The Golden Flute

Concerto for Flute and Orchestra

Chen Yi

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Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

I was so excited when I learned that Mr. James Galway was enthusiastic for inviting me to write him a Chinese flute concerto after listening to my viola concerto "Xian Shi", introduced to him by my former colleague Maestro Zuo-Huang Chen, now the music director of the Wichita Symphony in Kansas and the China National Symphony Orchestra in Beijing. I decided to compose a flute concerto entitled "Golden Flute", using a western flute to speak in the language of Chinese wind instruments, such as the dizi made from bamboo and the xun made from clay. The composition is supported, in part, by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in the U.S., and completed at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Umbertide, Italy. The world premiere was given by the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra in Duluth on November 8th, 1997, conducted by Yong-Yan Hu, with soloist Donna Orbovich.

"Golden Flute" is written for the solo flute, and 2 flutes (doubling 2 piccolos), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons 4 French horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, 3 percussion players (timpani, sustained cymbal, triangle, vibraphone, 5 high temple blocks, 5 set gongs, Japanese high wood block, glockenspiel, tam-tam, crotales, small bell, bass drum), harp, and strings.

Remembering when I studied the Chinese folk music repertoire, I am always amazed by the variation method of the traditional Chinese bamboo flute performance. Most folk solo pieces have a single theme each with its sectional developments in different speeds, tonguing and fingerings, and adding decorations on the important notes form the melody. It inspired me to construct my three-movement concerto, starting with the only theme in the initial three-measure phrase, whose melodic material is drawn from a Chinese folk tune "Old Eight Beats". The variations of the theme in the first movement are full of various grace notes and performing techniques around the melodic notes, learnt from such traditional pieces as "Joy of Reunion" for the Chinese flute, dizi. In the intermezzo-like second movement, I try to imitate the sound of an ancient clay blowing instrument, xun, which has a slow but tense, mysterious and dreamy voice. The third movement brings us back to the virtuosic playing style with all former pitch materials recapitulated. With an extreme contrast between the low sonority from the orchestra and the screaming passages from the solo part mixed with piccolos, the music is brought to its final climax before the coda, which is a solo flute cadenza that brings us back to the lyrical mood of the short slow movement, and the sound of the grazioso "dizi" and the remote "xun".

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Scores & Parts

The Golden Flute - Solo Part with Piano Reduction

Additional Information

Commission Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Composition Date 1997, rev. 2008
Duration 00:16:00
Orchestration Solo Fl.; 2 2 2 2 - 4 2 3 0; Timp. 2Perc. Hp. Str.
Premiere 8th & 9th November, 1997. Donna Orbovich, Flute, Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra (MN), conducted by Yong-yan Hu.

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