Method of Flute Playing (1830) and 72 Studies on Style and Taste (1855) provide us with useful information concerning instrumental technique and performance practice in the mid-nineteenth century.

American concert tours by itinerant European virtuosi were not uncommon at the time.  Celebrities such as pianist Henri Herz, violinists Ole Bull and Henri Vieuxtemps, bassist Giovanni Bottesini and many other instrumentalists, as well as countless singers, had concertized in The States before mid-century.  In 1850, soprano Jenny Lind, the “Swedish Nightingale,” made a sensational barnstorming tour across the United States.  The spectacle, produced and managed by P. T. Barnum, established a culture of musical superstardom in America that persists to this day.viii

Drouet, along with his son, undertook their speculative expedition to the New World in 1854.  It’s difficult to imagine that an arduous Atlantic crossing and the uncertainties of an American adventure would appeal to an established celebrity such as Drouet père.  Louis Drouet Jr., on the other hand, was an aspiring concert pianist and former student of Felix Mendelssohn and Mendelssohn’s mentor Ignaz Moscheles.ix  The story of Jenny Lind’s unprecedented windfall via Barnum was likely irresistiblex to an industrious son and a supportive father.

Louis Drouet’s prominent place as the featured performer immediately following Barnum’s address shows a number of things: despite having only recently arrived from Europe, Drouet Sr.’s reputation as a celebrity flute virtuoso had already been established in Manhattan; Barnum believed the general broad audience of The Great Exhibition was sufficiently sophisticated to be attracted to his event by the addition of an instrumental soloist of Drouet’s refinement; and the flute was the instrument of maximum Victorian era “sex appeal.”

“…On a Flute Manufactured by Wm. Hall & Son.” xi

The publisher’s note that Drouet performed Salute to New York on a flute made by the publisher’s own firm is worth considering.  Louis Drouet Sr., as well as having been a performer, composer, and conductor, was also experienced in the design and manufacture of high quality flutes.  Superb specimens attest to the excellence of the few instruments he produced in London in 1819 during his brief collaboration with ingenious London builder Cornelius Ward.xii

William Hall had apprenticed as an instrument builder in Albany before the war of 1812.  He began his professional career working for the esteemed flute-maker (later to become his father-in-law) Edward Riley in Manhattan.  He then formed profitable partnerships with woodwind manufacturers John Firth and Sylvanus Pond.  Leaving Firth and Pond in 1847, Hall partnered with his son, James, in order to expand into the burgeoning American enterprises of piano manufacturing and music publishing.xiii We know, from extant examples, that Hall & Son’s line included some elegantly designed and finely constructed woodwinds.

Although he may have been paid by Hall & Son for his endorsements, Drouet’s enthusiasm for Halls’ instruments is unmistakably authentic.  Shortly after his Crystal Palace performance he wrote:

Gentlemen: - It Affords me much pleasure to give you this testimonial of the superiority of your Flutes. Since my arrival in America I have seen a number of them, and played upon one of them at the opening of the Crystal Palace. During fifty years’ experience I have never found instruments more perfect in tone, tune, and finish, and I feel it due to you before leaving the United States to express the pleasure it has given me to find the Flute brought to such perfection here. Receive my best wishes for the proper appreciation of these excellent instruments by the public, and believe me very truly yours, L. DROUET.xiv

The sentiment expressed in Salute to New York, a Song for the Flute is also unmistakably authentic.

        —Peter H. Bloom, February 2018 ©


i      The performance date was, in fact, May 4 as we’ll see below.
ii      New York Times July 30, 1853 P. 1
iii     Barnum, Phineas T., The autobiography of P.T. Barnum: Clerk, Merchant, Editor, and Showman.
        London: Ward and Lock, 1855.p. 152
iv     New-York Daily Tribune Friday May 5, 1854. P. 5
v     The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Evening Edition, Thursday May 4, 1854.
vi     New-York Daily Tribune Friday May 5, 1854. P. 5
vii    Lawrence, Vera Brodsky, Strong on Music Vol. 2 (Reverberations).
        Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1995. P.460.
viii   Preston, Katherine K., in The Cambridge History of American Music.
        Ed: David Nichols P. Cambridge University Press 1998. P.200ff
ix     Rasch, Rudolf, in the preface to the Facsimile reproduction of: Drouet, Louis, The Method of Flute Playing
        (originally published London by Cocks, 1830), Buren, Netherlands: Frits Knuf Pub., Rien de Reede Ed. 1990. P. IX
x     Barnum contract provided Jenny Lind a per-performance fee of $1000 - equivalent to $30,000 US in January of 2018.
xi    Footnote on the first page of the piano accompaniment of Louis Drouet’s “Salute to New York” A Song for the Flute.
       New York: William Hall & Son, 1854.
xii   Waterhouse, William, New Langwill Index: a Dictionary of Wind-Instrument Makers and Inventors.
       Tony Bingham, London, 1993. P. 95
xiii   Ibid. p. 158:
xiv   The Musical World and New York Musical Times, Vol IX No.7. June 17, 1854.

 

 

“Mozart’s Mannheim Sonatas”, a highly interesting & informative article written by John W. Pratt was published by Flute Focus on November 5, 2012.  John has contributed numerous arrangements & transcriptions to NSM’s catalog, including transcriptions for alto flute of all the "Mannheim" sonatas.  We re-publish his article here, with permission. 

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Mozart’s Mannheim Sonatas

Written by John W. Pratt

 

In 1777-78, on the way to Mannheim, where he wrote the first two of his flute quartets, Mozart became acquainted with six violin sonatas by Joseph Schuster. He was sufficiently impressed that he sent them to his sister and planned to write six himself in the same style. In fact he wrote seven, now known as the “Mannheim sonatas”. He started work on them around the time he finished the second of the flute quartets, completing five in Mannheim and two (K.304 and K.306) later in Paris after his mother died. They are the first violin sonatas of his maturity, and are not only as delightful as one would expect, but also significant in his musical development and the development of chamber-music style generally. They elevate the violin to an interesting and essential role and advance the interplay between the instruments. The violin leads as often as the piano and is crucial to the orchestration but is largely spared Mozart's typical keyboard passage work.

 

Flutists regret that Mozart created so little chamber music featuring the flute. Along with the four flute quartets, there remains only a diminutive Adagio and Rondo for glass-harmonica, flute, oboe, viola, and cello (K.617). Happily the violin parts of the Mannheim sonatas are perfectly suited to transcription for alto flute. They rarely make significant use of double stops and their range and character are in general well served by the alto. In fact, K.301 was begun with flute in mind, and Alfred Einstein [1] points to “the flutelike character of K.303 as well”. Indeed the flute can execute with elegance some accompaniment figures that Einstein considers “not really appropriate” to the violin.

 

The six sonatas K.301-306 were published as a set in 1778. K.296, among the earliest composed, was not published until 1781. K.296 and K.306 have three movements each. The rest, like most of Schuster's, have only two movements in the style of the older tradition (although Mozart had all along included significant slow middle movements in his solo piano sonatas). The movements display great variety, however. In particular, they almost all differ structurally, whether because Mozart wanted to experiment, gave rein to his fertile imagination, reacted creatively to his musical materials, or all three. Some highlights of the individual sonatas are described below.

 

K.301 pairs a sunny Allegro con spirito with what amounts to a charming allegrominuet with a trio section in the minor, although it is as near a Beethoven scherzo as a Haydn minuet. The ebullient K.302 has an Allegro with an unusual call to attention in 3/4 time, and a rondo, Andante grazioso, with a forward-moving theme that is variously and charmingly re-orchestrated.

 

Both movements of K.303 are quite different from others of the set. The first is in sonata form without development, in an older style in some ways but advanced in others. In the exposition, the first theme and transition to the dominant are adagio while the second theme is allegro; in the recapitulation, the violin elaborates the adagio first theme and the piano figures accompanying the allegro second theme are inverted. Sadie [2] says Mozart derived this structure from Schuster, while Einstein harks back to Mozart's “beloved Johann Christian Bach” and says, "it is noticeable at times that he [Mozart] finds himself on new and unexplored paths." The second movement is an old-style minuet (without trio), ending with a pedal point terminating in a tremble.

 

K.304 initiated my interest in the Mannheim sonatas. Mozart's works in minor keys are rare and special; consider his Symphony No.40 and the G-minor quintet. K.304, his only work in E minor, and the piano sonata in A minor, K.310, were written the summer that his mother died, an association often noted. K.304 epitomizes Mozart’s ability to achieve great power with spare means. Einstein says it "is one of the miracles among Mozart's works; it springs from the most profound depths of emotion and goes beyond the alternating dialogue style to knock at those gates of the great world of drama which Beethoven was to fling wide open. Mozart does not become pathetic, and this reserve, this concealment of an inner fire, together with--in the portion in major of the Tempo di Minuetto--a brief glimpse of bliss, only enhances the mysterious power of this apparently ‘little’ sonata. As always when Mozart is deeply in earnest, he has recourse to ... counterpoint; in this sonata he uses it to accentuate the transitions." The bliss is so sublime that one is tempted to take an extra repeat.

 

Whereas K.304 is by far the most introspective of the Mannheim sonatas, K.305 is perhaps the most completely extroverted. Like K.302, it opens with four emphatically tonic measures, followed by a gentle, linear four-bar theme, all immediately repeated. Here, however, the repeat is identical and is omitted in the recapitulation, while the first half of the development is based on inverting the opening material. The second movement of K.305 is the only movement of the Mannheim sonatas in theme-and-variations form. It is far from routine. The theme has an unusual variety of rhythms and accompaniment figurations; the 32nd-note variation is the very first; the minor variation is at the prevailing tempo; and a brief piano cadenza interrupts the antepenultimate variation’s peroration. The violin contributes to the inventiveness, variously leading, trading ideas with the piano, playing in thirds with it, adding color in unison or octaves, and even staying silent for a whole variation.

 

K.306 is the longest and showiest of the Mannheim sonatas, having three large-scale movements with some almost orchestral textures, much doubling, and brilliant passage work. The first movement’s development, after an 8-bar canon to set the stage, expands four transitional bars of the exposition into a far-reaching harmonic excursion in twelve 2-bar steps. The recapitulation begins with the second subject and returns to the first so late it amounts to a coda, the only instance of ‘mirror’ sonata-form in the Mannheim set. In contrast, the second movement, Andante cantabile, has a structurally orthodox sonata form, compressing and ornamenting the themes in the recapitulation, as befits the tempo. The finale is an elaborate rondo alternating between allegretto in 2/4 and allegro in 6/8, with several grand pauses and a huge, 46-bar cadenza initiated by the piano with the violin joining in (compare the piano’s arpeggio terminating in a chromatic scale in a single bar of K.304).

 

Mozart dedicated K.296 to his pupil Therese-Pierron Serrarius, his Mannheim landlord’s 15-year old daughter. If Mozart responded to her youthfulness, however, it was not with smaller scale or easier writing but with, for example, turns brightening the opening fanfares, quick trills in the first theme, and contrasting textures and sparkling interplay between the instruments. (Sadie calls K.296 “light, almost playful”.) The first movement follows “normal” sonata form although the recapitulation omits the last part of the first subject, this part having been used to open a rather short development which consists otherwise of new material. Einstein says the second movement, Andante sostenuto, “is an instrumental arietta, of which both the theme and the character of the accompaniment are taken almost note for note from an aria by the London master [Johann Christian Bach] (Dolce aurette). But in Johann Christian we find none of the daring modulations of the middle section.” In the concluding Rondo, the instruments swap the theme at the opening and the two returns, as well as much of the episodic material. The first episode modulates to the dominant where there is a “second theme”, and the second episode recapitulates this second theme in the tonic after modulating to the relative minor and the subdominant. The movement is thus a sonata-rondo.

 

I have transcribed the violin parts of all seven of the Mozart Mannheim sonatas for alto flute, so that my flute duo partner and I, and flute-piano partnerships generally, could enjoy playing and performing these wonderful pieces. We hope others will find them as delightful as we have.

 

[1] Einstein, Alfred, 1945. Mozart, trans. Mendel and Broder, Oxford U. Press, pp.253-255.

[2] Sadie, Stanley, 1980. “Mozart” in The New Grove, Stanley Sadie ed., Macmillan, vol. 12, p.697.

John W. Pratt, 2012 ©

  

 

John W. Pratt is a retired Harvard Business School professor and pianist whose transcriptions and arrangements are published by Noteworthy Sheet Music, LLC (visit www.NoteworthySheetMusic.com to view all his catalog listings).

This review of Elizabeth Vercoe's piece Butterfly Effects for flute(s) and harp was written by Nicole Riner and first published in the Fall 2015 issue of The Flutist Quarterly, the membership magazine of the National Flute Association.  We reprint the review here in it's entirety, with permission from the National Flute Association.  You may also read the review on the NFA website at http://www.nfaonline.org/.

 

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Elizabeth Vercoe is a prolific, highly regarded composer with a large repertoire of mixed chamber music to her credit. Butterfly Effects was written for Peter H. Bloom and harpist Mary Jane Rupert. It sonically depicts seven different varieties of butterfly utilizing harp and, in various combinations, C flute, alto, bass, and piccolo. Each of the work’s seven movements employs different musical styles. Banded Blue Parrot creates a fluttering effect in the flute part over exciting extended techniques in the harp. Common Jezebel is a tango for bass flute and harp; Question Mark, also for bass flute, employs beat boxing and slap key technique. Monkey Puzzle is written in retrograde motion from the middle to the end of the movement, and Karner Blues is a cleverly written blues tune for piccolo and harp. Each movement is brief, with none over three minutes and several clocking in around the one-minute mark. Butterfly Effects requires a variety of sounds and styles from both performers, as both parts request various extended techniques and a high level of technical prowess. The most easily entertaining of the movements, the tango and the blues riffs, are well written and very catchy. The more abstract moments are fascinating and capture beautiful colors from the duo. Vercoe’s writing is well crafted throughout. As a flute-harp duo, Butterfly Effects definitely has its eye on the future; at times atmospheric, at other times incredibly precise, this piece expands the repertoire for this ensemble, which is often relegated to Impressionistic musings. It is an artful exploration of all that the instruments can do and a wonderful addition to the modern chamber musician’s library. —Nicole Riner

FALL 2015 THE FLUTIST QUARTERLY NFAONLINE.ORG

© 2015 This review was published in The Flutist Quarterly, the membership magazine of the National Flute Association, and appears here with permission.

The following new music review of our edition of Coolun, a favorite Irish Air with Four Variations, arranged by Charles Nicholson, appeared in the January, 2014 issue of Flute Talk magazine.  Subscribers may view the review, written by Katherine Borst Jones, as originally published in either the print or online edition of Flute Talk.

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(3-4) Flute - Coolun, a favorite Irish Air with Four Variations
Composed by Traditional
Arranged by Charles Nicholson

 

This work is arranged for flute with an ad libitum accompaniment for piano or harp. This is a facsimile edition plus a re-notated flute part. The air is delightful, in G major, in an easy range of low D to E above the staff. The variations move from 16ths, to 16ths in sixes, to a grace-note variation, to finally a 32nd-note variation, that could be played by a fine junior high or senior high player as an introduction to variation-style composition. Included in the edition are the historically appropriate glides, aptly described. Also included are excellent notes. Charles Nicholson is known for his “School of the Flute” and for the inspiration he provided Theobald Boehm, as he was known to play with a larger than normal tone for the time, due to his stature. Available from the website as a PDF or in published form. ($11.99 www.NoteworthySheetMusic.com)  K.B.J.