Saturday, August 2, 2014

Performance Guide to Claude Arrieu's Sonatine for Flute and Piano

by Leonard Garrison, Associate Professor of Flute, The University of Idaho
Copyright©2014 by Leonard Garrison
To view my teaching video of this piece, please visit my YouTube Channel.

Claude Arrieu (1903-1990) studied composition and at the Paris Conservatory. She wrote prolifically, particularly vocal music but also film music, chamber music, and concertos. For many years, she developed original music for the French Radio Broadcasting Program Service.
Her Sonatine for flute and piano was first performed to acclaim on French radio by Jean-Pierre Rampal in 1944. The entire work is rarely performed and has not been recorded until now, but the charming first movement is widely played as an intermediate-level solo and is Grade 5 in the British Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, roughly equivalent to the National Flute Association’s Level E. The second and third movements are more difficult and demand true virtuosity from both flutist and pianist.
In the first movement, pay particular attention to balance between flute and piano. The two are true partners, and when the piano has a melody, it must be equal to the flute. Phrasing is also important; Arrieu mostly writes in four-measure phrases, so breaths coordinate with these groups. In the sixth and eight bars of letter A, breathe after the downbeats to make three-note pickups to the subsequent phrases.
The Andantino flows in one beat to the bar, marked in the score at dotted quarter=72. The flute sets the tempo, and the piano enters after the downbeat of the second bar. The piano has a little fermata eight bars after letter B and then resumes with two sixteenth-note pickups at the A tempo. At letter C, en dehors means means “come out,” in others words, project the tone over the piano. The pianist should dimuendo in the bar before letter C to clarify the flute entrance. Four bars before letter E there are double-stemmed notes showing how the flute line is a variation of the opening melody; emphasize these notes. To keep the pitch up on the last note, add the left-hand pinky (L4).
The Presto is a tour de force requiring dexterity from both performers. The printed tempo of quarter=132 is unrealistic for most performers; quarter=120 is sufficiently presto. The flutist must use double tonguing for the repeated sixteenth notes (these are extremely difficult for the pianist). Give direction to repeated notes by making a little crescendo. Be sure to respect all of the variations of articulation.
The phrase from one bar before letter A through the downbeat of the third bar of letter A challenges one’s breath capacity. Prepare for this by taking multiple small breaths after eighth in the first several bars. Use your air efficiently during the long phrase, and avoid pulsing or extraneous physical movement.
The more lyrical material starting one measure after letter B poses an interpretive puzzle. The tempo is slower here, but where does the initial tempo resume? Arrieu is ambiguous; the third bar of letter B is A tempo, meaning “in tempo” but not necessary Tempo primo, and the lyrical material continues. One bar before letter C, she also writes cedendo, a rare word in Italian but a cognate of the French cédez, yielding or slowing down. The piano continues with the lyrical theme at letter C. A good solution is to accelerando in the fourth bar of letter C to arrive at Tempo primo in the fifth bar, where a new jaunty theme appears. 
Good luck, or bonne chance!

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