There are many legends associated with the Flute. Here are a few.
The God Pan was in love with the lovely maiden Syrinx. This love however, was not returned. Syrinx evaded Pan by turning herself into a river reed and hiding in the reeds by the river. Pan was so upset that he cut down the reeds and made his Pan Pipes from them. Of course this meant Syrinx had died and his love was lost forever.
The legend of Syrinx is well known, however, the circumstances under which the piece 'Syrinx' was first played are not. Debussy's beautiful flute solo started as incidental music for a ballet, written in 1913, and at that time he called it "Piece for Psyche', referring to the myth of Cupid and Psyche (which was a lot like the Beauty and the Beast story.)
It was first played at a Parisian party by a woman in a white dress, barefoot, by candlelight. When it was published, Debussy published it under the name "Syrinx - Flute de Pan", which means 'Syrinx - the flute of Pan'. It has been played many different ways: on bass or alto flute, as background music for animation, and for it's intended purpose, a ballet.
THE CHAMINADE CONCERTINO
So many flautists play Chaminade's enchanting piece for flute and piano that it has become 'fashionable' to snub it... while some people say it's overly melodramatic and sweet, I always like to think of the story behind it:
Cecile Chaminade was in love with a flautist, but he was not in love with her. To her great despair, he became engaged to be married... to another woman. On the day of his wedding, Cecile brought him the score of the 'Concertino', the outpouring of her feelings in a beautiful piece for flute. Unfortunately, he wasn't moved, and he married the other woman.
SONATA UNDINE - Carl Reinecke
Undine was a beautiful water nymph, who only by winning the true love of a mortal man could achieve immortality. Basically she and a guy called Huldebrand meet, fall in love and marry. The only problem is Huldebrand's ex, Berthalda - who is determined to win Huldebrand back. Undine warns Huldebrand that he has to remain true to her; otherwise, he must die. Ignoring the warning, Huldebrand decides to leave Undine to marry Berthalda. Undine has no alternative but to carry out the law of the underwater folk and kill Huldebrand. After Huldebrand's funeral a bubbling spring forms around the mound where he lies buried. Legend says this is the arms of Undine forever encircling her beloved.
Aristotle - "Politics"
"From these principles we may also infer what instruments should be used. The flute ... ought not to be admitted ... but only such as will make 'intelligent students of music or of the other parts of education. Besides, the flute is not an instrument which is expressive of moral character; it is too exciting. The proper time for using it is when the performance aims not at instruction, but at the relief of the passions... The ancients therefore were right in forbidding the flute to youths and freemen ... experience enabled men to judge what was or was not really conducive to virtue, and they rejected ... the flute ... which [is] intended only to give pleasure to the hearer...
There is a meaning also in the myth of the ancients, which tells how Athene invented the flute and then threw it away. It was not a bad idea of theirs, that the Goddess disliked the instrument because it made the face ugly; but with still more reason may we say that she rejected it because the acquirement of flute-playing contributes nothing to the mind, since to Athene we ascribe both knowledge and art. .... for in this the performer practices the art, not for the sake of his own improvement, but in order to give pleasure, and that of a vulgar sort, to his hearers ... and the result is that the performers are vulgarized, for the end at which they aim is bad. The vulgarity of the spectator tends to lower the character of the music and therefore of the performers; they look to him- he makes them what they are, and fashions even their bodies by the movements which he expects them to exhibit.
.... feelings such as pity and fear, or, again, enthusiasm, exist very strongly in some souls, and have more or less influence over all. Some persons fall into a religious frenzy, whom we see as a result of the sacred melodies- when they have used the melodies that excite the soul to mystic frenzy- restored as though they had found healing and purgation. Those who are influenced by pity or fear, and every emotional nature, must have a like experience, and others in so far as each is susceptible to such emotions, and all are in a manner purged and their souls lightened and delighted. The purgative melodies likewise give an innocent pleasure to mankind ... And the music will correspond to their minds; for as their minds are perverted from the natural state, so there are perverted modes and highly strung and unnaturally coloured melodies.
The Socrates of the Republic ... rejects the flute; for ... the flute is ... exciting and emotional. Poetry proves this, for Bacchic frenzy and all similar emotions are most suitably expressed by the flute."
Joueurs de Flute - Roussel
The flute was Roussel's favourite instrument, and of his works featuring the instrument, Joueurs de flūte is the best and most often played. The four movements this piece, each fashioned after a flute player of literature, capture the essence of so many of Roussel's interests. There is music based on ancient Greece (as in Bacchus et Ariane and Aeneas), on Hindu scales (as in Evocations and Padmavati, and on a thoroughly European poet whose poems he had set to music (as in the opuses 3, 8 and 9). In short, these four delightful miniatures are, in a sense, miniatures of the composer himself.
The four movements of Joueurs de flūte:
Pan a shepherd-god known for playing the pan-pipes. This music bears a family resemblance to the nature music
Tityre was one of the shepherds in Virgil's Bucolica.
Krishna is the Hindu god (another sign of Roussel's interest in the East). In his youth, Krishna played the flute.
M.de la Pejaudie is the hero of the novel La Pecheresse by Henri de Regnier, which was published just a few years prior to Opus 27, in 1920. Roussel also made several settings of poems by Regnier (opp. 3, 8, and 9).
Density 21.5 - Varese
Georges Barrere gave the premiere of DENSITY 21.5 in 1936. The composer of the piece was Edgard Varese. Varese lived between 1883 and 1965.
The flute maker's first use of platinum, inspired this composer to write a piece to showcase the superb instrument. Platinum flutes represent perhaps the ultimate flute, but because of their great cost and extreme weight (They thought the DENSITY of platinum was 21.5 - although this is now disputed) These flutes remain a very exclusive example of the flute maker's fine craftsmanship.
Georges Barrere played upon a platinum flute. He never played on a wooden flute, the preference of most flutists in the 1940s. He learnt on a silver instrument but at the height of his career changed his flute for a gold one, which in turn was then abandoned for a platinum one. He believed a platinum flute has greater brilliancy of tone in the high register, a beautiful mellowness in the medium range, and a rich fullness in the lower tones. Barrere's platinum flute was made by the William S. Haynes Company in Boston, Massachusetts in 1935, and was the first platinum flute made.
Today, a platinum flute with silver keywork will cost closer to £60,000 !!! (Wont be buying one tomorrow then? J)
You can get an idea of modern platinum flutes by checking out the websites of William S. Haynes, Verne Q. Powell, and Brannen Brothers. They have all made platinum flutes in recent years, albeit very few. Normally a platinum flute will have silver keywork, but some have been built with a solid 14K gold mechanism.
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