We have had time to think. And remember. A colleague once spoke of a special player who played with “Insight,” and this is what set them apart. I wondered, “what kind of playing has Insight?” I guess if you can have foresight and hindsight you can have insight, which “looks in” to something with a deep level of understanding. I reckon it’s a good thing to have. The devil takes the Hindmost, rarely takes the Foremost, but probably never takes the Inmost.
Like the Keys To The Kingdom or a love of Brussels Sprouts, Insight is acquired. There is a path which leads to it. You have to have known someone who had Insight, and showed you the path. Fenwick Smith had it, and could really “look in” to a piece. At the time, I wasn’t sure how he did it and I don’t think he really wanted to explain Insight to me, but he sure could play with it. My teacher Robert Willoughby had loads of it, and he showed his students the beginning of the path. And, clear as day, he could tell you how to get there. After that, it was your show.
Sometimes curiosity feels a little illegal or dangerous, but don’t worry. Insight starts with curiosity. What makes the music tick? And why does it make you feel the way you do? We love the flute, and justly so; it is lovable, and simple, and its simplicity lies in direct communication, but that is still not the path. The path is the next question: communication of what, exactly?
When teaching we try to provide Insight. Technique, articulation, and sound are half of the story. The other half lies deeper in the music and we must teach students to “look in” to the music. But practically speaking this can be hard to do without a good pianist at hand, or an easy way to demonstrate the other parts. I have felt especially at a loss sometimes when trying to explain accompaniment details in the Mozart Concertos.
I have used my time to finish arranging the Mozart Concertos and Andante for 2 flutes, so teachers and fellow students can get an idea of the accompaniment anytime, without a piano.
In the opening of the Mozart D major Concerto (Music A) we teach the student to back off a bit on the long D-natural, because the tune is in the orchestra. But questions can remain; how much to back off, and when to intensify again? Now we can easily play the orchestra part while the student is sustaining that D-natural, and hear exactly what is happening.
This kind of binary thinking about interaction between melody and accompaniment is a simple way to organize the music, and this can lead to Insight. The accompaniment is, conceptually, often more important than the melody: the nature of the accompaniment is so vital to the actual intent of the music we should start by studying it. Its details “inform” the melody and hold the melody’s secrets. Its character and variations contain the “subtext” of the melody’s narrative.
In the Mozart G major Concerto passage (Music B) we often alternate mood between a
buoyant, light aspect and a more tuneful, espressivo feel in these bars. The melody itself may lead us to suspect that this is the right way to play the passage, but the changes in the accompaniment provide the details we need to distinguish how much, and exactly what kind of change to make. In m. 6, it is actually the harmony which dictates the phrasing and character.
Starting the concerto (Music C), begin rather jauntily in Maestoso, play the scale with a gentle bravura flourish, but then play the cadence in the final bars gently and expressively. This slight change of character in bar 3 is not evident in the flute part. It is inspired by the rather abrupt appearance of a half-note in the accompaniment (Vl. 1 and Viola in the orchestral score). The music does not “drive” through bar 3 to the end of the passage, but finishes more gently than the previous elements of the phrase, which are accompanied by persistent eighth-notes.
These are just several small examples of gained Insight through flute-duo study of Mozart’s music. I am excited to finally publish these flute duo volumes. Hopefully, as things begin to return to normal, we will we emerge better than before, and playing our Mozart concertos, together, will be more fun than ever.
Mark Sparks is an American solo flutist, orchestral artist, teacher, arranger, publisher, and writer. He was appointed Principal Flutist of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in 2000, and has appeared in recital and with orchestras on 5 continents, and played the world premiere of Katherine Hoover’s Four Winds Concerto. He has recorded solo albums on the Summit, AAM, and Pesen labels, can be heard with various orchestras on Sony, Telarc, Nonesuch, and Decca, and is often featured on the SLSO’s weekly live concert broadcasts on National Public Radio. Sparks is a faculty member of DePaul University in Chicago, the Aspen Music Festival, and Flauti al Castello in Italy, and a frequent guest at major U.S. music schools and flute courses. He is the author and publisher of two acclaimed book series, Exploring Sound: Tone Development Through Orchestral Repertoire and Orchestral Excerpt Practice Books, numerous arrangements for flute, and a Contributing Editor of Flute Talk Magazine. Sparks studied with Robert Willoughby at the Oberlin Conservatory.