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

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