Author Topic: Flute and Orchestra  (Read 1723 times)

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Flute and Orchestra
« on: May 09, 2011, 11:35:03 AM »
I was taught that the flute cannot be heard in a full orchestra in its lowest octave--and, even at that, the lowest notes (middle C for example) cannot be played forte. So, how does one explain this passage from the 3rd movement of Prokofiev's Classical Symphony which I came across this morning? Hal? Michel?

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« Last Edit: May 09, 2011, 12:12:51 PM by Michel.R.E »
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Re: Flute and Orchestra
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2011, 12:12:30 PM »
it's doubled with oboes (which would drown out the flute anyway) and clarinets.
the actual timbre of the flutes will be entirely subsumed by the other woodwinds on their low notes.
however, it's still better to include them, in the context, than to cut out the instruments for those few notes.

if you want a more interesting example, search for the opening of the 2nd movement of Strawinski's Symphony of Psalms.

in the Strawinski example, the flute functions as an actual true "bass" to the other woodwinds. Absolutely no other instruments play any material that is lower than the flute part, and the flute itself is perfectly alone in that bottom octave.
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Re: Flute and Orchestra
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2011, 12:21:17 PM »
Most likely the lower notes would be completely unheard in a performance setting.

The notes are included for context, as Michel indicated. It is an appropriate use to continue a line in an instrument, even if it takes it out of it's "useful" range (as determined by out-of-date instrumentation book writers [looking at YOU, Piston]).

If we were to leave out everything that might be covered up, the violas would have more rests than notes in many pieces. In fact, much of the orchestra would be bored to tears if composers stuck to the safety of "useful" ranges.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2011, 10:01:02 AM by flint »
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