The pieces described on this page are contained in the “Symphonic Themes for Flute” book, part of the That’s Easy series. This book is currently out of print, but used copies can be found.

Beethoven

Symphony 2 in D, mvt 3, Scherzo

The word “scherzo” means “joke”, so this movement is composed in a quick, playful style. The cheerfulness of this movement is especially remarkable when considering what was happening in Beethoven’s life at the time. Beethoven faced the realization that he was going deaf prior to composing this symphony. This realization put him in a great depression, which he eventually worked through and decided to continue composition. His second symphony was composed after he went through this process. It is not as popular as some of Beethoven’s other symphonies, but nonetheless a masterful work, and the scherzo is filled with remarkable playfulness.

Video: Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Paavo Jarvi conductor

Symphony 3 in Eb (Eroica), Opus 55, mvt 1

Beethoven was swept up in the rebellion of individualism during the Romantic era that were founded upon the Enlightenment ideas of the Classical era. When Napoleon Bonaparte initially came to power in France, Beethoven was an avid supporter, so much so that he initially named his 3rd symphony the “Bonaparte Symphony” after Napoleon. When Napoleon named himself emperor, Beethoven was completely disenchanted and considered Napoleon now to be a tyrant. He renamed his third symphony Eroica, or Heroic, in honor of Prince Lobkowitz, a Bohemian (Czech Republic) aristocrat who supported music and a rebellion against Napoleon Bonaparte.

This video provides a visual indication in shapes for each instrumental line that is playing at the time. It is a unique was to “see” music – enjoy!

Video: Bezdin Ensemble

Symphony 6 (Pastoral), mvt 3

Beethoven’s Symphony 6, Pastoral, is the most programmatic of Beethoven’s symphonies. Each movement describes a specific idea or scene dealing with nature and a pastoral setting. Movement 3 is the Joyous gathering of the country folk, and the lightness and fun permeates the movement. During some of the abrupt stops I imagine young children running around and suddenly surprising the adults who are gathered.

The movements of the Pastoral Symphony are as follows:

  • The awakening of joyous feelings on getting out into the countryside
  • Scene by the brook
  • Joyous gathering of the country folk
  • Thunderstorm
  • Shepherd’s song; happy and thankful feelings after the storm

Video: Bezdin Ensemble

Brahms

Symphony 1 in c minor, mvt 4

It took 15 years for Brahms to compose his first symphony, more because he was a perfectionist comparing himself to Beethoven than because of any flaw in his composition abilities. Composer Robert Schumann wrote an article in 1853 claiming Brahms to be the successor of Beethoven – at the time Brahms was only 20 years old and felt a tremendous burden of expectation. Though he started the first theme of the symphony when he was 23, Brahms (who had no prior orchestral composition experience) composed several pieces for orchestra before completing the symphony in 1876.

Video: Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, Benjamin Zander conductor

Symphony 3 in F, mvt 3

In contrast to the length of time it took to compose his first symphony, Brahms created his third symphony in only 4 months. It is the shortest of his 4 symphonies, but very organized and coherent in its compactness. The thematic material revolves around the sequence of F-A-F (either Ab or A as the key changes between major and minor). This sequence refers to Brahms’ motto “frei aber froh,” free but happy, which described his need for time to himself to devote to music and composition.

Video: Orchestra of the University of Music Franz Liszt Weimar

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