© Katie Morgan
If you wish to reproduce any notes or articles (or part of) from this website, please contact me before doing so.
To commission new articles or programme notes, please contact katie @ katiemorgan. com (no spaces)
Airs de Ballet D’Ascanio for flute and piano
Poco adagio – espressivo – Moto espressivo Andantino
The French composer, pianist and organist, Camille Saint-Saëns showed Mozartian precocity as both a pianist and composer. A child prodigy on the piano, Saint-Saëns gave his first recital in 1846 and later entered Paris Conservatoire where he studied organ and composition. Notable for his range of activities such as pioneering efforts on behalf of French music, and reviving interest in older music; Saint-Saëns was also a writer of criticism, poetry, essays, and plays. In 1853 he composed his first symphony, and from 1858 to 1877 he was organist at the Church of the Madeleine in Paris. His dazzling gifts won him the admiration of Gounod, Rossini, Berlioz and especially Liszt, who hailed him as the world’s greatest organists.
Although he lived through the period of Wagner's influence, Saint-Saëns remained unaffected by it and adhered to the classical models, upholding a conservative ideal of French music that emphasized polished craftsmanship and a sense of form. In his essays and memoirs he described the contemporary musical scene in a shrewd and often ironic manner. French characteristics of a conservative musical style – neat proportions, clarity, polished expression, and elegant line – reside in Saint- Saëns’s classically orientated sonatas, symphonies and concertos. However, he also wrote ‘exotic’, descriptive or dramatic works, including four symphonic poems, in a style influenced by Liszt, using thematic transformation, and 13 operas, of which only Samson and Delila (1877), with its sound structures, clear declamation and strongly appealing scenes, has held the stage.
Airs de Ballet D’Ascanio (1888) comes from the now forgotten opera Ascanio, of which the only existing music from the opera is the Act 3 ballet divertissement. Although originally composed for flute and orchestra, this arrangment for flute and piano has long been a favourite recital piece of eminant flautists such as William Bennett. In the original stage production, the choreography for the Adagio and Variations if these Airs de Ballet depicted the classical scene when Cupid, the God of Love, reveals himself to the beautiful maiden Psyché.
The Adagio of Airs de Ballet D’Ascanio begins with a delicate piano introduction, followed by a tremelando accompaniment, when the flute emerges. This is preceded by the espressivo where from here on, the flute takes centre stage with a cantilena theme over a gentle piano accompaniment. The Andantino, which begins with a C major piano chord, which modulates to the dominant 7th of A major, before the flute emerges again with demisemiquaver double-tongued repeated notes, combined with a simple accompaniment. This passage modulates through A major, and C# major as well as instances of ascending chromaticism in the flute line, which is imitated by the piano in chromatic octave leaps. This section is followed by a flute line that incorporates technical demands in finger and embouchure technique, with fast demisemiquaver leaps, an ascending alberti type facet, as well as arpeggiation and scales.
The Airs de Ballet D’Ascanio earned the late 19th century virtuoso flautist, Paul Taffanel, a standing ovation at the 1890 premiere in Paris, when he played the technical demands of the piece with seeming ease.
Among Saint-Saëns’s other works are the symphonic poems Le rouet d'Omphale (Omphale's Spinning Wheel, 1871) and Danse Macabre (1874), the Third Symphony in E-flat Minor (1886), and the suite for orchestra with two pianos, Le carnaval des animaux (Carnival of the Animals, 1886), as well as his five piano concertos (all first performed by himself), and three violin concertos
'Lookout' for solo flute
As a composer and flautist, Robert Dick is known worldwide for his command for extended techniques for flute. His compositions, primarily for solo flute and bass flute, convey the musical language he has created through his development of new flute sonorities and techniques.
It has been stated; what Paganini did for the violin, or Liszt for the piano, Robert Dick has accomplished for the flute. He has invented new playing techniques for the instrument and has expanded the expressive range as well as the musical possibilities of the flute, as nobody has ever done before. By pushing the technique of creating multiphonics to its limits, Dick is even capable to suggest the kind of powerchords used by his favourite guitarist Jimi Hendrix.
In the mid-to-late 1960’s, when multiphonics and other extended techniques were still new, their practitioners received much criticism for the general unpleasantness of sound. However, Dick believed that these techniques had never been practiced in the way that traditional techniques had, or been afforded in the years of full effort that any serious classical or jazz artist would consider necessary to reach freedom and expression. Dick then gave such an effort a ten-year trial to see if multiphonics, glissandi, microtones, and other new sonorities could be brought to the level of the best classical playing.
Following on from Dick’s ten-year trial, the flute is no longer an instrument confined to a single voice, or one that is relatively predictable in range and timbre. Instead, while freely drawing on the flute’s worldwide traditions, Dick also used a self-developed vocabulary with references in many spheres: acoustic and animal sounds, and sounds that are generally unique to the flute.
Lookout was composed for the National Flute Association Soloists Competition in 1989. The piece, reminiscent of a light rock solo, uses percussion sounds melodically – produced through the use of key-clicks; multiphonics and quarter tone multiphonics; harmonics; glissandi; and it uses singing and playing to create a sound that is very reminiscent of a wah wah pedal and an opened up overtone range is produced. This technique is put into a tonal, very direct context.
Other works by Robert Dick include, Afterlight (1973), Flames Must Not Encircle Sides (1980), News? (1983), Anamenesis (1990), Flying Lessons: Six Contemporary Concert Etudes, Volume I (1984) and Volume II (1987)
Sonata for flute and Piano
1. Allegro cantabile
2. Aria, Moderato con moto
3. Allegro scherzando
Georgian composer Otar Taktakishvili was born just when the region’s music was attaining international reputation, as a result of the operas of Sachari Palisashvili (1871-1933). Taktakishvili maintained a close link with his hometown, Tbilisi, all his life. He studied composition at the Tbilsi Conservatoire until 1947 and was then active as with the Georgian State Choir until 1956, first as rehearsal pianist and conductor and from 1952 as artistic director. At the age of 23 he was teacher of choir literature and director of the choir of the Tbilisi Conservatoire; from 1959 he taught composition and from 1962-65 he was rector. From 1965-84 he was the Georgian Minister of Culture, and he stood up for the deepening of international relations in the UNESCO Music Council.
It is a sign of the isolation of Soviet composers during the Cold War that the Sonata for Flute and Piano (1968) suggests nothing of the worldwide political tumult of that year, or the twelve-tone language of Schoenberg, which then ruled new music in the West. One could say that Taktakishvili’s music is more reminiscent of Prokofiev and the Parisian Le Six in the 1920’s.
The three-movement Sonata is, apart from the second movement, marked by a generally jovial, optimistic character. The main themes of the first movement, Allegro Cantabile, announce the basic emotional tone of the work, which begins with a melodious diatonic main theme, followed by a lively scherzo-like subsidiary theme. Reversing the usual pattern, the sonata-form first movement begins with a singing theme, and is then contrasted with more energetic material.
The second movement, Aria, is the lyrical, tragic centrepiece of the work. The dominant atmosphere here is of restrained grief and resignation. This flute aria played over a repeated-chord accompaniment with contrapuntal comments in the piano, has a fine melancholy dignity in the manner of Poulenc, with hints of Rachmaninov’s Vocalise.
The third movement, Allegro scherzando, recalls the lively character of the opening movement. The virtuoso qualities of the solo instrument assume an especially great importance here. In the development of the thematic material the flute and piano are roughly equal partners. In contrast, the witty, incisive rondo finale scampers and twitters through piquant dissonances, relieved by a droll middle section that is very Prokofiev-like in its mock dignity, before the rondo theme returns and the work reaches an emphatic close.
Both the technical, virtuoso elements and also the expressive possibilities of the flute are thoroughly demonstrated. Although the composer does not make use of folk material, the structure of the sonata is clearly shot through with the spirit of folk music, as is clear from the harmony, the rhythmic and melodic outline of the thematic material and from the special sharpness and the tonal colour.
In literary and musical terms, Taktakishvili’s output is based on Georgian tradition. He died in 1989, having composed works in most musical genres – though one remembers most of all his oratorios On the trail of Rustaveli (1964) and Nicolos Baratashvili (1970).