Month: November 2017

Short Cuts – Orchestral Excerpt Edition

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday/Saturday.

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Today’s blog is about short cuts. Some may refer to these as trick fingering suggestions, but I have never really liked the term “trick fingerings.” We aren’t pulling rabbits out of a hat or searching for quarters behind ears. We are simply devising alternatives for physically difficult fingering patterns. Why make things more difficult than they need to be, amiright? Short cuts in orchestral excerpts are literally lifesavers at auditions when your physical and mental facilities are being put through the spin cycle. They are also great for performance time when the spotlight may hinder your ability to BRING IT! the same way you do in rehearsals. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am grateful that these short cuts have been available to me during my early career years and hope they can help you as they have helped me.

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Beethoven – Leonore Overture No. 3, mm. 328-360. Although the key to playing this excerpt is rhythm, rhythm, and rhythm, that final high D is a very sneaky test in endurance, sound, and intonation. Flutists have struggled with this note for decades, with good reason. The natural fingering for the high D is flat-city and as we run out of air (which is inevitable given that the note is sustained for 9 measures), it is likely that the pitch will fall off the face of the planet. A clever trick I learned by studying trick fingerings for the piccolo (where the high D is even more problematic than on the flute), is to add the G# pinky (left hand) and 1st finger right hand keys to bring the pitch up. This fingering is great because it takes less air to sustain than the standard high D fingering, helping you to keep the pitch up even when you are running low in air. Be careful though – the sound quality is a bit different. Make sure to play softly and support the pitch as much as possible.
Debussy – Prélude à l‘après-midi d’un faune, opening 4 measures (and beyond). There is really only one important short cut in this excerpt and only applies if you have a C# key on your flute. The reason for this is because much of the work is written in suspended tones that create very specific tone colors when combined with other instruments in the orchestra (very similar to a Monet painting). That is the Debussy way – don’t mess with his compositional mojo! Playing the opening C# with the C# key (fingering a B, adding the C# key), rather than using the standard C# fingering helps to create more of an ethereal sound than the open, and uneasy, sound of the standard C#. Pitch is also a bit easier to control with this key and moving to the B natural is much more fluid than plunking down the left hand thumb and first finger at the same time.

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Mendelssohn – Incidental Music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, pick up to 1 measure before Rehearsal P to 23 measures after Rehearsal Q. So many notes that never stop spinning. Why move your fingers any more than necessary? Keep the 3 fingers on your right hand down for the C naturals that fall in the following measures: 2 measures after P, 5 measures after P, 10 measures after P, 13 measures after P, 1 measure before Q, 2 measures after Q, and 4 measures after Q. This will help make the transition from C to D more fluid and keep the pitch down on each of the C’s.
Prokofiev – Classical Symphony, Movement IV, 8 measures before Rehearsal C to Rehearsal D. This excerpt is maddening. A few little short cuts, however, will help keep your sanity throughout these short, but quick, decorations. For the first 4 measures of this excerpt, overblow the high G using a middle G fingering and the following high E using a middle A natural fingering (C, middle G, middle A, middle G, C, E). Just be careful not to overblow the A to a high A rather than the E natural. This will take some practice but it is a much easier alternative to how the passage is written. The next 4 measures, beginning 4 measures before Rehearsal C, can also be simplified by overblowing a middle G fingering for all of the high D naturals (which can be a bit tough on your 1st finger, left hand). You may also overblow a middle Bb for the final high Fs in each figure, but I recommend the standard F fingering on the first F in each group to keep the sound grounded. Finally, make use of the middle G fingering beginning at Letter C for those high Gs to save your thumb from unnecessary gymnastics. These short cuts may take a bit of practice to get used to, but they are well worth the effort. Your fingers will thank you!

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Prokofiev – Classical Symphony, Movement IV, Rehearsal K through L. If I had a decent short cut for the final run after letter L, I would list it here, but, alas, blood, sweat, and tears (and slow practice with a metronome) is the only advice I have for this run. However, I do want to recommend an alternative fingering for 2 measures before K that I find very useful. Instead of using all of the standard fingerings in these measures, overblow a middle B and a middle G for the high F#s and Ds (respectively) to make the passage a bit easier on the fingers. Works like a charm!
Prokofiev – Peter and the Wolf, Rehearsal 2-4. Prokofiev, why do you have so many finger-splitting runs? You will no doubt play this excerpt for many occasions throughout your flute playing career. Everybody knows it. Everybody loves it. Yet not everybody knows just how difficult it is to execute smoothly. The grace notes in the opening of this excerpt really need to flip and fingering a high A to a high G really impedes a decent flip. Instead, use your 1st trill key. Simply finger the high G and quickly hit the 1st trill key to give the note a momentary hit of a high A for the grace note. This fingering sounds far more bird-like than the clunky standard fingering. There is also a rumored shortcut for the often-muddled passage beginning 5 measures after Rehearsal 2, but I find that trick fingerings here tend to muddle the passage even more. Snappy fingers and slow practice is what I recommend for this passage. Finally, and probably my favorite short cut, regards the arpeggios 2 measures before Rehearsal 3 and 2 measures before Rehearsal 4. The top of this passage is a bit tricky due to the high F#s and high D naturals. Instead, overblow a middle B and C for the high F# and G at the top of the passage to help your fingers out a bit. This passage moves fairly quickly making the difference in tone quality practically unnoticeable.

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Saint-Saens – Carnival of the Animals, 10. Voliere. 3 words to keep in mind for the excerpt: Use Trill Fingerings. I know this advice is a bit controversial. Some flute players like it and some say that it ruins the integrity of the sound. Again, I must reiterate that the notes are moving so fast that it is difficult to tell the difference in sound quality, especially if the notes are supported by a sufficient amount of air. I say go for it. Use trill fingerings especially on the high D-Es in measures 3 and 5 and the high E-Fs at rehearsal 1 and two measures later, on the repeat. Avoid, however, trill fingerings on the C-Ds 2 measures before Rehearsal 2. This trill is a bit complicated and the sound quality is a bit more perceivable on these notes than the other trill fingerings.

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Stravinsky – Firebird Suite (1919), Variation de L’oiseau de feu. This piece gives me nightmares. I still remember my conductor shouting, “Dance! Dance!” in my direction as we played this movement, as if we were in an Old West gunfight. I can’t dance. I am paralyzed by fear. #feardance (is that a thing?) There are one or two little short cuts in this movement that are, well, the difference between performance life and death. That nasty run in the 3rd measure sounds a bit better if you use a forked F and overblow a middle G for the high D. You could also experiment by overblowing an A, middle Bb and G for the entire passage, but be weary of sound quality, especially on the high A. Make sure to support this fragment with a lot of air and control any wild fingers (fingers should remain close to the keys). Another great place to use some fancy fingerings is on the rather difficult run up to the high Bb in 2 measures after Rehearsal 13. Here we have the 3 nastiest notes in the high register, D, F#, and G#, one right after the other, resolving on a high Bb. Overblow a middle B natural to achieve the high F#, and a high C# to achieve the G#. You may also overblow a middle G to achieve the high D natural, but I don’t think this is quite necessary with the addition of the overblown B natural and C#. Along these same lines, the measure before Rehearsal 14 also features the same clunky notes. In this passage, again overblow a middle B natural to achieve the high F#, a middle G# to achieve the D#, and a middle A to achieve the high E, making this explosive passage much easier to execute than as written. Finally, one of my favorite short cuts to use whenever I am faced with a quick figure utilizing a high E to high A jump (which never seems to speak properly) is to add the 2nd trill key on the high E thus opening up the sound to the high A more fluidly. This can be used on the figure on the measure before Rehearsal 17.

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Do you have any other clever short cuts that you like to use with orchestral excerpts? Have you used any of the tips listed above? Please comment below!

Happy Fluting!



Top 10 Flute Teaching Tips

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday.

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I was reorganizing my sheet music collection last weekend and found something quite intriguing. Shuffled between the pages of a piece that I had not played in several years was a copy of a letter of recommendation from a former teacher. Well….recommendation is not quite the right word… As I read through the letter, I was saddened by its contents. “Although she initially met my suggestions cursorily, she gave a satisfactory performance.” I remember seeing this letter years ago, not quite understanding where these comments came from. If I had acted “cursorily,” I did not know it and had never intended to interact that way with a teacher. A “satisfactory” performance made it sound like I successfully made it from the beginning to the end of the performance without falling off the stage or forgetting to bring my instrument. What saddened me the most, however, was never being aware that there was a problem or that I had not met goals when I thought I had. Lesson expectations were fuzzy at best and I did not know the difference between an “okay” performance and a “great” performance through the eyes of my teacher. It wasn’t until years later when I met a very encouraging and transparent teacher, that I realized the value of clear pedagogical communication. A great teacher understands their students and works with them to set and establish goals, monitor success, and encourages them to reach for the stars. I have patterned my own teaching after the lessons I learned working with both encouraging and not-so-encouraging teachers. Today’s blog features my Top 10 Teaching Tips based on my own teaching experiences and what I have valued over the years. I really hope these tips help you reevaluate how you interact with your students and inspire you to encourage students to follow their dreams. Help your students along their paths and always remain a beacon of hope rather than locked doorway to another dimension.

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Top 10 Teaching Tips

  1. Always Encourage your Students. I think one of the biggest differences between good teachers and great teachers is effective coaching skills. Every student is different. It is critical that you understand who your students are, their interests, their strengths, and their weaknesses. Your approach with every student should be different based on an understanding of who they are, where they are in their flute study, where they want to go, and what is important to them. If students are struggling to understand certain concepts, do not immediately assume that they are just being “difficult.” There is a reason they are struggling and you may need to reconsider how you are explaining things to them and why it may not click. For example, if you know that your student is a visual learner, but you are trying to explain tone color by singing at them (loudly), they are not going to understand in the same way that your aural learners will and may become frustrated and discouraged. Change your approach and always encourage them to experiment, ask questions, and discuss action plans to further their understanding. Learning is about developing, experimenting, questioning, and improving. Inspire your students to become lifelong learners.
  2. Use the Socratic Method Often. Ideas are more meaningful to students when they are developed from the depths of their own minds. I love to make my students analyze their own playing before I tell them what I heard and provide suggestions for how to improve. “What did you think about that?” is a simple question to get students to think critically about their playing and not just get from Point A to Point B with a passing “good job” from the teacher. If they speak about poor tone quality, ask them what they think they can do to improve. This opens a nice dialog for you and your student to discuss tone improvement techniques and come up with exercises they can practice at home.
  3. Set Clear Goals. One of the difficult parts about being a student is constantly trying to guess what your teacher expects from you. Other disciplines use a syllabus very carefully to outline all course expectations, often including rubrics detailing what is expected to achieve an A, B, C, and so on, in the course. Lessons are very different because they are based on highly individualized sets of expectations and goals. I recommend using a syllabus or similar document to set studio policies that apply to all students (attendance policy, canceled lesson policy, recital expectations, masterclass participation policies, and so forth), but keep track of individual progress using a weekly student notebook. In my studio, for example, students are required to bring a notebook to their lessons, which I use to record all of the techniques we discuss and jot down practice assignment expectations for the next lesson. A notebook is a great way to keep students on track and clarify short and long term goals. Sit down with your students at least once per quarter or semester and discuss long range recital preparation, overall goals for the semester, and future flute playing plans including auditions, masterclasses, and competition goals. This is also a good opportunity to clearly explain what you expect from them over the course of a semester. For younger students, periodic chats regarding practice goals is also very important. Assign practice cards and chart progress on a simple Excel-based chart. Above all, keep expectations transparent and provide a supportive environment for students to ask questions as they progress throughout their goals.
  4. Monitor Progress. Students want to see that the time they put into their studies pays off in some sort of measurable progress. Practice cards, as I discussed above, is a good way to monitor practice goals, however monitoring overall performance progress can be a bit trickier. Encourage your students to record short videos of at-home practice routines to review during their lessons. Recording a video is very intimidating (even within the privacy of your own home), therefore you may also help your students deal with stage fright while also monitoring their flute playing progress. Review recital videos with students following a studio recital. Talk about what worked, what didn’t work, what was easy, and what was difficult. Ask them to grade themselves on their own recitals! Discuss the similarities and differences between your grade and theirs. Ask students to memorize scales, etudes, or pieces. It is easy to monitor memorization skills and create goals to memorize works a bit at a time. Whatever techniques you use, make sure to discuss progress with your students regularly. Let them know how they are doing and what they still need to do to achieve their goals.
  5. Create a Toolbox of Go-To Techniques. This will help students become their own teachers for life! Create a list of short descriptions or acronyms for techniques that you discuss often in lessons (air in cheek, conducting and playing, frog breathing, ducky-ducky articulation, march and play, etc). These will help students recall simple techniques quite quickly when they realize they are struggling with sound or technique. This list is, essentially, their flute toolbox. If you are a fan of the Socratic Method, you will find your students using these short descriptions in their answers to the question, “How would you improve your performance of this passage,” or, “What did you think about your tone in that excerpt? What would you do to improve your tone?” These toolbox techniques will last years and decades after your time together.
  6. Encourage Improvisation. Good teachers have a duty to their students to cultivate creativity and part of that means tossing out the rules once in a while and letting students explore music on their own terms. Improvisation is a great way for students to explore their sound and technique in a safe, inclusive environment where the music does not stop for a “wrong” note or “wrong” type of sound. I like to end most lessons with 3-5 minutes of improvisation. Students really look forward to this time and it always helps us discuss things they have wanted to try out but, for some reason or another, have not had the opportunity (advanced techniques, for example). Let creativity flow. Your students may discover cool, new ways to play the flute that they had never even thought of before.
  7. Technology is your Friend. YouTube. Smart Music. Classroom blogs. Apps. Internet research. There are so many great tools to combine with traditional instruction that really enhance the studio environment. I have mentioned many of these programs in previous blog posts. I think the one that is my all-time favorite, however, is Smart Music. This program is great on so many levels and really helps students understand their scores to maximize time spent with their accompanists. I also think that YouTube has changed the way we think about performance. I encourage my students to create YouTube clips of their playing (turning off comments if they are a bit on the shy side). Finally, having a studio blog is a great way to help students learn from each other in a safe, inclusive environment. Brush up on these programs and invite students to suggest new programs to use in their flute lessons.
  8. Host Studio Masterclasses. A studio masterclass is a nerve-wracking, yet fun experience for all of your students. Performing in front of peers helps students confront stage fright, which is something that often gets swept under the rug. We all have to deal with it and when we address it as a group, it is no longer a lonely, frightening experience. The masterclass environment is also an opportunity for students to learn from each other. Two students may be confronting the same types of challenges in their lessons but use different methods to solve the same problems. They can discuss these issues out in the open and analyze what works and what doesn’t. Older students can inspire and encourage younger students through their performances and parents can participate in their child’s flute study simply by being observers. A masterclass is also a wonderful opportunity for all students to sight read flute choir music together, encouraging a collective, and supportive, learning environment.
  9. Listening Assignments. The world of flute playing is a lot bigger than the Rubank series or the confines of Bach Sonatas. Encourage your students to broaden their horizons by assigning listening assignment that include super difficult pieces (Jolivet or Ibert), strange non-traditional pieces (Berio Sequenza), flute choir works, woodwind quintet pieces, pieces for flute and orchestra, Jethro Tull!, Jazz flute, and non-western flute works. YouTube includes a variety of recordings that students can easily review and discuss through journaling or classroom discussions. Perhaps they will gravitate towards a particular piece or composer or maybe even hear something that they want to practice in their next lesson. Part of learning is having the necessary space to explore the infinite possibilities of the Universe.
  10. Competitions, Auditions, and Summer Studies – Go for it! Whatever their level, preparing for an audition or competition is something that a student will remember forever. The worst thing that can happen in any of these instances is that they do not win (the chair, the job, whatever). The preparation work to get to the competition stage, in my opinion, however, is far more valuable than any trophy or title. This is goal setting at it’s finest. I felt that I got into the audition and masterclass scene a little late, as I was often under the impression that these things were only available for a select few, more talented, players. Wrong! Preparing, performing, analyzing, and pulling yourself up by your boot-straps and trying again is part of the learning process. This is how we improve. This is how we encounter and measure ourselves. This is how we set goals for the future and learn through experiences. Being a good teacher requires you to have faith in your students and to push them to succeed beyond their expectations. Anything less is a disservice to your students and to yourself.

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What do you think makes a good teacher? What have your best teachers had in common? What are the most valuable lessons you have learned from past teachers? What do you value in your lessons? Please comment below!

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Happy Fluting!

Suggested Flute Repertoire List

Greetings and Welcome to a new Flute Friday/Sunday.

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Before I launch into today’s blog, I just wanted to let everybody know that my November 2017 Flute Horoscopes have been published in the November volume of The Flute View Magazine! What does November hold for your flute playing? Check them out here:

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When I was a younger student, I was always a bit overwhelmed when searching for new pieces to work on over the summer or selecting a program for a future recital. There are so many to choose from!!! My go-to recital approach was to select a piece from each of the 4 major compositional eras (Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Contemporary) with maybe another more off-the-wall contemporary piece or an additional French Flute School showstopper to keep things interesting. That often meant taking an adventure to the music library, flipping through numerous scores, listening to flute CDs, and chatting with my fellow flutists for recommendations. Sometimes what helped me the most, however, was simply browsing repertoire lists on the internet. Repertoire lists are great resources as they help jog your mind for pieces that you may have heard in the past that you found interesting, or exciting pieces by a particular composer that you may want to listen to or learn more about before reading through and programming. Today’s blog will feature a sample repertoire list for those of you searching for new pieces to try, listed according to compositional era. If you are searching for a new piece to sight read and possibly add to your next program, I hope today’s post will help you find a new, inspiring work to incorporate into your practice routine.

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Bach, C.P.E.                        Concerto in D Minor, Wq. 22

Bach, C.P.E.                        Concerto in A Minor , Wq. 166

Bach, C.P.E.                        Concerto in B-flat Major , Wq. 167

Bach, C.P.E.                        Concerto in G Major, Wq. 168

Bach, C.P.E.                        Concerto in A, Wq. 169

Bach, C.P.E.                        “Hamburger” Sonata in G Major

Bach, C.P.E.                        Sonata in A Minor (Solo Flute)

Bach, J.S.                            Partita in A Minor, BWV 1013 (Solo Flute)

Bach, J.S.,                            Sonata in E-flat Major, BWV1031

Bach, J.S.                             Sonata in G Minor, BWV 1020

Bach, J.S.                             Sonata in A Major, BWV 1032

Bach, J.S.                             Sonata in C Major, BWV 1033

Bach, J.S.                             Sonata in E Major, BWV 1035

Bach, J.S.                             Sonata in E Minor, BWV 1034

Bach, J.S.                             Sonata in B Minor, BWV 1030

Bach, J.S.                             Suite in B Minor, BWV 1067

Boccherini, Luigi              Concerto in D, op. 27

Handel, G.F.                       Eleven Sonatas

Kleinknecht, J.F.                Sonata in B Minor

Leclair, J.M.                        Sonata in G, Op. 9, No. 7

Leclair, J.M.                        Sonata in E Minor, Op. 9, No. 2

Marais, Marin                   Les Folies d’Espagne (Solo Flute)

Pergolesi, G.B.                   Concerto in G Major

Telemann, G.P.                 12 Fantasies (Solo Flute)

Telemann, G.P.                 Suite in A Minor

Quantz, J.J.                         Concerto in G Major

Vivaldi, Antonio               6 Concerti, op. 10

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Devienne, François          Concerto No. 2 in D

Devienne, François          Concerto No. 7 in e

Devienne, François          Concerto No. 8

Devienne, François          Sonata in D Major

Devienne, François          Sonata in E Minor

Gluck, C.W.                        Minuet and Dance of the Blessed Spirits

Mozart, W.A.                     Concerto in G, K. 313

Mozart, W.A.                     Concerto in D, K. 314

Mozart, W.A.                     Andante and Rondo

Mozart, W.A.                     Three Sonatas, K. 285, 285b, 298 (arr. L. Moyse)

Stamitz, Anton                  Concerto in D Major

Stamitz, Carl                      Concerto in G Major, op. 29

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Boehm, Theobald            Concerto in G Major, Op. 1

Boehm, Theobald            Grande Polonaise

Borne, Francis                  Carmen Fantasie

Bozza                                  Agrestide

Büsser                                Prélude and Scherzo

Casella, Alfredo                Sicilienne et Burlesque

Chaminade, Cécile           Concertino

Demersseman, Jules        Sixième Solo de Concert

Doppler, Franz,                 Hungarian Pastoral Fantasie

Dutilleux                             Sonatine

Enesco                                 Cantabile et Presto

Fauré                                    Fantasie

Ganne                                  Andante and Scherzo

Gaubert                               Fantasie

Gaubert                               Madrigal

Gaubert                               Nocturne and Allegro Scherzando

Hüe                                       Fantasie

Kuhlau, Friedrich              Six Divertissements, Op. 68 for flute and piano

Mercadante, Saverio         Concerto in E Minor

Périlhou                               Ballade

Reinecke, Carl                    Sonata “Undine”

Schubert, Franz                 Introduction and Variations

Schubert, Franz                 Sonata in A Minor “Arpeggione”

Taffanel                               Andante Pastorale and Scherzettino

Taffanel, Paul                     Grande Fantasie sur Mignon

Widor, Charles-Marie       Suite

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Berio                                    Sequenza (Solo Flute)

Bloch, Ernst                        Suite Modale

Bolling, Claude                  Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano

Bozza, Eugène                   Image (Solo Flute)

Burton, Eldin                      Sonatina

Carter, Elliott                      Scrivo in vento (Solo Flute)

Copland, Aaron                 Duo

Corigliano, John                Voyage

Debussy                               Syrinx (Solo Flute)

Dick, Robert                       Afterlight (Solo Flute)

Feld, Jindrich                     Sonata

Foote, Arthur                     A Night Piece

Françaix, Jean                    Divertimento

Françaix, Jean                    Suite for Solo Flute (Solo Flute)

Fukushima, Kazuo            Mei (Solo Flute)

Griffes                                  Poem

Hanson                                Serenade

Hindemith                          Eight Pieces (Solo Flute)

Hindemith                          Sonata

Honegger                            Danse de la chèvre (Solo Flute)

Hoover, Katherine            Kokopeli (Solo Flute)

Ibert, Jacques                     Pièce (Solo Flute)

Ibert,                                    Concerto

Jolivet                                   Chant de Linos

Jolivet, André                    Cinq Incantations (Solo Flute)

Jolivet, André                    Concerto

Karg-Elert, Sigfrid             Sonata Appassionata in F# Minor, op. 140 (Solo Flute)

Kennan                                Night Soliloquy

Liebermann, Lowell         Sonata

Martin, Frank                    Ballade

Martinu, Bohuslav           Sonata

Messiaen                            Le merle noir

Mower, Mike                     Sonata Latino

Muczynski, Robert           3 Preludes (Solo Flute)

Muczynski, Robert           Sonata

Nielsen, Carl                      Concerto

Piazzolla, Astor                 6 Tango Etudes (Solo Flute)

Piston, Walter                    Sonata

Poulenc, Francis                Sonata

Prokofiev, Sergei              Sonata

Ran, Shulamit                    East Wind (Solo Flute)

Rivier, Jean                        Concerto

Roussel, Albert                  Joueurs de Flûte

Rutter, John                       Suite Antique

Sancan                                Sonatine

Schulhoff, Erwin               Sonata

Takemitsu, Toru                Air (Solo Flute)

Taktakishvili, Otar            Sonata for Flute and Piano

Varèse, Edgard                  Density 21.5 (Solo Flute)


Happy fluting (and sight reading)!