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)
nicole.riner@gmail.com

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. 


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