The Best French Romantic Flute Music

recommended by Claire Edmiston

French Romantic Music makes up the bulk of the post-classical flute repertoire. It was the result of a musical revolution, introducing the “French School of Flute Playing”, a new take on flute technique and virtuosity founded by Paul Taffanel in the late 17th century at the Paris Conservatoire. As the Boehm flute (our modern day, metal instrument) was a relatively new concept, this was a time of exploration of the range of tone colours, flexibility and dexterity that were now possible. Composers of the time were communicating this freedom through their flute music: the result is the the two-part structure typical of the era. This includes a slow cantabile section and a faster presto section, demonstrating expressive interpretation and technical fluidity in turn.

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    Flute Music by French Composers for Flute and Piano
    by Louis Moyse

    This book contains most of the cornerstones of the French Romantic repertoire, including works by Gabriel Faure, Philippe Gaubert, Cecile Chaminade, Georges Enesco and Paul Taffanel. This book contains both the flute and piano parts of 9 pieces, most in two contrasting sections which can be performed individually or as a whole. The approximate standard is Grade 8+ level, and would all make strong audition pieces. Best recordings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKC8Ivr6rfg (Faure Fantasie) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2Gn_FpTXD0 (Chaminade Concertino) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2YjZWNBdXA (Gaubert Nocturne et Allegro Scherzando) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cv9Az8K6Tuw (Enesco Cantabile et Presto)

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    On Sonority Art and Technique for Flute
    by Marcel Moyse

    De La Sonorite is an essetial part of daily practise for flautists at any level, focusing on the close study of tone and flexibility, increasing control of resonance and vibrato in the sound. Although these exercises are slow and time consuming when done properly, players will soon be able to hear a marked improvement in their sound. This book is characteristic of the French School, and Moyse, taught by Taffanel at the Paris Conservatoire, was an acclaimed flute player and teacher whose books are still the primary resource for flute training worldwide.

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    Sicilienne for Flute and Piano
    by Philippe Gaubert

    This piece is a much more intermediate level (around Grade 4-5), allowing less advanced players to enjoy the lyrical lines and gorgeous melodies typical of Romantic flute music. This piece could also be played with a contrasting piece in a recital or audition. Best recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8D9oSduAWXA

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    La Flute de Pan
    by Jules Mouquet

    This is a collection of three flute pieces, "Pan et les Berges" (Pan and the Shepherds), "Pan et les Oiseaux" (Pan and the Birds) and "Pan et les Nymphes"(Pan and the Nymphs). Each depict the Greek god of nature with his panpipes playing to an audience, and all pieces demonstrate the nature of this audience through their unique character and musical imagery. These pieces can be played together in a recital or separately, and each is progressively more difficult, although all are between Grades 7 and 8 standard. Best recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCoxTOp4vSU

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    Syrinx
    by Claude Debussy

    Syrinx is one of the few influential pieces for solo flute and is one of the most famous flute pieces ever written. With a haunting, chromatic melody, it is characterised by the late Romantic, impressionistic writing that is typical of Debussy. It portrays the tragic Greek myth of Pan pursuing the nymph Syrinx, resulting in her demise. Although the piece is relatively brief, just over 3 minutes, it requires sophisticated breath and tone control which can be challenging even for the more advanced players. Best recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNjroFNi7mA

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