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Introducing Beethoven’s Flute

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The opening bars of Beethoven’s serenade
opus 25 in D for flute, violin and viola. Beethoven wrote very little chamber
music for the flute, in fact that’s just about the only piece and it’s
interesting that he wrote it in D major which was a favourite key with flute
players. The end of the 18th century and
beginning of the 19th century marks a very exciting time in the development of
wind instruments including the flute Hitherto the flute had generally just
one key and was not required to play very loud or very chromatically. The
revolution of Beethoven’s writing stretching the instruments and the
orchestra was mirrored necessarily by the development of the instruments. The
Baroque one keyed flute which was used throughout most of the 18th century had
just one simple key and one has to use cross fingerings for all the different
chromatic notes of the scale. This means that some of them are much more powerful
than others and this gives color to all the different keys. So it was necessary for instrument
makers to develop their instruments and extend the range higher and sometimes
lower and make them more homogenous and louder, frankly, to hold their own in the
orchestra especially in the case of a flute which is a quiet instrument by
nature. As the orchestra developed and composers required more and more of
their players you can see on the two examples here for keyed flutes the
boxwood one in the middle – those keys have been added to what was a single
keyed flute whereas the one on the end, the ebony flute, they are part of the
design that’s a copy of Heinrich Grenser of Dresden around the turn of the
century about 1790 to 1800 and this is the sort of flute that Beethoven would
have known in Bonn and later in Vienna where he wrote his symphonies. These simple four keys added to the
baroque flute meant that the player could play quite a decent homogeneous
chromatic scale. Consequently, flute players were able to mix the fingerings from the earlier system flute and incorporate some of the G sharps and a
B flats with the new keys which were the keys added to help the very notes that
had been so weak on the old flute. This flute dates from about 1820
or so. It’s by William Henry Potter made in London and you can see these what we
call pewter plug keys. They’re rather noisy but that’s a six keyed flute – so it went from one key to four key to six key to eight key and these flutes
were very popular both in London and on on the continent. Going from four keys to
six keys to eight keys you really do have a full chromatic scale on this
flute and you have a greater potential to make the same quality of sound
throughout the register and as the orchestra got louder this was more
and more necessary, especially with somebody like Beethoven whose first
symphony and second symphony are in C and D. D is a great key for the flute. But
then the Eroica symphony is in E flat which is already taking us away from our
comfort zone on the flute. With Beethoven he made no allowances for the
instruments I think he was just stretching everything as far as it would
go. Both the instrument and the players who
required to play much louder than any other composer had ever asked and to do
crazy things like playing really loud at the top and then suddenly pianissimo
at the top which is really very difficult on some of these old
instruments. There’s a lovely moment in the first movement where he gives the
flute a solo in D flat and it’s its piano, it’s pianissimo with strings. And I like this moment because
if the orchestra is playing quietly enough you can dare to play on the old
fingerings which gives you an even more tender, wistful color or with the keys which is not just
louder it’s more powerful. So, what I’ve I’ve hit on now is the fact that there
were lots of different fingerings for the same notes. You could do a mixture of early one keyed fingerings or you can start using the keys. And for notes like
C – top C or top F – there are five, six, seven, even eight different fingerings
for one note. There’s a selection of C’s they will have slightly different
pitches and slightly different colours but there may be times when they can be
used to great effect in an orchestral piece, maybe when you want to blend with a particular instrument or when the fingering is tricky and there’s
one good way to go and one very bad way to go so it can be quite complicated
learning all these fingerings and finding places to use them. The nightingale from the end of the slow
movement of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony where he has a little trio, a
bird trio – flutes as Nightingale, oboe as the quail and the clarinet as the cuckoo
– a little oasis of woodland charm. I think Beethoven had a sense of humour
in this in this symphony. The great Eroica, my favourite, because the last movement, also in e flat, goes through all sorts of tricky keys but
there’s a great big flute solo and he puts it into D for the flute player. Now
I’m sure he would have probably not considered the flute player but I for
one very glad that this bit is in D major and not in E flat. And in this year of Beethoven’s 150th anniversary, this is the flute I will
probably use for most of the symphonies and operas I’ll be playing.

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18 thoughts on “Introducing Beethoven’s Flute”

  1. Daniel Pedersen says:

    Her voice is very nice to listen to.

  2. Kelly Empson says:

    That 8 key is starting to sound like a clarinet. This was Great too Watch , and Listen too .
    HAPPY BIRTHDAY BEETHOVEN.
    WE ARE STILL LISTENING.
    THANK YOU MA'AM

  3. Harumph, or Who's been rubbing your lamp? says:

    she reminds me of helen mirren

  4. thedreadtyger says:

    how entirely pleasant! and wonderfully informative as well.

  5. Archibald Haddock says:

    Love Lisa!

  6. Patrick Reilly says:

    you can really hear how much the intonation of the instrument improves as more and more keys are added

  7. Pablo Varela says:

    It is wonderful to learn much more about those beautiful instrument. I love her very nice voice.

  8. roaaaar says:

    This person has a wonderful presence and voice, and she is also very clear an instructive. what a great video.

  9. wheels5894 says:

    It would be fascinating to have a sequel in which the 6 keyed flute is compared with a modern flute to hear the difference. Anyway, very interesting to hear about the flute. Thank you.

  10. musicalintentions says:

    I especially enjoy Mrs. Beznosiuk's videos. She always presents ideas in a way which is enjoyable and memorable.

  11. Amadea Muffin says:

    Great video, thank you!! 🙂

  12. Fugal Development Music says:

    very interesting. ty. i understand more why mozart didnt care for the flutes of his day. left much to be desired. if only he lived a few more years.

  13. Ixodes says:

    Lovely presenter, and so wonderful to learn about the development of the flute and its use by Beethoven. Thanks

  14. keixoun says:

    4:21 5000 points

  15. KnightsWithoutATable says:

    The difference in volume between the 4 key and 8 key flutes was incredible! I could also hear the how much more even the tone was between each of the notes.

  16. Isaac Hanson says:

    great video

  17. DS says:

    Beethoven had a sense of humor in much of his work. Regular comedian that guy.

  18. victor says:

    wonderful! — so interesting to learn about the evolution of and changing possibilities for the flute with Beethoven as a baseline.

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