The best pieces for flute: our top picks
We choose the finest works for the woodwind instrument
Europe’s oldest flute organisation, the British Flute Society, holds its major flute competitions today, and to mark the occasion we’ve chosen our favourite pieces for the instrument.
Mozart Concerto for Flute and Harp, K299
Listening to Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp on near-continuous loop as I revised for finals in 1994 proved a remarkably effective aid to committing Thucydides, Plato and Aristotle to memory. It also gave me a love of the piece that remains to this day.
Though the exquisite central Andantino is by far the most familiar of the three movements, it’s the chirpy, companionable conversation between the two soloists in the finale that has me pressing the ‘repeat’ button all over again. Jeremy Pound, deputy editor
Emmanuel Pahud (flute), Marie-Pierre Langlamet (harp); Berlin Philharmonic/Claudio Abbado
EMI 085 1952
Chaminade Flute Concertino
The singing melody of Cécile Chaminade’s Flute Concertino always springs to mind when I think of the instrument. That’s probably because it seemed to be the piece of choice for flautists playing with my school and youth orchestras – I’ve lost count of how many times I played the viola part in the orchestra (and how many times I lost count in the piece).
It’s not hard to see why it’s so often chosen, though – this 1902 concertino, written for the Paris Conservatoire, has a winning combination of easy, sunny grace and playful virtuosity. Rebecca Franks, managing editor
Sharon Bezaly (flute); Residentie Orkest den Haag/Neeme Järvi
Poulenc Sonata for Flute and Piano, FP164
Seven years ago I was lucky to see flautist Emmanuel Pahud and pianist Ashley Wass performing this well-loved Sonata for Flute and Piano by Poulenc at a festival.
The delightful piece was written in 1957 (for the Coolidge Foundation) and contains three enchanting movements, beginning with the furtive Allegretto malincolico, followed by the gorgeous Cantilena – with its instantly memorable main melody – and the high-spirted Presto giocoso which races to the finish line. Neil McKim, production editor
Patrick Gallois (flute), Pascal Rogé (piano)
Decca 475 7097
Reinecke Flute Sonata, Op. 167, ‘Undine’
A firm favourite amongst flautists, ‘Undine’ showcases the best features of the instrument in a retelling of the fairy-tale in which Undine, a water nymph, marries a knight and is then betrayed by him and takes revenge.
Reinecke explores and expands upon the initial theme such an adventurous way, and it is by no means an easy piece. Sharon Bezaly’s interpretation is a standout – her rich tone and delicate attention to the lower register suits this piece perfectly, and she plays with the perfect level of expression. Freya Parr, digital editor and staff writer
Sharon Bezaly (flute), Ronald Brautigam (piano)
Listen to our free Spotify playlist for some of our other favourite pieces of music written for the flute.
Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.