Friday, April 03, 2009

Prokofiev Classical re-write for flute & piccolo

Question: 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.

UPDATED Nov 2022. notes: Missing bar 88, matching rehearsal numbers (no Q!) to original, and one cres/ff added. Now corrected in pdf parts and score below.

Jen replies:

Here is your biggest wish EVER, granted with tiny bells on.

Full printable PDF, score and if you scroll down the pdf, separate page-turned parts for doubling piccolo on Flute 1 and 2 in the Finale of Prokofiev's Classical Symphony.

Ta-Da! :>D Yippee Yahoo, and save your own bacon! :>D

Download and print. (this work is public domain in most countries.)

This re-write, well, I must say!
It's so fun to play now!
Yes, you need your piccolo very close to hand (I suggest a shelf below the Manhasset) to make the switches gracefully, but that's part of the fun!
Another possibility is give a half-bar to the second flute every now and then. Saves you some switches.

Original text of this post:
Yes, indeedy do, 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 if you insist on sticking to the timbre of the flute, and work like a dawg for maybe years on end.
The gnarlier flute passages have alternative fingerings, 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.

But, rebel with many causes, one of them being ease of mind, I vote for piccolo switching.

Oh...sure the orchestra may not pay you to double on two instruments (they may not even WANT you to double, so shhhhh. ) So say nothing; just whip out those piccolos and breathe easy. You'll sound amazing, and no one will notice except by your gloriousness.

I swear that all the sweat has been taken out of it by my rewrites. Try it, and let me know if there are any errata. Thanks. (errata fixed in 2013, 2015 & 2022)

If you have less than three weeks, you'll likely need "tricks" and"fake outs" for sure. :>)
So do use these parts. Please.

If you insist on playing the flute for it's timbre on D4 runs, this here are some more thoughts:

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 a very strong advocate for both players to play piccolo throughout the fourth mvmt. wherever possible. That's why I've created these parts for free.

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 in the pdf.
They sound just as the composer intended. I know, because I double-tracked both parts on my Zoom recorder, and they're perfectly playable and non-changed from original intention.

But gone is the pain of practising them for sixteen weeks and then having them become an inaudible blur of nighmarish bizarrity. :>) I've lived this.

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 98% of applicants....eeek for that reality!) and instead, hopefully other excerpts will take their place that show musicality and sensible technical challenges. Let's face it; Prokofiev had no idea about those cross fingerings.

So cheers to all who will breathe sighs of relief now, and please do send feedback.

If anyone needs the original flute parts and/or score in pdf, they are free online here.
Copyright in certain countries must be observed.
Prokofiev's Classical Symphony is public domain in Canada.
Comments (11)
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 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

Blogger Jonathan said...

I could kiss you!!!!! I was stressing out about this 4th mvt ever since I got the music. What a HUGE help these re-writes are!

Big MAHALO!!!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 11:45:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Jonathan,

Wow, thankYOU! Love to be able to "save the free world" in my free time. hahahhahaa.
I wish I had had these re-writes when first faced with this symphony.
And if I remember correctly there have been at least two stories of these types of re-writes and piccolo use in professional bigname orchestras. So go for it, and let us all know how it turns out.

Best, Jen who loves a good Prokofiev re-write that still sounds the same

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 12:57:00 PM

Anonymous Lynne B said...

What can I say, other than a HUGE thank you for making this movement playable! Tried it out in first rehearsal last night and it sounded clean, neat and MUSICAL. If you're ever in Scotland, call in for a wee dram...

Saturday, November 09, 2013 4:30:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Lynne,
Thanks so much for your feedback. Love to hear a recording! Happy Scottish drams!

Saturday, November 09, 2013 9:14:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure I love you.

Saturday, January 11, 2014 11:57:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Anon,

Thankyou! And *I* love Prokofiev's "Classical" now that (mysteriously and posthumously), he's learned how to write playable parts! Thanks and happy playing it! Jen

Sunday, January 12, 2014 8:42:00 AM

Anonymous Phil Bressler said...

When I tried to download the practice pages a received a "404 page not found error." Help

Monday, October 09, 2017 11:19:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Hi Phil,
I checked the link:

It works. Try again, maybe your connectivity just blinked out for a second.
Let me know if you continue to have trouble. Works great. Tried it three times.
Oct. 9th 2017

Monday, October 09, 2017 12:46:00 PM


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