Book Review: Jeanne Baxtresser

Orchestral Excerpts For Flute, Volume 2 by Jeanne Baxtresser

Flutist and teacher extraordinaire Jeanne Baxtresser has just published Volume 2 of her brilliant and insightful Orchestral Excerpts for Flute (with piano accompaniment).  It is an inspiring and welcome offering for many reasons.

Auditions at all level are challenging and crucial to all flutists' careers, and in this volume Baxtresser helps us to understand, learn and improve in this vital endeavor. In Volume 2 she expands our repertoire, since Volume 1 included the excerpts that are listed in most auditions. Here she presents works she loves that are sometimes (more and more) included on audition lists as well as some important pieces from opera and ballet. She has invited colleagues to share their expertise, Adria Sternstein Foster (Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra) on opera and ballet excerpts and Amal Gochenour (piccolo, Baltimore Symphony) on piccolo excerpts.

Baxtresser has a deep love and understanding of the orchestral flute repertoire and has been extraordinarily generous in sharing her understanding with us. Each excerpt comes with commentary on how to approach the solo, including tempi, possible alt. fingerings (if needed) errata (differences between the score and the flute part) and advice on how to perform the pieces including style, dynamic changes, and information about the history of the pieces and further study. For example in the extensive excerpts from Schumann’s Symphony No. 1 (“Spring”) she shares a quote by the composer “ I wrote the symphony in that rush of spring which carries a man away even in his old age, and comes over him new every year.” What great inspiration for the learning and playing of the piece! In some of the excerpts she shares facsimiles of the autograph manuscripts, such as Bach’s Mass in B minor, where you get a taste of the masters handwriting and clean and clear notation, and she discusses why scholars suggest flute is the instrument Bach may have used for the solo and suggests further reading in George Staffer’s “Bach: The Mass in B Minor (the Great Catholic Mass)."

The volume also comes with piano transcriptions for each excerpt by pianist/composer Teddy Niedermaier, and they are of great service to flutists. The transcriptions are creative renderings of the original orchestra scores, many removing layers, and simplifying orchestral textures to help embody the orchestral sound element of the piece and allow a pianist to play them well.  This helps the flutist gain real time experience as she/he practices the excerpts.

For me, one of the great gifts of this volume comes in the first 17 pages. Baxtresser writes a dedication and letter to flutists where she shares her love of the music and her personal approach and a beautiful thank you to colleagues. She continues with an extensive section called “How to Use This Book.” Here we benefit from her years of experience as a principal flutist in the orchestra, her years listening to auditions and her years as a professor of flute. She talks about how to use the piano parts, the music (rental, editions, markings) errata, learning to take a successful audition, how to prepare, tempi, breathing etc, practicing with focus, personal preparation, playing in the orchestra including rules of decorum and working with conductors. There is an essay on playing in opera and ballet orchestras by Adria Sternstein Foster as well.  Read these pages and work on the excerpts with diligence and focus and love and you will be well on your way to understanding how to learn, prepare and audition for orchestras on all levels.

The book is expertly edited by Daniel Dorff; everything is clear and organized, and pains have been taken in the layout of the excerpts including where page turns are located. Overall I think Volume 2 is a tremendous brilliant addition to our resources for study and preparation for all flutists at all points of development. It’s published by Theodore Presser.

The volume includes:

A Letter to my Dear Flutist Friends
Notes for the Pianist
To the Pianists, With My Appreciation
Why This New Book?
Learning and Studying Excerpts Today
How to Use This Book
Flute Parts – The Music You Will Use
Learning to Take a Successful Audition
Personal Preparation
The Audition – To Win or to Learn
Playing in an Orchestra
Playing in Opera and Ballet Orchestras
About Jeanne Baxtresser
About the Collaborative Editors
BARTOK, BELA: Concerto for Orchestra
BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN: Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92
BERLIOZ, HECTOR: Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14
GOUNOD, CHARLES: Petite Symphonie
MAHLER, GUSTAV: Symphony No. 9, Symphony No. 10
PISTON, WALTER: The Incredible Flutist
SCHUMANN, ROBERT: Symphony No. 1, “Spring,” Op. 38
SHOSTAKOVITCH, DMITRI: Symphony No. 5, Op. 47, Symphony No. 6, Op. 54, Symphony No. 15, Op. 141
STRAUSS, RICHARD: Der Rosenkavalier, Op. 59, Don Juan, Op. 20, Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40, Symphonia Domestica, Op. 53
STRAVINSKY, IGOR: The Firebird, Jeu de Cartes, Symphonies of Wind Instruments
TCHAIKOVSKY, PETER ILYITCH: The Nutcracker, Op. 71, Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66, Swan Lake, Op. 20
WILLIAMS, JOHN: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Star Wars, War Horse

--Barbara Siesel

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