Larry Krantz Flute Pages: John Wion 004
John Wion
on
Difficult Fingering in
Prokofiev Classical Symphony

On Aug 16 Andrea asked about fingering the passage from the Classical Symphony by Prokofiev:
  • I think that the question is not so much one of difficulty as it is of unfamiliarity. When we start learning to play we learn a couple of new notes each lesson and use them in quarter notes or slower. Now that we are advanced players and play everything so fast, we somehow feel inadequate that we cant play new notes immediately at the same speed. Take the time to finger high C# and slur to D only when you are certain in your brain that you know exactly which fingers to move, regardless of how long that should take you. If the change is not smooth and relaxed you didn't prepare properly. When you repeat the exercise you will find that the time needed is less. When it feels very easy, like a quick grace note, start a new exercise. Play high B and move to C# and on to D only when you know exactly what to do etc.. When you can play two grace notes start again with high A - etc.. Now try a different exercise. Play the middle F# and hold it until you can see in your mind exactly how to finger the A and D as quick grace notes to high F#. Then hold that F# until you can see exactly how to finger A - B - C# as quick grace notes to high D. If you stumble in the middle of your grace notes it means you tried to play them before your mind was really clear. Repeat this exercise and you will find that you see each sequence quicker in your mind. You will soon find that you see the two sequences quickly enough to play them as Prokofiev asks. As an exercise this principle applies to any technical passage. The main thing to keep in mind is that just because you succeed in playing one sequence at a particular speed or after a specific delay do not feel the obligation to play the next sequence at the same tempo - it may take more or less time to "see" the progression of "grace" notes to the next "resting" note.
John Wion


John Wion
on
Alexander Technique

  • Further to a number of references to Alexander (*another* Australian) Technique - I am a great fan of this and can truly say it saved my career. I had three years of quasi weekly lessons and can report that I was able to incorporate it into my own flute teaching. What took me so long to undo modifies my students' approach to playing almost overnight - not a question of my skill but that things are so much less ingrained at college age. Alexander study is like flute study. A good teacher makes you aware of something about your playing and you end the lesson playing better - but after a few hours/days you forget the feeling/sound and need another lesson to recapture it - and so on until it becomes a part of you.

  • It is also like psycho-therapy in that you have to peel away one level of problem to reach another - again, the younger you are... However, just as in flute teachers and therapists, the benefits do start with the first lesson (or find another teacher!)

  • I worked on the flute for half of each hourly lesson (after basic posture/movement work) and truly believe this is what made the difference. My previous experiences with other "isms" had led to good behaviour modification but not when I played. My teacher, who is a clarinettist, was able to instantly perceive all my tensions - in fact, at lesson one, after she said "OK let's go to the flute" she said "did you know that the moment I said the word flute you tightened up" and later "the moment you put the flute to your lips..". She was actually the best *flute* teacher I ever had. - start young!

John Wion

Suggestion from Robert Rickover:

Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique

  • This site links to all Alexander Technique material, on and off the web, in a systematic and user-friendly manner.

John Wion
on
Breath Control

  • I'm sorry I used the phrase "breath support" as the subject of my comments, as it seems to be "supporting" its propagation. So here are some comments on "breath control" prompted by contributions to this list.

  • It seems that when some people (e.g. jz?) talk about "bs" they end up talking about "bc" . Is that correct? If you mean that, is "bc" not a better description? Some others of you seem to be saying that "bs" is somehow the *way* you control the breath, as in using a particular type or degree of pressure as a desirable. If this is true, does "more" or "better" support imply a change to more pressure or less pressure?

  • Alexa says that "students often go through patches of being "lazy" in the support department, and over "embouchuring" to compensate". Does she just mean that they don't inhale very much air and are conserving it by using a small lip opening, or that they are using a lot of pressure on the lungs and holding the lips tight against that pressure - quite a different scenario? From her description of the sounds I think the latter, in which case is she saying that good "bs" relates to less pressure on the lungs? I think that with the difficulty of this subject clear definitions might help. Larry talks of "keeping the rib cage up". I would say that the rib cage is expanded or contracted, and that the one happens when you inhale and the other when you exhale. When you expand your ribs, your lungs have to fill with air; as you exhale your ribs have to contract.You can use, and develop, muscles to increase your ability to expand the ribs, thereby being able to inhale more air (and more quickly). These same muscles can be used to keep the ribs from contracting so quickly, thereby slowing the rate of exhalation.

  • John Z quotes Sam Baron: "when you're about half full, the diaphragm is still extended and is easier to control. When you're nearly empty the diaphragm is much harder to control". The diaphragm, as its name implies, is the seal between the lungs and the lower body cavity, attaching around the chest's perimeter at the bottom of the ribs. When the ribs are contracted it relaxes into a dome shape; when the ribs expand it flattens out to encompass the larger required area. Despite what so many of us were (are?) taught, I know of no evidence that this is a muscle that can be controlled. (I don't mean by this to dispute Sam Baron's great skill as a teacher. I find that at both the lungs' fullest and emptiest the breath is harder to control and avoid both where possible.) The abdominal muscles can be used to apply upward pressure on the lungs (against the diaphragm), either sustained (as in holding your lips closed and blowing your cheeks out) or pulsed (as in panting). When a child is breathing while lying down the abdomen rises as the lungs fill. This would seem to be a normal sight to see in a flutist breathing in a relaxed manner. But I see so much movement of abdominal muscles amongst some flutists during the course of a phrase that I wonder how this activity relates to the gentle art of breathing into a flute.

  • Finally, Alexa says, "the sound difference is incredibly dramatic when comparing an "unsupported" sound to a "supported" one. Why is a very good question!" Perhaps the answer still lies in defining what is *meant* by "bs". Larry has some wonderful images and descriptions to bring to the discussion of breathing but am I being difficult if I feel that he still hasn't defined it? Until there is a consensus on that my vote is for a ban on the phrase! Is there a second?


Nancy wrote: "One of the controversies I ran up against was whether it was better to keep the air flowing in and out, or whether it is helpful to stop before beginning to play/exhale. I prefer the steady flow."

  • I agree. I think that the only times we stop breathing are when we are afraid and hold our breath to get the adrenaline flowing and decide whether to fight or flee. I see students so often take a deep breath and then hold it while they put their flute up and decide how and what it is they are supposed to be doing. The longer they hold the more inhibited the final product is. When all those decisions are made beforehand and the sound is started as we come to the top of our inhalation the sound is freer and the feeling is more relaxed.

  • I'd also like to make the observation that breathing into the flute is just the same as when talking. The nature of the inhalation when we talk depends on the thought we have decided to express. To just say "ok" to someone a yard away you wouldn't even think of the need to prepare a breath. To express a long descriptive thought, or to be about to speak to a distant listener, you would instinctively take a deep breath. So with intelligent flute breathing.

  • There are so many little places in music where there are natural breathing places (not always rests). Why should one feel obliged always to take gigantic breaths when playing short phrases or playing softly? Of course it does mean you have to have a thought about that phrase before you inhale.

John Wion


John Wion
on
Slow Practice

Charles Koeppen wrote, amongst other interesting things:
  • "Practicing slow can assure that you get the notes and tone right, but it doesn't assure that you'll keep your fingers loose and relaxed, try practicing something fast, preferably something you can play correctly at the quicker tempo. But, if you've already mastered something and want to reinforce it, or just want to loosen up, play it up to tempo."
I think these comments miss the point of "slow practice". In the first place if you can play something "correctly at the quicker tempo", if "you've already mastered something", you have no need to practice it, slow "or" fast. (I don't call reminding oneself that one can still play something "practice") More importantly, while it is true that one can be slow and tense, my suggestion has always been - if you can't play something at the speed required or desired, play it at the speed that you inherently know is easy. If you truly do this there is no reason at all why your fingers will be tense. If you then imitate that feeling at increasing speeds (which implies imagining the new speed before actually playing it) you will be building on success and will carry your confidence to new areas. You will also immediately sense any change in the quality of your movements. I hate to call this "slow practice" which seems to suggest some sort of drudgery. It's just sensible practice. There is no need to repeat a passage at the same speed as has been already achieved, and the progress from "slow" to "fast" can happen in minutes, not hours.

John Wion


TWO BERNHARDS
by
John Wion

For the hundred years following the creation of Mozart's beautiful music for flute major composers were not inspired to write major works for our instrument. It would seem that the romantic ethic combined with the larger concert halls of the bourgeouisie moved the small intimate baroque flute to the sidelines. It was not until Bohm's new instrument took hold at the end of the nineteenth century that the flute reclaimed its place.

However, there were composers, highly respected in their lifetimes, who did write for the flute. Their music has been overshadowed by the greater geniuses who were their contemporaries, but this does not mean that their music was without value to us, and certainly not that it was without charm and elegance.

A good example of a composer known to performers today, but largely unperformed a generation ago, is Carl Reinecke (1824 - 1910). He was a second rate composer, in the best sense of the word, who was eclipsed by his contemporary, Brahms (1833 - 1897), but he gave us a most enjoyable concerto and sonata, as well as some chamber music (do listen to Fenwick Smith's gorgeous recording of the latter). Who were the Reineckes of the previous generations, Beethoven's (1770 - 1827) and Mendelssohn's (1809 - 1847) contemporaries?

Three years older than Beethoven was Bernhard Heinrich Romberg (1767 - 1841), the foremost cellist of his time. He began his career in the orchestra of the Elector at Bonn, Germany, which counted among its members Beethoven, playing viola, and Anton Reicha, playing flute. He later concertized all over Europe performing his own compositions, which included ten concertos, and numerous other solos and chamber music. He renewed his friendship with Beethoven whenever he was in Vienna, and performed the latter's cello sonatas with him. It is unfortunate that Romberg is most remembered for a disgusted reaction attributed to him when he first read through the second movement of Beethoven's first "Rasoumovsky" Quartet, however, as late as 1822, Beethoven wrote to him to praise his "high art". In addition to his cello music he wrote six operas, five symphonies, eleven string quartets, and at least three works for solo flute.

It was while he was Kapellmeister to the Prussian King in Berlin between 1815 and 1819 that his Concerto for Flute and Orchestra in B Minor was published as a set of parts by C. F. Peters with the opus number 30 (also assigned by the same publisher to one of the cello concertos). It was dedicated to the Berlin publisher, Adolph Schlesinger, and was probably written somewhat earlier; a letter of 1819 states that he had designated opus 17 for the flute concerto. The piece is in three movements, of which the first, with its long orchestral tutti, is the most substantial, displaying both brilliant passage work and lyrical sections. The slow movement is a pastorale in G Major where the flute traces endless embroidery over string accompaniment, and the charming rondo offers interludes of great bravura and a dazzling coda. The orchestration calls for oboes, horns, bassoons and timpani in addition to the strings. It was surely the lack of a reduction for piano that kept this fine work from entering the repertory, and it is hoped that my publication of such a version will correct this state.

Romberg's cousin Andreas, born the same year, was a violinist, and led a parallel career which included joint concerts as well as publications. Thus, in 1803, the publisher Hoffmeister offered "Trois Quintetti pour flute, violon, deux altos et violoncelle composes par les freres Andreas et Bernard Romberg - premier oevre de Quintetti". The title page of each flute part gives the composer of the first two as Andreas, and the third, in G Major, as Bernhard. This latter is a substantial four movement work, requiring considerable virtuosity of the flute, violin and cello. The violas are used largely in accompaniment, but the darkness they provide gives a weightiness to the piece (particularly the expressive Andante poco Adagio) that contrasts it to flute quartets of this period.

Romberg's third contribution to our repertoire is in lighter vein - a charming Divertimento with string (quartet) accompaniment. A bright Allegro sets up a Swedish folksong which is varied with considerable virtuosity - as a coda there is an elegant minuet. Published as Opus 27, it was similarly listed by Romberg's biographer, H. Schafer, but as "Divertimento uber ein Schwedisches Volkslied fur Flote und Orchester". Schafer also lists a Divertimento with quartet accompaniment as Opus 40, but not being able to find a copy of this I do not know if it is a different piece. Vester lists Divertissement, Opus 40, for flute, violin, viola and cello in his Flute Repertoire.

Catalogue as having been published by Richault. He also lists Divertimento, Opus 27, as a work for flute and piano that was published by Schweers und Hake in Bremen.

Seven years older than Mendelssohn, Bernhard Molique (1802 - 1869) was a violin prodigy and student of Ludwig Spohr. At the age of eighteen he was appointed concertmaster in Munich and at twenty four he became concertmaster in Stuttgart. After a successful solo career he settled in London where he became Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy until his retirement in 1866. His compositions include two masses, a symphony, 6 violin concertos, concertos for a number of other instruments, and chamber music. He had his biggest successes with his A Minor violin concerto, his piano trio, Opus 27, and his oratorio, "Abraham".

While in Munich as a young man he befriended the flutist Theobald Bohm and they did some successful concert tours around Germany. One of Molique's first compositions was a Duo Concertante, Opus 3, for flute and violin for themselves to play. A charming work which draws on themes of Weber, including the final hymn from "Der Freischutz", it demonstrates that Molique must have been a superb player.

He also wrote a concerto for Bohm which was reviewed after a performance in Leipzig in 1824 - "Although the composition performed by Herr Bohm is not a work of genius and shows here and there too much of the influence of Spohr, it is nevertheless an honorable addition to the repertoire of the instrument." The concerto was not published at that time though it is presumed that this is what has been recently edited and recorded by Alain Marion using a manuscript in the Wurttemberg Library in Stuttgart. In 1865 the Norwegian flutist, Oluf Svendsen, played a concerto by Molique with the orchestra of the Philharmonic Society in London. It would seem that this was a reworking of his early concerto, now designated Opus 69. A comparison with the Marion edition shows that the outer movements are obvious reworkings and that the Andante is new. Whatever has now become of the manuscript of the later version, it was obviously the source of several German editions after Molique's death (one of which was used in producing the currently available Southern Music edition). The new Andante has always been a popular solo but the concerto as a whole is rarely heard. The opening Allegro is musically strong, though containing some awkward figurations and extended phrases, and the Rondo is charming and appropriately brilliant.

Of Molique's other works for the flute the most substantial is his Quintet, Opus 35, with violin, 2 violas and cello. Written in 1848 on commission from the English piano maker and amateur flutist, Walter Broadwood, it is quite beautiful. As has been mentioned earlier the use of two violas seems to imply a more serious intent than that of a typical flute quartet, and although the opening Allegro is in D Major the first entry of the flute is in the minor mode. The Scherzo is in D Minor, though the trio is built around an English folksong in the major mode. The elegant Andante is in Bb Major, but the contrasting middle section is again in the minor mode. The bubbling finale returns to the opening D Major. The texture throughout integrates the flute with the three strings, only the second viola taking an accompanying role.

After I became interested in these composers some twenty years ago audience response to my performances encouraged me to record the concertos and quintets. I have now added the smaller pieces mentioned above to create a CD of each composer's music. I hope that these CDs along with this article will stimulate the further investigation of the two Bernhards' contributions to our repertory.


John Wion
review of
My Complete Story of the Flute
Leonardo DE Lorenzo - Revised and Expanded

Edition (Texas Tech University Press, 1992)

I first discovered this book in Tasmania, Australia, in 1956, in the room of an aging and ailing John Amadio (see p 202), who was ending a glamorous solo career by playing first flute in the local radio orchestra. As a teenager in that isolated part of the world, I was fascinated by its history of the flute, flutists, and flute music both old and new. I might not know about the flute in America, but De Lorenzo knew about the 70 year old Galliardi (see p 235) from his home town in Italy, now playing in a Melbourne theater, and he had great respect for Melba's manager, and obligato player, the esteemed John Lemmone (see p 167).

Years later, doing research in the N.Y.P.L at Lincoln Center, one of the few places to find De Lorenzo's book by then, I lost a whole afternoon, unable to avoid browsing through the whole book again.

It is that kind of a book - not to be read cover to cover, word by word - at times fascinating, at times irritating, at times irrelevant - a singular reference for people and music considered important in the mid-century flute world - a good source for information on the previous two centuries too.

De Lorenzo (1875 - 1962), after several years of world travel, settled in the U.S. in 1910, when he became first flutist of the New York Philharmonic under Mahler. His longest tenure was in Rochester (1923 - 35) both in the orchestra and at Eastman, after which he retired to California. He was an enthusiastic teacher, a prolific composer and the kind of correspondent who would write "To G. B. S. , London, England" with a query, and get an answer (see p 307). He seems to have known or corresponded with everyone remotely connected to the flute, or, in the case of Shaw, unconnected (see p 308).

The book, as originally published in 1951, was in four parts - "The Flute", "The Performer", "The Music", and "Reminiscences of a Flutist". The current edition adds three addenda that De Lorenzo had hoped to include in a second edition. Also added is a complete index. From this New Yorkers can quickly find that Julius Baker was once "a talented flutist of the younger American generation" and that Gerardo Levy was once "the excellent solo flutist with the Orguesta Sinfonica de Buenos Aires" - that the N.Y.P. flute section was once John Wummer, Amedeo Ghignatti, William Heim and Emil Pagano, while the Met's was H. Bennett, H. de Vries, H. Hirsh, and F. Monone (well, nobody's perfect!)

The National Flute Association is to be commended for making this revision a reality; as a true review of the book's contents and value, Nancy Toff's introduction is perfect.

John Wion


SCHUBERT'S SECOND VARIATION ON
"TROCKNE BLUMEN"

by
JOHN WION

Sooner or later most flutists become aware that the second variation of Schubert's Introduction and Variations on his song from the "Mullerliedern" (Opus 160, D.802) contains, in its E major section, only seven bars, whereas the theme and the other variations have eight.

In the Major section of the theme, the first two bars are harmonically identical, as are the third and fourth bars, and the fifth and sixth.

These fifth and sixth bars have on their first quarter a diminished seventh chord over an A#, and on their second quarter an E major chord over a B. In bar seven, the second quarter is the same E chord, but the first quarter is a C# minor chord in root position.

In Variation 2, it is this seventh bar which has been elided. Some editions print the phrase as Schubert wrote it, without comment, and some editions indicate a repeat of bar six, or of the second quarter note of six and the first quarter note of seven. Some editions add the "missing" bar without comment.

What I have been able to read on the subject suggests that scholars are undecided on the question of whether the elision was intentional or the result of some distraction. I have not found a scholarly discussion of the subject that might offer other instances where Schubert similarly condensed a regularly metered phrase.

In coming to grips with this question for my own satisfaction as a performer and teacher, I decided to create a version that fills in the missing material, but, having done so, I had to wonder why Schubert would not have corrected his manuscript similarly if he was unhappy with it.

If you compare my version with an Urtext edition based on Schubert's manuscript, you will see that, harmonically and melodically, the missing material is the second quarter note of bar six and the first quarter note of bar seven, not a simple omission of a bar. A further indication of Schubert's deliberate intent is that the flute trill in measure four his original is not resolved on the following downbeat, which is a quarter note rest.

I would think that in writing out this variation Schubert would have started by putting down the piano left hand, which is its focus. Perhaps one can argue that some distraction led him to leave out two beats. Having made this slip, the exigencies of time, or the cost of paper, or a touch of humor, then moved him to adjust the rest of the material accordingly - and, having done so, he rather liked the results.

I hope that you will take the time to compare the two versions and think about them. If you decide you prefer the symmetry of the eight bar phrase, you could cut it out and tape it into your own music.

Flute Part


Piano Part (final 6 measures only)

John Wion
on
Key Extenders

In a message dated 12/6/96 8:54:25 PM, Kim wrote:
Has anyone had key extensions installed on the left hand A, G, and G# keys?

John's Response:

Kim, I recommend you try the plugs with extensions that Brannen Brothers sell. This will allow you to experiment, then the ones you decide you don't need they will take back. One of the niftiest is a plastic cover that clips over the C finger button (where you put your left hand first finger) letting you move the whole hand slightly down the body of the flute and narrowing the stretch between the first two fingers. If you dont have offset G you might still want an extension plug for that. If you don't play Brannen they will send the correct sized plugs if you give an accurate dimension of your holes (I'm assuming you play open hole). As I have written here before, my own solution to the pressure on the first finger was to have a metal "wart" added to the body. (This is what they call the addition that you see on metal piccolos to make it easier to hold.) I then made a little ring out of velcro and a wedge of cork. The ring goes around my first finger and provides a little ledge on which the wart sits - taking the weight of the flute. I hope this helps.

John Wion

John Wion comments on Mozart tempos
from internet discussion group (February 1997)

Several recent events have set me thinking about the speeds at which flutists perform the different Mozart solos. From thirty plus years of playing and coaching these pieces and simultaneously playing Mozart's operas, I have developed a clear feeling about these tempos. But that doesn't always seem to carry much weight with a student who has settled on something quite different. And then there will be the recording by some respected flutist that I also feel has inappropriate tempos to argue against. For support I went looking again at Jean-Pierre Marty's "The Tempo Indications of Mozart" (Yale UP, 1988). In this fascinating book the conductor proposes that Mozart had a very clear idea of just what speed he wished his music to be played at, and indicated that speed with descriptions that were very meaningful to the performers of his time. I wont go into M. Marty's argument here, but he classifies every piece of Mozart's music for which a tempo was indicated into groups, and proposes an approximate metronome marking for each group.

I thought the list might find it interesting to see his suggestions as they apply to the flute solos. For e-mail purposes I use H for half note (minim), Q for quarter note (crotchet), and E for eighth note (quaver). I find a lot of them about one notch too fast for my taste, but that could be a variation of metronomes.

G Major Concerto
Allegro maestoso Q=108
Adagio ma non troppo E=72
Tempo di Minuetto Q=126

D Major Concerto
Allegro aperto Q=126
Adagio ma non troppo Q=46
Allegro Q=126

Andante
E=84

C Major Concerto
Allegro Q=126
Andantino Q=54
Allegro H=72

C Major Quartet
Allegro Q=126
Andantino Q=44
Adagio E=56
Allegro Q=168

D Major Quartet
Allegro Q=126
Adagio E=72
Rondeau (no tempo marking, but does that mean that the tempo stays the same(ie H=72)? (my comment, not M. Marty's.)

G Major Quartet
Andante Q=72
Tempo di Minuetto E=116

A Major Quartet
Q=120
Menuetto Q=126
Allegretto grazioso etc. Q=116

John Wion

John Wion
on
Conservatory vs University Programs

Emily asks:

"I'm a sophmore in high school and I'm starting to think about where I'm going after high school. I've heard that conservatories are a lot more expensive than universitites, and that will be a major concern for me. Is that true?

How big of a difference does a conservatory education make in the "real world" as far as a performance career goes? I know there's a good in-state university where I could even get a master's or a doctorate in performance.

John responds:

Emily,
It is great that you are starting to think about this now. I am always amazed at how many applications to Hartt do not include a teacher preference. Wherever you go you will be spending a big part of your life in a one to one situation. Now is the time to start compiling a list of possible teachers. For a start, ask your teacher for suggestions. Then make inquiries - maybe on this list - for recommendations from students who are now at college. Flute conventions and masterclasses are a good way to be exposed to some possible teachers, maybe during next summer - and perhaps you would be able to arrange a lesson with a couple of your prospective teachers. If not before, I would certainly recommend taking a "trial" lesson before you choose amongst the schools that accept you.

I am sure that conservatories have considerably higher tuition than state universities (particularly in-state), tho they often have considerable talent awards for gifted students. Conservatories are eager for good students and will offer as big a scholarship as they can to attract them. However, I must say that I am always disappointed by the student who says (s)he will go to the school that offers the biggest scholarship. This is a most important time in your life, and the quality of your education is always the most important factor.

I have said on this list before that a performance degree (particularly at a conservatory) is something to embark on against everyone's advice only if you are absolutely convinced that there is nothing else you can imagine doing with your life, and you know you have the talent and the competitive drive to succeed. Otherwise I would always recommend taking another major, such as music education or music management, and exposing yourself to as many non-musical areas as possible. You can still work hard to develop your flute talent, and perhaps move to a performance major at the graduate level. One of my best students was a music ed major at Hartt. She went on to graduate flute work at Juilliard and now plays at the opera with me. Some very successful flutists in the world have taken university degrees in completely unrelated fields.

If you should indeed finish up your education as a prospective professional performer, the place you have gone to school will have little to do with getting a playing job. It is true that if it was a famous school or a famous teacher you might get a little keener attention, but mostly you are anonymous behind a screen. Apart from having the best teacher you can find, you need the opportunity to develop your aural and theoretical skills. Again, I am amazed at how little background American highschoolers have in these areas. Now is the time to start if you haven't.

John Wion


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