This etude is one of my favourites – it is very expressive especially when broken down to its melodic core. If you have read my previous blogs on Andersen etudes, you will notice that I often find the “skeleton” and practise that first. This is something I learnt from William Bennett, who in turn learnt it from Marcel Moyse, who presumably learnt it from Taffanel. Indeed, Andersen dedicated many works to Taffanel and the etudes were used in his classes in Paris. Taffanel referred to Andersen as “the Chopin of the flute”. Like Chopin’s many etudes for piano, the op.15 etudes by Andersen are firstly very musical and melodic, well-written for the instrument, but not unnecessarily showy. (For more about Taffanel and his correspondence with Andersen, check out Edward Blakeman’s book, “Taffanel: Genius of the Flute”. Edward Blakeman gave a very interesting lecture recital on Taffanel at RAM with examples played by Wibb- it was one of my favourite classes!)
So, here is my approach to practising this etude.
This melody, as the marking suggests, is quite agitated and unsettled. F sharp minor brings to mind pieces like Faure’s Pavane, but this melody is a little darker and more haunting. There is also more Romanticism to it, with the long phrases and unresolved tension.
I have added suggested phrase markings to shape the melody. Remember that this is in 3/4, so we don’t want a strong 2nd or 3rd beat.
Play this skeleton as if it were a melody in its own right. Notice how the sequence beginning in bar 9 gets interrupted in bar 14, which hastens the harmonic rhythm and adds to the increasing tension, reaching its peak at bar 16. Much like a stretto in a fugue, it is an extremely effective compositional technique.
Also notice the intervals. There is a great deal of chromaticism and plenty of diminshed 5ths (tritone/”the devil’s interval”!). This gives us an idea of the colour we need to use- it should be suitably dark and mysterious.
After practising the skeleton, let’s look at the technical aspect of this etude. Andersen consistently writes with the following articulation pattern:
I have added micro-phrase markings, so that the slurs have more weight at the beginning and then diminish and the tongued notes (which shouldn’t be short, but expressive and melodic) have a forward direction. If you play the notes very staccato and dry, you lose the character and they don’t have any direction. Use the tongued notes to carry the phrase forwards. The diminunedos on the slurs will help to show the skeleton.
Often players see a staccato marking and play very dry and short, which can be effective in the right context. Here, it is not, so one needs to find a more louré style of articulation. This doesn’t mean make it heavy – think of an up bow on a violin.
Work your way through the etude using these ideas and be careful of the accidentals! Andersen likes to throw one off with his modulations!
I hope this gives you some ideas.
Thanks for reading and happy fluting!