Great Works for Flute

The flute never fails to dazzle, whether it's playing the role of a fairytale spirit or a fearless sonic explorer. From the staggering amount of repertoire written for the instrument we´ve picked out a few gems.

Vivaldi: Flute Concerto in D

Vivaldi wrote no fewer than 12 concertos for the flute, but the work in D major is one of the best loved. Part of a set which also contains the concertos ‘La tempesta di mare’ (Storm at Sea) and ‘La notte’ (The Night), this particular work bears the nickname ‘Il gardellino’ (The Goldfinch); Vivaldi transports the listener into the realm of the pastoral, with the perky, arpeggiated figures of the solo part imitating the call of the bird. Lilting strings support the lyrical melody of the second movement, while the effervescent finale returns to the joyful feel of the opening.

Antonio Vivaldi Concerto for Flute and Strings in D, Op.10, No.3, R.428 "Il gardellino" 3. Allegro Patrick Gallois, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Mozart: Flute Concerto No.2 in D

Despite the old adage that Mozart hated the flute, it is hard to deny that his Flute Concerto No.2 is one of the most beautiful pieces written for the instrument. Although the work originated as an adaptation of the 1777 Oboe Concerto, it is hard to imagine a work that better reveals the different sides to the instrument. Opening with a bright orchestral introduction, the flute presents a graceful melody decorated with stylish ornaments. After the heartfelt lyricism and peaceful musings of the Adagio, the buoyant Allegro finale concludes the work with infectious tunes and glittering fireworks.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Flute Concerto No.2 In D, K.314 2. Andante ma non troppo Jacques Zoon, Orchestra Mozart, Claudio Abbado

Debussy: Syrinx

One of the most alluring works for the instrument, Debussy's Syrinx is a staple for any flautist. Composed as incidental music for Gabriel Mourey’s play Psyché, the piece refers to a Greek myth in which the god Pan falls in love with the nymph Syrinx, who turns herself into a water reed in order to hide from him. Rejected, Pan uses the reeds to construct himself a pipe before playing a tune. A descending chromatic phrase provides the basis for this musical soliloquy, with pregnant silences providing a mysterious atmosphere. The flautist explores the idea, building towards an impassioned climax before subsiding into nothing.

Claude Debussy Syrinx Doriot Anthony Dwyer

Ravel: Pavane pour une infante défunte

(Arranged by Craig Leon)

Originally written for solo piano in 1899, Ravel's Pavane (a solemn medieval dance) for a Dead Infanta (a Spanish princess) features one of his lushest and most romantic melodies. Allocated to the French horn in Ravel's own orchestral version of the piece, it is equally effective as played on the flute in the present arrangement.

Maurice Ravel Pavane pour une infante défunte, M.19 (Arranged by Craig Leon) James Galway, London Symphony Orchestra, Klauspeter Seibel

Grieg: "Morning Mood" from Peer Gynt Suite

Often regarded as the ultimate technicolour musical depiction of Norwegian fjords and mountains, Morning Mood actually portrays sunrise over the African desert. Grieg's music maybe does not reflect all the psychological complexities of Henrik Ibsen's play, but it has undoubtedly helped it to survive in the theatre.

Edvard Grieg Peer Gynt Suite No.1, Op.46 1. Morning Mood Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

J.S. Bach: Flute Sonatas

 In Bach's time it was common for the harpsichordist accompanying a soloist to improvise over a given bass line with indicated chord progressions, not unlike the way jazz musicians do. Bach was one of the first to provide elaborate, fully-written out accompanying parts. This work may well have originated as a Trio Sonata for two flutes and basso continuo, as Bach was an inveterate reviser and re-arranger of his own works.

Johann Sebastian Bach Sonata for Flute No.1 in B minor, BWV 1030 1. Andante Aurèle Nicolet, Karl Richter