Friday, April 03, 2009

Prokofiev Classical re-write for flute & piccolo

Do any of our flutists have advice about playing the fourth movement of the Classical Symphony by Prokofiev?
I'm an amateur flute player, doctor by trade, and have only a few weeks to master the difficult passage work in the fourth mvmt. for a concert given by our Community Orchestra.
The tempo is about half=200 and I find the runs to high D very tricky as well as the famous eighth note passages traded with second flute.
Not having a great deal of time to practise is a problem.
Are there any fingerings or last minute "tricks" anyone can suggest?
Thanks so much.

Jen replies:

Here you go for free! Happy Spring!
4th mvmt re-written flute parts with practise sheet:

Both piccolo flute-switching 4th mvmt parts and score:

The passages you're describing from Classical Symphony by Prokofiev have been some of the WORST and least playable
ever written for flute in my humble opinion. Normal amounts of practising alone seems to be never enough for these tangled cross-fingered behemoths. :>)
I've asked around and flute professionals usually advise that
they only play them after months of work, Alternate fingerings *do* play a large role too.

The gnarlier passages have fingerings of all sorts, and those that work best for me are in the Baxtresser Orchestral
Excerpts book. Some of the best alternate Prokofiev fingerings are here on my webpage.
If you have less than three weeks, you'll likely need "tricks" and"fake outs" for sure. :>)

There has also been much discussion over the years on the flute discussion groups about playing piccolo on the flute parts, in order to "for once and for all" get the passage up to high D4 audibly clean rather than a living nightmare for every flutist
who must play it. (ha ha! :>)
I'm an advocate for both players to play picc throughout the fourth mvmt. wherever possible.
I believe that if Prokofiev would have heard piccolos on this while he lived he would have approved.
Using flute means even excellent orchestras sound as if the flutists are screaming for help, rather than playing pianissimo and piano as indicated by Prokofiev.

Also, much discussed in the past, the eighth note patterns that are exchanged between flute 1 and 2 (high Es and Gs at high speeds) have been the subject of debate whether they can be tactically re-written to make both flute parts easier.
I've tried several re-writes myself and you may have them for free.
They sound just as the composer intended.
But without the pain of practising them for sixteen weeks and then having them become an inaudible blur of nighmarish bizarrity. :>)

It is my hope that all flutists will start to use these rewrites, which will mean that these Prokofiev Classical Symphony flute excerpts will no longer be required in orchestral auditions simply because they're well nigh impossible. (We secretly suspect they are on auditions to eliminate 95% of less qualified applicants....eeek!) and instead other excerpts will take their place that show musicality and sensibility.

So cheers to all, and send feedback.

Here are the piccolo doubling parts written out for the fourth movement in PDF.

Here are the flute parts re-written to make the eighth note patterns much much much easier (if you're using flute and not piccolo).

If anyone needs the original flute parts and/or score in pdf, they are free online here.

Comments (3)
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous wrote:

Great job. Makes much more sense than some of the suggestions for trading parts that I have seen in some articles on this work.

I'm positive Prokofiev would have approved your work enthusiastically.

Hope I get a crack at this work again using your was not great the last time with much fear and loathing.
Signed J.
Thanks J!!!!! Feeling great about this.
Best, Jen :>)

Saturday, April 04, 2009 4:32:00 PM

Anonymous Rebecca said...

I often wonder why some folks spend so much time doing something difficult, that never sounds quite right, instead of re-writing or otherwise reworking the part so that it sounds MUSICAL. (That is, after determining that normal, applied practice won't make things better!)

Monday, April 06, 2009 2:00:00 PM

Blogger Jen Cluff said...

I agree totally Rebecca.
There's plenty of stuff to work on in Prokofiev's Classical Symphony as it is!! (mvmts. 1 to 3 have plenty of finessey things.)
Glad you agree.

Monday, April 06, 2009 5:04:00 PM


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