Notes for Flutists: A Guide to the Repertoire.
The National Flute Association's website states its membership currently consists of "approximately 5,000 members from more than 50 countries" made up of "leading soloists, orchestral players, jazz and world music performers, teachers, adult amateurs, and students of all ages" (http://www.nfaonline.org/The-Organization/ [accessed 16 August 2017]). Therefore it would appear that Oxford University Press's new volume Notes for Flutists, with its short chapters devoted to thirty-five classic flute compositions, should have a ready-made audience of flute enthusiasts looking for insight into their favorite pieces. Compositions featured in the book are all part of the traditional Western art music flute canon-those pieces that undergraduate music majors make their way through over the course of four years of formal flute study. All of the works discussed are well-known and loved. Many are so entrenched in flute-community consciousness that they are recognized and often referred to simply by composer name: the Doppler, the Chaminade, the Griffes, the Dutilleux.
The volume is organized into chronological sections: "Baroque Monuments," "Enlightenment Gems," "Romantic Favorites," "Belle Epoque Legacies of the Conservatoire," "Heralds of a New Era," "Twentieth-Century Concertos," and "Midcentury Solo and Chamber Masterpieces," with a final section devoted to "American Contributions." Dzapo does not specify her method for selecting pieces included for commentary, but her choices are spot-on. Some may quibble with specific works based on personal preference (why that particular Bach or Handel sonata and not another?), but the result is solid, with no glaring omissions. That said, my biggest criticism of this volume is that it does not include a single piece of music written by a living composer. The newest composition featured is Aaron Copland's Duo for Flute and Piano (1971). Certainly there are flute compositions that originated in the last forty-five years worthy of discussion--works that have found their way into the general flute consciousness and are regularly performed. While some may subscribe to the philosophy that it takes time to determine which works might concretely be considered "standards" (and which are not), there are compositions from the later part of the twentieth century and beyond that arguably meet appropriate criteria--pieces such as Ian Clarke's Zoom Tube, Katherine Hoover's Kokopelli, or Lowell Liebermann's Sonata op. 23. Inclusion of even one of these would have added a contemporary flavor to the larger volume. To be fair, Dzapo's preface does hint at the possibility of a future second volume, which perhaps cover these types of works.
Each chapter is a short program-notes-style overview of a single composition. Most follow a common organizational structure, one that should prove easily accessible to the undergraduate audience for which the volume seems to be intended. The notes begin with a general outline of the composer's biography followed by theoretical analysis and brief commentary on the background of the piece itself. The writing style is easy and colloquial. There are, however, some features of the narrative that fall short. Each entry is based on a limited number of secondary sources (the average is four to five, although some use more, and several use only one or two). Disappointingly, there is little original insight added by the author, outside of theoretical analysis. Quite a few primary source quotations are added throughout the book, but all are re-quoted from another secondary source. Many entries would have been more compelling had a larger proportion been devoted to historical, cultural, and social analysis of the work, or more detailed examination (and confirmation or correction) of some of the traditional legends associated with each piece (e.g. Cecile Chaminade's spurned lover and Claude Debussy's Syrinx program). Occasionally the reader stumbles upon statements that beg for further elaboration or clarification. For example, the entry on Handel's Sonata in E Minor, HWV 379, ends with the sentence, "In recent years, Handel scholars have gone back to the autographs, have studied the paper on which they were written, and have published articles and new editions that correct the mismatched movements and the other bumbled aspects of Handel's great contribution to the flute repertoire" (p. 12). Though the statement immediately follows a single quote cited from an article in Early Music (Terrence Best, "Handel's Chamber Music: Sources, Chronology, Authenticity," Early Music 13, no. 4 (Nov. 1985): 476-99), it would be helpful for the student or performer if some of those newer editions based on scholarly research were identified, in order to aid an informed choice when readers purchase their own editions.
The author is to be commended for her thoroughness in formal analysis, but in some cases the musical analysis is overwhelming and even a bit distracting. For example, the note for Frank Martin's Ballade takes up ten pages, seven of which are an in-depth examination of thematic content and tonal centers, supplemented by five charts that lay out the principles discussed (pp. 145-54). If the purpose for such detail is to guide busy performers through a formal, thematic, and harmonic analysis so that they do not have to delve into the process themselves, then some will find this useful; but most performers, whether students or professionals, will gain much more from taking on the task themselves.
The most successful notes in the volume are those that predominantly explore the cultural and musical context of the work rather than more general details of the composers' biographies, such as those that examine Edgard Varese's Density 21.5 (pp. 139-44)--which contains little theoretical analysis and focuses mainly on the work's place in flute literature--Paul Hindemith's Sonata for Flute and Piano (pp. 131-38), and Debussy's Syrinx (pp. 95-99). The author is at her best when providing useful bits of information for young flutists and amateurs, such as direction on the pronunciation of the composer Georges Hue's name (p. 90), and when offering insights as to why a particular piece speaks to her.
As a reference work, flutists of all sorts will appreciate Dzapo's volume. How convenient it is to have a book close at hand from which to gain quick background information on specific works or composers. The availability of paperback and e-versions of this book will greatly increase accessibility for students and amateurs, who may want to purchase their own copies rather than relying solely on their local or university libraries. While the volume may not completely serve as the in-depth resource that is missing from current literature on the flute (as is noted in the author's preface), it will provide an encyclopedic starting point for both students and performers who may find their appetites whetted for deeper contextual exploration in the future.
Notes for Flutists is listed as the first book in a new series--Notes for Performers--of which Dzapo will serve as series editor. A volume devoted to clarinet works was released in January 2017 (see the review in the present issue of Notes), and subsequent volumes will presumably represent repertoires of other orchestral instruments. I suspect performers across the orchestra will be thrilled with the prospect of a book that highlights their favorite literature, and a new resource to be used both as a pedagogical tool and for brushing up on historical study. Certainly flutists--students, teachers, amateurs, and professionals alike--will celebrate having an item on their bookshelves that inspires them to revisit their own musical favorites or to explore classics they have not yet played.
K. Dawn Grapes
Colorado State University