Thursday, March 1, 2018

New music review: Marine for flute orchestra

Sophie Dufeutrelle
Marine for flute orchestra
© 2016 Alphonse Leduc

Marine is a new, nine-minute piece for flute choir from piccolo to contrabass flute by French composer and flutist Sophie Dufeutrelle. She dedicated it to Dale and David Straubinger, “for whose friendship and unconditional support I am very grateful.” And now I will list all the ways in which I adore this composition.

Marine utilizes easily executed extended techniques like breath attacks, pizzicato tongue, and whistle tones, to be “improvised” on a loop. In fact, the first four short sections, meant to create a seaside atmosphere with fog, wind, seagulls, and fishing boats, rely entirely upon these sounds. Then the piece abruptly locks into a “Chanson et Danse”, in which melodies are evenly passed through the parts, and harmonies are reminiscent of common practice tonality, but at times appropriately crunchy and dense to evoke a moody day at sea. The resultant performance is absolutely charming and beautifully painted in sound.

The difficulty level of this piece is listed in the score as “mainly intermediate and advanced”. In fact, when I first received the score, I thought it would only be playable by adults because of the extended techniques, but there is a very well done live video on You Tube, at the time of this writing, in which middle school and early high school students perform under the direction of the composer. Although the low flute parts are rather challenging for players new to these instruments, there is even a special (C flute) part included for beginners, so that mixed age and ability groups can perform together.  The composer also makes a note that, if low flutes are missing from the ensemble, they can be replaced by other instruments (cello, bassoon, double bass, etc.). In this way, what could have been a very impractical piece is actually quite adjustable if one is flexible in thinking.

The score and parts are beautiful to read, with whimsical drawings to inspire each short improvisatory section. Dufeutrelle even includes enough parts for the entire orchestra (multiple copies of the C flute parts, etc.), so that there is no need to feverishly photocopy minutes before the first rehearsal. I am touched by the thoughtfulness she has put into preparing this publication, from its inception to its final printing.

Marine is a truly interesting contemporary piece for flute orchestra, and it can be used with a wide range of abilities and ages, making it a piece that will always be useful in your library.  It has wonderful pedagogical potential, looks like great fun to play, and it is a sheer delight to experience as a listener.

Nicole Riner ©2016

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Watch my UW faculty recital on Facebook livestream!

Hey everyone!  I am so excited to be playing with the amazing Chi-Chen Wu, piano at University of Wyoming this week on their faculty recital series! We'll be performing the Prokofiev Flute Sonata and  some of my favorite Flute New Music Consortium discoveries: Shawn Okpebholo's On a Poem by Miho Nonaka, Kay HE's On the Pivot of an Abandoned Carousel for flute and electronics (those will both be Wyoming premieres), and (one of) the world premiere of Carter Pann's Giantess for flute and piano.  Carter's piece was a consortium commission, and you can read more about the project here.

Okpebholo's solo piece uses a wide variety of extended techniques to wonderful atmospheric effect. And Kay's piece involves audio playback from my computer, with manipulation from me using a gaming pedal to advance musical "chunks" that I play against, to colorful and haunting effect. Giantess by Carter Pann, who was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2016, is Romantic in style, but with his own unique sense of harmonies (which will be familiar to those of you who have experienced his myriad wind symphony and mixed chamber pieces). It's a great opportunity to hear some of the amazing composer alive and working today and shop for a new favorite composer (or three). I hope you can join us!

Click here to watch beginning at 3pm MST on March 4!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The latest Expression Workbook video is up!

If you've been following along so far this year, I am slowly releasing instructional videos to supplement my Flutist's Expression Workbook. The latest is below, featuring the lovely Vocalise in G from G.J. Webb.

I'm also offering some (free) online group classes on Saturdays where we share challenges and ideas on teaching creatively in the studio, and experiment with various ways to utilize the Workbook in our endeavors. Join the Facebook group for updates on videos, group classes, and other freebies throughout the year!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Assigning flute repertoire to reinforce skill development

We are deep into pedagogical philosophy right now in our flute pedagogy course at UW, and I am always amazed to hear how arbitrary our teaching can seem to our students.  Well, here's my focus right up front, and I do believe in stating my process clearly to my students--no need to be mysterious! How do you decide what to assign (or what to play for yourselves), fair readers? Please share your ideas below!

Assigning flute repertoire to reinforce skill development
Nicole Riner
(Published in NFA’s A Flutist’s Handbook: Pedagogy Anthology Vol. 2 from 2012)

Taken as a whole, the flute literature is demanding of a wide range of skills, encompassing fundamentals like rhythms, technique, and control of sound as well as more sophisticated ideas about expression.  Naturally, the goal of playing at a high enough level to tackle the repertoire is what fuels our practice; we learn our scales to make technical passages more natural and practice long tones so that we will be ready to perform any dynamic level or range the composer demands of us.   The deciding factor in choosing what tone and technical exercises to practice may therefore be dictated by the needs of the solo to be performed.

But ideally, we are practicing those exercises every day no matter what immediate performance goal is before us.  At some point, the exercises become the end in themselves, as we are always assessing how to improve our (and our students’) skills.  Is it difficult to slur octaves gracefully without tightening your face?  Marcel Moyse published a great many exercises for that.  Are the fingers a little stiff and uncertain in technical passages?  Regimented daily scale work with the metronome is the cure.  In fact, for flutists who are pressed for time, those exercises may be the most important link to maintaining and improving flute-playing skills on hectic days. 

However, when the exercises comprise all of our practice time, we can forget how to apply the skills we are developing to the solo on the stand.  Many times I listen to a student play a beautiful rendition of De La Sonorite only to find an utterly less appealing sound at the beginning of the second movement of the Poulenc Sonata ten minutes later.  Students sometimes have difficulty applying the skills they are  developing to their literature because they do not readily see connections between the two.  But if we pair literature assignments with a warm-up routine, we as teachers can create a more holistic approach to the management of certain challenges on the flute. 

As I see it, there are two easy ways to bridge the gap between exercise and literature: we can extract sections of solos or orchestral excerpts and turn them into exercises, and we can assign solos and excerpts that require a clear transfer of skill from the exercises being practiced.  The tradition of extracting literature for exercise may have started with Moyse in his landmark book, Tone Development Through Interpretation, which takes excerpts from operas, symphonies, and chamber literature.  Trevor Wye follows suit in Practice Book for Flute, Volume 1: Tone; in “Low Register Exercises”, he excerpts solos from Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals, Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun, and the rarely performed gem, Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro.   Geoffrey Gilbert claimed difficult passages in the standard orchestral literature provided material for his Sequences.   After reviving my own practice of orchestral  literature several years ago, I found that certain skills improved because they were so taxed in the excerpts; I have chosen to incorporate some of those trickier excerpts into my daily warm-up routine ever since.  

Similarly, once a warm-up routine has been decided upon, assigning solo and chamber literature (and those all-important orchestral excerpts) helps students make the connection between what they are practicing and how to put those skills into practice on stage.  To see a double-tonguing exercise side by side with Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, for instance, makes application much clearer and more obvious.  In this way, repertoire assignments help to create a cumulative project in mastering whatever skill is being highlighted. 

Any number of pieces from our repertoire could be printed here; obviously, excellent skills in all areas are required to play anything well.  I have also added my favorites from our exercise books, but again, there are many other possibilities not listed here.  My suggestions listed below serve merely as a stepping off point for rethinking the way literature is assigned and the clarity of purpose we communicate to our students in their lessons.  

Repertoire assignments as cumulative project
To highlight loud low register playing and  articulations:
Exercises: Edmund-Davies 28-Day Warm-Up Book, articulation #5; Marcel Moyse De La Sonorite low register exercise starting on p. 10
Solo literature: CPE Bach D minor Concerto (1st movement), Gubaidulina Sounds of the Forest, Marais Folies d’Espagne, Muczynski Sonata (1st and 2nd movements), Piston Sonata (1st movement), Prokofiev Sonata, Rouse Concerto
Chamber music: Harbison Quintet, Hindemith Quintet, Nielsen Quintet
Orchestral excerpts: Ravel Bolero, Strauss Salome’s Dance solo, opening of Stravinsky Firebird Suite

To demand clear articulations and exercise double-tonguing:
Exercises: Edmund-Davies 28-Day Warm-Up Book, articulation #1 & #7; Salvo 243 Double- and Triple-Tonguing Exercises
Solo literature: Enesco Cantabile et Presto (‘presto’ section), Ibert Concerto (1st and 3rd movements), Messiaen La Merle Noir, Nielsen Concerto, Poulenc Sonata (1st movement), Saint-Saens Air de Ballet, Taktakashvili Sonata (3rd movement)
Chamber music: Cimarosa G Major Concerto for two flutes (1st movement), Villa Lobos Bachianas Brasileiras No. 6 (especially last page)
Orchestral excerpts: Mendelssohn Midsummer Night’s Dream, Rossini William Tell Overture, Saint-Säens ‘Voliere’ from Carnival of the Animals

For rhythmical accuracy, complexity of rhythms/pulse:
Exercises: Starer Rhythmic Training; Kujala Articulate Flutist: Rhythms, Groupings, Turns and Trills, rhythm exercises
Solo literature: Beaser Variations (variations 1, 3, 8), Berio Sequenza, Feld Sonata (3rd movement), Francaix Sonata (2nd movement), Martinu Sonata (2nd movement), Roussel Joueurs de flute—Krishna, Varese Density 21.5
Chamber music: Barber Capricorn Concerto and Summer Music, Higdon Steely Pause for four flutes, Hindemith Canonic Duet (2nd and 3rd movements), Muczynski Duos (2nd movement)
Orchestral excerpts: Debussy Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, Stravinsky Petrouchka opening

To exercise quiet high register playing:
Exercises: Moyse De La Sonorite “Attack and Slurring of Notes” starting on page 15; Marcel Moyse Tone Development Through Interpretation exercises A1, B1, and C1
Solo literature: CPE Bach A minor Sonata (1st movement), Copland Duo (2nd movement), any Debussy transcriptions, Gaubert Second Sonata (2nd movement),  Hindemith Sonata (2nd movement),  Poulenc Sonata (2nd movement),  Reinecke “Undine” Sonata (end of 1st ad 4th  movements)
Chamber music: Jolivet Sonatine for flute and clarinet (1st movement), Poulenc Sextour (2nd movement)
Orchestral excerpts: Beethoven Leonore Overture No. 3, Mahler Das Lied von der Erde, Prokofiev Classical Symphony (movement 2)

To reinforce scales and chords:
Exercises: Moyse Exercises Journaliers, ‘A’ exercises (for linear scales); Taffanel and Gaubert 17 Daily Exercises, #1, 5, 7-13 (for scale fragments and chords)
Solo literature: JS Bach sonatas, Borne Carmen Fantasy, Demersseman Solo De Concert No.  6 (Italian Concerto), Mercadente Concerto in E minor, Mozart concerti, Schubert Introduction and Variations, Vivaldi concerti
Chamber music: Mozart flute quartets, Beethoven Serenade for flute, violin, and viola, Reicha wind quintets
Orchestral excerpts: Beethoven Symphony No. 3, Prokofiev Peter and the Wolf excerpts

For embouchure flexibility
Exercises: Edmund-Davies 28-Day Warm-Up Book, intervals exercises; Marcel Moyse How I Stayed in Shape, Tone Development Through Interpretation exercises E1-5
Solo literature: Boehm Grand Polonaise, Colquhoun Charanga, Demersseman Carnival of Venice variations, Karg-Elert Sonata Appassionata
Chamber music: Bozza Trois Pieces, Doppler L’oiseau des bois, Villa Lobos Choro No. 2
Orchestral excerpts: Hindemith Symphonic Metamorphosis movement 3 solo, Rossini William Tell Overture solo, Shostakovich Symphony No. 5, Stravinsky Chant du Rossignol opening and Firebird Suite (variation)

For better breath control:
Exercises: Moyse De La Sonorite low register exercises starting on p. 10; Wye Practice Book for Flute Volume 5: Breathing & Scales (breathing exercises)
Solo literature: JS Bach Partita in A minor (especially 1st and 2nd movements), Burton Sonatina (1st movement), Higdon Rapid Fire, Pierne Sonata for violin or piano, (Clara) Schumann Three Romances
Chamber music: Carter Esprit Rude/ Esprit Doux, Villa Lobos Assobio a Jato
Orchestral excerpts: JS Bach ‘Aus Liebe’ from St. Matthew Passion, Beethoven Leonore No. 3 Overture opening and Symphony No. 4 (movement 2), Debussy Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, Gluck Menuet and Dance from the Blessed Spirits, Mendelssohn Midsummer Night’s Dream

To practice making color changes:
Exercises: Wye Practice Book for Flute, Volume 1: Tone
Solo literature: Debussy Syrinx, Griffes Poem, Faure Violin Sonata in A Major (1st 2nd, and 4th movements), Ferroud Trois Pieces, Gieseking Sonatine (1st movement), Martin Ballade, Widor Suite
Chamber music: Beaser Mountain Songs, Heiss Five Pieces for flute and cello, Schickele Summer Music

For overall physical endurance:
Exercise:  Taffanel and Gaubert 17 Daily Exercises, #4
Solo literature: Franck Violin Sonata , Higdon Rapid Fire, Jolivet Chant de Linos, Khachaturian Concerto, Liebermann Sonata, Ran East Wind, Reinecke Concerto, Schubert Arpeggione Sonata
Orchestral excerpts: Dvorak Symphony No. 8, Ravel Daphnis et Chloe Suite No. 2, Stravinsky Petrouchka,

©Nicole Riner 2012.  All rights reserved. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Introducing: supplemental videos and labs for A Flutist's Expression Workbook

I released my self-published  A Flutist's Expression Workbook this past August and have been humbled by its early reviews and positive feedback from teachers who are currently using it in their studios.

I consider the Workbook to be a living document, one that only gets better with collaboration and feedback. To this end, I'm announcing two supplements to the original text:

Demonstration videos, to be released monthly on YouTube throughout the spring term, will feature me speaking about and performing select vocalises with my published expressive markings.

Workbook Labs, in which users can log on to Skype and participate in a group Q & A with me and each other regarding pedagogical applications, challenges, and anything else related to our specific teaching environments.

To participate in this online pedagogical community, purchase the book here. 

If you'd like to receive updates on the latest videos, subscribe to my YouTube channel
if you have purchased the workbook, you can choose to receive email notifications, as well. The first video is currently available, below.

If you have already purchased the workbook and would like to participate in our first Workbook Lab on February 3 at 9am MST, contact me here and say "I'm in!" We'll be discussing the challenges we have getting our students to develop their own expression, ways in which the Workbook can help, and other materials you'd like to see in a second edition.
I am so excited to embark upon this project and reach across the miles to connect with other flute teachers about the crucial topic of teaching musicianship to young flutists, and I hope you'll join me!