Woodwind ensemble masterpieces?
January 18, 2008 7:15 AM   Subscribe

Classical Music lovers, what great chamber music pieces feature predominantly woodwinds (esp. flutes)? (I'm also interested in great solo parts in larger orchestras)

I would prefer slower music, both because I'm still learning what different instruments are doing and because I might be interested in learning to play them myself (on the flute). I did purchase a beginner repertoire book, but Amazon seems unusually sluggish in shipping lately, and I'm impatient to find out what's out there.

I always liked Peter and the Wolf, but otherwise I'm completely ignorant of woodwinds-heavy music and classical music in general. Help would be lovely.
posted by cowbellemoo to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
For chamber music, check out these pieces:
Carl Nielsen, Wind Quintet (Op. 43)
Beethoven, Quintet for Piano & Wind Instruments, Op. 16 (no flute, though)
Beethoven, Trio for Flute, Bassoon, and Piano (it's an early work, simple but fun)
Irving Fine, Partita for Wind Quintet (1948)
Francis Poulenc, Sextet for Piano and Wind Quintet, Op. 100

There's a large list of flute repertoire here that you might find useful.
posted by bassjump at 7:35 AM on January 18, 2008

Meditation by Massenet is a versatile slow piece. I highly recommend listening to the flute and panflute variations of it (violin as well). It might be a song you could pick up through practice, and it is quite easily one of the most beautiful pieces that I think could be played.
posted by samsara at 7:41 AM on January 18, 2008

If you really want chamber music, and woodwinds alone, the most natural genre for you to investigate is the woodwind quintet. The father of the woodwind quintet and its most prolific writer, as far as I know, was Antoine Reicha (his name may be spelled quite a lot of different ways) and his woodwind quintets have a lot quintessential Classical charm. There are a number of Naxos discs of these works that are quite commendable.

Carl Nielsen's w.q. (Op 43) is a famous 20th century example (but in a not-horribly-modern idiom) which is equally charming, and a really good example of a composer's writing for a specific group of performers that he knows well. I believe there's a disc out there somewhere which has it coupled with Hindemith's Kleine Kammermusik for the same ensemble.

One of my very favorite wind recordings is this one of Enescu, Janacek, and Dvorak. To be honest, as much as I love woodwind sonorities (I play flute myself), I often find all-woodwind chamber musics to get a little hard on the ears after a while, but this disc is absolutely listenable all the way through. All three pieces are amazing, but I really love the Enescu for the amazing clarity of the many lines in his writing.

Back to Reicha, perhaps even more than his woodwind quintets, I recommend his late series of works for string quartet+one woodwind. If you want to get to know the individual woodwind voices very well, they're great, and the pieces are just overflowing with great ideas and sonorities. MDG has them on a series of three discs: 1 2 3. The 3rd would be my pick of the litter to start.

A couple more modern things that I really like: Piston's Flute Quintet (string quartet + flute) shows that particular instrument to excellent advantage (he wrote a number of excellent works for flutists). And then, of quite recent vintage, BIS has a disc of chamber music for bassoon in two different quintet formats that's excellent. The first work on the disc includes elements of a lot of different music styles (you'll hear Mozartean bits and Schubertean bits as well as thoroughly modern bits). There is also a similar disc of Aho works for oboe which I don't own.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:46 AM on January 18, 2008

Oh. Two more. My very favorite disc of flute+piano music is this one. And if you want some high Classical orchestral music with woodwinds featured, CPO's set of Rosetti concertos is highly recommendable - I enjoy them more than Mozart's woodwind concertos. You can get the discs individually (clarinet, oboe, 2 horns, bassoon - no flute), or as a 4-disc set for around $30, which is a steal.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:53 AM on January 18, 2008

Bach's Sonata BWV 1039 In G Major For 2 Flutes on this CD is astonishing. Actually the whole CD is.

Bach's concertos for oboe and oboe d'amore. Mmmmm.

Mozart's oboe concerto too. Anything with oboe in it, actually. :)
posted by Melismata at 7:59 AM on January 18, 2008

By the way, the flute is a very agile instrument, and slower is not necessarily easier on it. In a slow, cantabile piece your tone and expressive control are very, very exposed. Really great flutists make a single sustained note sound lovely. (I'm not in that group.) So it's really important to work on those elements, but it's also very fatiguing. You'll probably find that it's actually a pleasant break to work on something a bit faster from time to time. Handel's 7 sonatas are standard stuff, and great for their variety: everyone has a pleasant assortment of slow and fast movements, and they range from quite simple and a few measures long to fairly challenging.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:05 AM on January 18, 2008

If you're into 20th century classical music, Elliot Carter's Eight Etudes and a Fantasy for Woodwind Quartet is a great suite in the neo-classical vein.
posted by invitapriore at 8:06 AM on January 18, 2008

Bach's Flute Sonatas are really pretty brilliant and a very easy listen. Harpsichord, Flute, and Viola da Gamba. I listen to them regularly.
posted by greekphilosophy at 9:37 AM on January 18, 2008

Mozart's flute and oboe quartets (solo wind with violin, viola and cello) are lovely, as is his clarinet quintet. The "Gran Partita" K.361 (13 winds plus bass) is also a fantastic piece. Check out Brahms' autumnal clarinet quintet as well.
posted by cbrody at 7:09 PM on January 18, 2008

Like others have said, Mozart is really a master at writing for woodwinds, both in his chamber music and sonatas. Some of my favorite, though, is in his opera music.

For example, there's a wicked obbligato part for the much-maligned clarinet in the aria "Parto parto, ma tu ben mio" from "La Clemenza di Tito". Try here at abut 1:48 to check it out.
posted by non sum qualis eram at 9:28 AM on January 19, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! It's great to have a list in hand!
posted by cowbellemoo at 10:37 PM on January 19, 2008

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