5 Flute Pieces you should be familiar with if you are a serious flutist
In my musical journey, I had to find out on my own what are the most important flute pieces that every serious flutist should know. The reason why I say that I had to figure this out on my own is because throughout middle school and high school, I didn't have a consistent private flute teacher so I only had the help of YouTube (which was practically brand new when I was in middle school and high school) and the Larry Krantz flute page (Sadly, it was taken down in 2019) to compile this list. So if you want to know what are the five most important flute pieces that every serious flutist should know, then keep on reading!😊
1. Sonata for Flute and Piano- Francis Poulenc (1899 -1963)
The Sonata for Flute and Piano by Francis Poulenc was premiered in 1957 by the late Jean-Pierre Rampal (1922-2000) at the Strasbourg Festival, commissioned by the U.S. Library of Congress and is dedicated to the memory of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, an American pianist and patron of Chamber Music. Every flutist should know this sonata because it is one of the first sonatas that every flutist learns and it's one of those pieces that it's not necessarily technically challenging but when it comes to phrasing and dynamic contrast, it'll help expand the tone color palette of the flutist learning it. Recordings that I recommend: My two favorite recordings of this sonata would have to be Jean-Pierre Rampal's recording (the flutist who premiered it) and Michel Debost's recording.
2. Sonata in B Minor, BWV 1030- J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
This sonata for flute and basso continuo is arguably the hardest of all his sonatas that he wrote for the flute and it's the longest of all his flute sonatas. A young student who is serious about the flute needs to listen to this monstrosity of a sonata because it is Bach at his best. This Sonata is challenging for both the Flutist and the pianist playing the continuo part. I've never played this one but it's a good one to listen. Recordings that I recommend: I recommend Emmanuel Pahud's recording and I also recommend Denis Bouriakov's recording.
3. Concerto in G Major K.313 for Flute and Orchestra -Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
This concerto is arguably one of the most frequently performed concerti in the entire flute repertoire. A lot of college auditions (including grad school and DMA auditions) are requiring you to play either this concerto or the Mozart Concerto in D Major K.314 for Flute and Orchestra and a lot of professional flute auditions require the Mozart Concerti but especially this one because it's the more popular of the two concerti. Recordings that I recommend: Paula Robison's recording and I also recommend Emmanuel Pahud's recording.
4. Introduction and Variations on Trockne Blumen- Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
This work written by Schubert is based on a German Lied "Trockne Blumen" from his song cycle Die Schöne Müllerin which was written in 1824 (four years before his death) and it's one of the few works in the flute repertoire that is written by a major composer of Classical Music. A serious flutist should familiarize themselves with this piece because it's a piece that requires technical prowess from both the flutist as well as the pianist and it requires the flute to give an array of tone colors throughout each variation. Recordings that I recommend: Emmanuel Pahud's recording is my favorite but I also recommend listening to Sooyun Kim's recording as well as Emily Beynon's recording.
5. The Great Train Race for Solo Flute-Ian Clarke (b.1964)
This work was written by flutist/composer/teacher Ian Clarke (He is currently part of the flute faculty at the Guildhall School of Music) in the year 2000 and it's one of the most popular contemporary pieces in the flute repertoire. It's important for a serious flutist to at least listen to the piece because it requires the flutist who learns is required to be well-versed in all the extended techniques for the flute. This piece has multiphonics, residual/breathy fast tonguing, harmonics, singing while playing, an optional circular breathing section, and lip bending (also known as pitch bending). Recordings that I recommend: I recommend listening to Jasmine Choi's recording as well as Nina Perlove's recording.
1. Carmen Fantasy- Francois Borne (1840-1920)
Carmen Fantasy is one of those pieces that requires the flutist to use a variety of tone colors, have control of his/her technical facility and if you are one of those people that gets shy about performing (I know I am ) then this piece will force you to come out of your shell. It's also based on the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet (1838-1875) which is one of the most popular operas in the history of Classical Music. Recordings I recommend: I have a soft spot for Emmanuel Pahud but I also love the recordings of Erin Bouriakov (She is part of the flute faculty at UCLA and is the wife of Denis Bouriakov) and Marina Piccinini.
2. Sonata Op. 94 for Flute and Piano- Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)
Sonata Op. 94 for Flute and Piano by Prokofiev is one of those sonatas that first of all, is one of the most popular in the flute repertoire but it's also one that we share with violinists. Prokofiev originally wrote it for the flute but David Oikstrakh famous 20th Century Soviet Ukrainian Violinist (1908-1974) loved the sonata so much that he asked Prokofiev to write the violin of the sonata but there's a lot of debate on who's sonata (whether it's originally a flute sonata or a violin sonata) it is; It was originally written for flute but the violin version was published first so essentially it's both of ours. Every serious flutist should know this sonata because 1) It's one of the few pieces in our repertoire that was written by a notable 20th century composer, 2) It not only demands great control of the technical and tone colors from the flutist but it also requires the pianist to be equal with the flutist because the piano accompaniment is meaty. In other words, it's a difficult sonata for both the flutist and the pianist. Recordings that I recommend: I highly recommend Emmanuel Pahud's recording but I also recommend the recordings of Denis Bouriakov, Jean-Pierre Rampal (especially check out his recording of the third movement) and Sir James Galway (I'm normally not a Galway fan but I do love how he plays the fourth movement).
3. Concerto in C Major RV 443 for Piccolo, Strings and Basso Continuo- Antonio Vivaldi (1678- 1741)
The only piccolo entry on this list, I felt that it was extremely important to add this concerto because it's one of the first piccolo piece that pretty much every serious flutist learns and it's a required piece for every professional piccolo audition. Also, this concerto is the most popular of all his piccolo concerti (He wrote 3!). This concerto requires to have equally good technique on the piccolo, good phrasing (especially in the second movement), and good intonation. Recordings I recommend: Jennifer Gunn's recording is my #1 favorite recording but I also recommend listening to William Bennett's recording.
4. Concerto for Flute and Orchestra- Jacques Ibert (1890-1962)
The Ibert Concerto for Flute and Orchestra is one of the most frequently performed concerti in the flute repertoire and every young serious flutist should familiarize themselves with it because it's not only technically challenging ( Fun fact: I did not start working on the Ibert until two years ago) but it's a 20th Century concerto that's frequently requested in every Grad School/DMA Auditions. About two years ago, I gave the Ibert the nickname "The Flutist's Rach 3"; For those who don't understand the reference, Rachmaninoff's Concerto No.3 for Piano and Orchestra in d minor according to every pianist that I've talked to has said that it's the hardest concerto that they have ever played; A lot of my fellow Flutists have said that Ibert is the hardest concerto that they've played/worked on.
5. Concertino for Flute and Piano- Cecile Chaminade (1857-1944)
I could not finish this list of honorable mentions without mentioning the famous Chaminade Concertino for Flute and Piano (or Orchestra) because it is one of the first pieces that a young flutist learns from the Flute Music by French Composers Edited by Louis Moyse (If you don't know who Louis Moyse is, he's basically flute royalty because he is Marcel Moyse's son) along with other pieces such as Fantasie Op. 79 for Flute and Piano by Gabriel Faure (1845-1924) and Cantabile et Presto for Flute and Piano by George Enescu (in France he is known as Georges Enesco). I'd also like to add that it is one of the most overplayed pieces (if not the most overplayed) in the entire Flute Repertoire; in other words, it's basically the Flutist's Für Elise. Recordings that I recommend: One of my favorite recordings of the Chaminade is by Laurel Zucker (former Flute Professor at California State University at Sacramento) but I have also grown to love the recording of Sir James Galway playing the piece with Orchestra when he was fresh out of the Berlin Philharmonic.