Cecile Chaminades Concertino is a very popular piece for auditions, demonstrating a little of everything and very pleasing melodies. I expect many flutists own this piece, but maybe there are some who dont, so I found a Russian edition of this piece in the collection at imslp. If you would prefer to play from the flute part alone, you could cut and paste the flute part together from the score. I note that my purchased editions of this flute part have a terrible page turn requiring messing around with photocopies and tape anyway! The opening of the Concertino is attention grabbing musically and a good way to settle down nerves, in that starting off at an mf is certainly much more relaxing than a piano dynamic.
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Cecile Chaminades Concertino is a very popular piece for auditions, demonstrating a little of everything and very pleasing melodies. I expect many flutists own this piece, but maybe there are some who dont, so I found a Russian edition of this piece in the collection at imslp.
If you would prefer to play from the flute part alone, you could cut and paste the flute part together from the score. I note that my purchased editions of this flute part have a terrible page turn requiring messing around with photocopies and tape anyway! The opening of the Concertino is attention grabbing musically and a good way to settle down nerves, in that starting off at an mf is certainly much more relaxing than a piano dynamic. Unfortunately, it is also one of those uncomfortable, never ending phrases that seems to elicit very strong opinions from everyone concerning places to breathe.
Im going to be a little unorthodox - I wont recommend breath spots, and I also suggest eliminating anyone elses ideas that may be pencilled in, and whiting out any editorial in your music!
The indication in Russian, below the flute part, roughly translates to the triplets should be played freely Chaminade clearly didnt play flute so the practicalities never occurred to her. It just isnt possible to do justice to the atmosphere of unhurried beauty and effortless sound sustained through these expansive melodic lines if one is also desperate for air.
So, accept that breaths are necessary, trial many different spots and sizes of breaths to see where you need them, and then figure out how to sell what suits you!
Remember that more small breaths may be much more effective than infrequent but much bigger holes, and that the choice of a similar spot in repeated phrases may come across as a bit annoying. I often recommend students playing music in this style to listen to Sir James Galway; listen closely to a recording where you can note his breathing spots on your music.
Youll quickly understand he is the master of last-minute breaths that never interfere with musical flow or momentum. By keeping the sound spinning, and shaping the note before the breath based on where the phrase wants to go, he gives the magical illusion of the music simply continuing. The intonation challenges of this piece hit us right at the very beginning! That opening D is potentially the most strident sound on the flute and a tad bright in pitch. Then we get E, which can sound comparatively muffled and is often flat.
This is a terrible combination, given that the interval of tonic to supertonic were in the key of D sounds best wide, as the largest step in the scale.
This intonation problem is more manageable if we tone the D down a bit in colour and pitch. The tenuto marks in measure 4 are better understood if we think of string bowing - youd change bow here, so youd have a louder and a distinct note where the tenutos are marked. We can replicate that tenuto idea quite well by playing these notes out and adding a tiny diminuendo right at the end of the first note of each pair - the sustained sound gives the idea of the note being long, but backing off a little, just at the end, makes it much easier to hear the re-articulation of the next note.
The rhythmic detail of a repeated note is very important to appreciating the heavier or broader character of this opening. The more live your performance acoustic may be, the more important this effort to be clear becomes, akin to enunciating clearly in a speech.
The other phrase slurs, starts and stops are practically incidental in comparison. In fact, if you think of most of the slurs over the melody as bowing marks, you can more readily discard or ignore what you dont like or what doesnt suit your breathing.
With the exception of repeated notes, omitting or changing that sort of detail wont matter much in these sustained romantic melodies. How you shape a sustained phrase, in the bigger picture, is much more important. The dynamics at the beginning quickly build to a grand sounding forte - if one has enough air! In my opinion, the written dynamics sound really super and really enhance this piece.
One still has to do the usual flutists adjustment of playing louder in the lower register in this work with a reasonably full accompaniment, written by a non-flutist! But the dynamic indications provide marvellous contrast and accentuate each musical character. I encourage students to do what it takes breathing wise to make the forte indications possibleand remind them to play at the dynamics they intend to use when deciding on breathing spots!
The scalic passages, such as the two measures before the first notated key change into Bb major, seem to scare flutists; especially younger players who often panic and rush. There is a poco stringendo a little hurrying in the flute part for these, which youll note is missing from the piano part maybe Chaminade didnt write that?
It somehow takes confidence to play through scalic passages at a moderate pace, but this really does sound best with very little stringendo as the gesture already has an accelerando effect written in that well hear best when we can hear all the notes. More reasons to keep it steady include that we will want a bit more speed to help create the Piu Animato section later on, and the feeling of virtuosic speed really belongs in the more notey middle section see notated key change into a minor, no accidentals.
Right after the notated key change back to D major, we have more repeated notes with staccatos - a nice little change. Try to play these with a distinct articulation too. The opening section of this work culminates in dramatic fashion, following more scales that sound very brilliant by covering roughly two octaves.
When I was a student, I understood that this was free like a cadenza thankfully but I took that to mean throw caution to the wind!
Well, that may be thrilling, but not quite for the right reasons! I recommend students listen to virtuosic pianists playing romantic repertoire the masters of this style , listening specifically for effective placement of profound notes or chords, and the way blindingly impressive run-type gestures can make such good musical sense.
Pianists often slow down at just the right moment near the end of such a gesture, whereas we tend to simply crescendo. Presumably keyboards players master this type of rubato because that is what works best on an instrument that cant crescendo on any one note.
The flute can crescendo, but that doesnt mean we shouldnt use other expressive devices too! A way to practise this concept is to work backwards, thinking primarily about arriving unmistakably on that destination note: play the fortissimo D as you hope it will sound - beautiful, commanding and loud! Then play again with the leading in note, C , aiming for that same fabulous D with the unmistakable musical emphasis given to a big downbeat.
Try stomping on the D too - this is surprisingly difficult to do and will help you assess your coordination the note needs all the best air support and articulation right when you predict it should sound. If you cant do it exactly where you predict, how will your pianist ever figure out where to play with you?
Then add on the B and so on and so on. Russian indication here is roughly translated to with agitation The first measure of the Piu animato is another spot where we need clarity or space around the notes. I think this may be the toughest section, because the momentum here is pushing forward, and breathing just cant be rhythmically intrusive. Clipping these slurs a little, or that idea of distinct diminuendos on note ends and more accent on beginnings, helps and also suits the accented passing note gestures.
In the 8th to 9th measure of this section, players often put in a little rallentando and an a tempo and similarly three-four measures later. The whole note or semibreve trills are actually not that interesting, so you might consider dropping out of the way a little and crescendo-ing towards the end of the measure.
In the two solo flute measures measure 19 and 20 of this section , the falling scale gesture can be played with tremendous freedom try a rubato of starting late and slow and speeding up which sets the stage for a very satisfying a tempo in the piano part.
The transition passage, from this point until the next notated key change A minor , seems to be about dissipating the energy of the animato. Suddenly, it is possible to play much more softly here and be heard, providing a great opportunity for exploring some tone colours. The Leggiero marking and a tempo are most often taken with a good dose of enthusiasm and can become a bit of a technical exercise in the players mindset.
Some flutists go so impressively fast here that I get worried for them! I encourage my students to sing through this whole section or wave gestures in the air to try and keep the music in their minds too. If you go fast enough, many trill fingerings are passable at speed. For instance, that first C- D-C triplet is often played by fingering C and using the trill key for D. This sort of approach is very popular with younger players who are keen to set blistering speeds.
In my view, a slightly tamer tempo with the right fingerings is quite attainable and usually sounds more impressive, primarily because the correct fingerings tend to be easier to play evenly than fingerings involving trill keys, and at a slightly calmer tempo, the player can concentrate on conveying the charm of the musical gestures through musically appropriate rubato rather than being dominated by the instruments mechanics unevenness of reaching some keys or acoustic tendencies some notes boom out more than others.
I would, however, encourage leaving fingers down where possible for stability. For instance, in that same C-D-C triplet passage, the middle and ring fingers of the right hand could be left down through to the E on the second beat of the next measure.
Keeping the flute steady will enhance tone as well as making your flying fingers feel more secure. This florid stuff comes to an abrupt halt at the trill and then we get the classic flute writing tweet, tweet, tweet ballet music. Short staccato notes with a great tone will sound fabulous.
The trill is one of those perfect spots for circular breathing musically this works best and a trill is the perfect texture for covering up the circular breathing bump. If you dont circular breath yet, try for marvellous breaths earlier on, and then in the measure before the trill, warn your pianist, take extra time between the first G and the chromatic run breath! For the trill itself, a fp attack and a crescendo near the end of the measure saves air and sounds way better musically than a static note.
You can also try sneaking more air after the C downbeat of the next measure you can see this delay is expected by the way the notes are grouped in this edition, but it is very hard to get enough breath in this little gap and we need to hear a solid C to resolve the trill before breathing. The Measure after figure 8, at the non legato delicamente marking, is a contradiction in terms the slur with dots implies a much more sustained note than the staccatos of the measure before.
Chaminade was not a flutist! I put more emphasis on the delicamente part of that instruction and try to match and blend with the piano for note length and dynamic. On the repeated sections of this part of the piece, I aim for more convincing forte dynamics on the second time around but you could go the other way too. At Figure 10, we have a run that slows down into the arrival note actually notated that way, an example of the romantic virtuosic pianistic phrasing I discussed in the last issue.
Think carefully about how you want the triplet from high E to high A to be phrased as there are many options! From here to the cadenza features some very heavy loud writing. Try to incorporate some rest time when you practise and use the rest time to assess your body balance and tension. Undoubtedly this will help you project a lot more and the more you try to make these adjustments, the easier it will be to do under pressure. And finally, we get to the Cadenza, a winning characteristic of this work!
If you look closely, youll see that someone has penned in a very small C on the ascending arpeggio before the high F with a pause. Ive seen this in other editions too, and I also put it back in because the omission just sounds too much like a mistake to my ears. Overall, this cadenza sounds like a study in the difference of character between the major and minor or the bold and declamatory versus the sad and wistful.
I visit wide ranging dynamics and colour and enjoy the chance to do so. I always recommend students exploit these moments, especially in an audition situation where it is a great opportunity to show what you can do without worrying about balance issues.
In terms of pacing, I think a cadenza is most successful if it sounds somewhat improvisatory, yet with musical purpose. To decide my strategy, I isolate important musical ideas which are hopefully of a lyrical or thematic nature, and then figure out how to get from one idea to the next.
Usually this means the arpeggios or technical passage-work needs to support, lead into or lead away from those important musical moments. Not surprisingly, the last two lines of this cadenza are my least favourite bit; a pile of arpeggios and scales with the potential to be quite meaningless! I highlight the E, D , E at the bottom of the arpeggios and try to link that directly into the A by not slowing down too much for the high C. I dont dwell long at all on the A, and then I try to highlight with tiny tenutos the shift to A , B and C as notes leading into the C trill to resolve onto D.
And suddenly we find ourselves back to the glorious beginning, albeit in a gentler version with the piano dynamic. I covered all of that material in the last issue, so my remaining comments include a bit about alternative ossia passages as we see here 6 measures after figure Sometimes an ossia passage is there because the composer realizes what theyve written is hard and presenting an alternative is being pragmatic.
Sometimes an ossia exists because the flutist performing the premiere preferred and suggested something else.
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Cécile Chaminade ‘Concertino for Flute and Piano in D major’: A Tuneful Adventure
At a young age she started playing the piano, with her mother being her first teacher. As well as learning the piano, Chaminade also took an interest in learning the violin. Chaminade flourished in music composition so much so she showed some of her sacred music to Georges Bizet. He was very impressed by her talent and worked closely with the young composer.