Spooky Scores for Spooky Season
10 Program Ideas for Your Halloween Themed Flute Recital
Thinking of programming a flute recital during spooky season? Here are some cinematically haunting scores that will be sure to leave your audience yearning for more.
Danse Macabre (Flute and Piano) by Camille Saint-Saens
A Halloween favorite! Danse Macabre is based on the French legend that Death packs a fiddle and comes to play at midnight on Halloween, causing the skeletons in the cemetery to crawl out of the ground for their annual graveyard dance party. Flute virtuoso Giuseppe Gariboldi arranged this wonderful tone poem for flute and piano. It’s only fitting that this would be a “must” to program for your Halloween themed recital!
Cinq Incantations (Flute Alone) by Andre Jolivet
This haunting work is as intoxicating as a magical spell. Throughout his life, Jolivet believed music to be a means of communication between people, a pathway to self-knowledge, and a bridge to spirituality. Cinq Incantations was written shortly after the death of his mother, and it effectively communicates the story of spiritual transcendence.
Night Soliloquy (Flute and Piano) by Kent Kennan, also available for Solo Flute and Ensemble, Arranged by Robert K. Webb
This gorgeous piece creates an impressive tone painting of ascending and descending lines. The luscious lyrical lines of the flute juxtaposed with the haunting piano accompaniment gradually grow in intensity and evokes a mystery that keeps the audience at their toes.
Le Merle Noir (Flute and Piano) by Olivier Messiaen
Le Merle Noir evokes all of the wild, mysterious, and chaotic aspects of nature. I love how Messiaen paints an illusion of nature’s anarchy in this work. Messiaen brilliantly uses birdsong as the thematic material, which strikes so similarly to music written by humans. According to Hearthstone’s article “The Monotony Threshold of Singing Birds,” birdsong employs “‘pitched’ and ‘unpitched’ sounds; the repetition of melodic phrases, the repetition of rhythmic units, the use of crescendo and diminuendo, accelerando and ritardando; and a balance between sound and silence.”
George Crumb created one of the classics of the 20th-century, "Vox Balanae" ("Voice of the Whale")—scored for amplified flute, cello, and piano. This transcendent work evokes the otherworldly mysteries of the deep ocean through virtuosic performances and special effects. Crumb scores the flutist to sing while playing, uses the cello to imitate the haunting cries of a seagull, and instructs the pianist to pluck strings through the piano's open lid. This ethereal work is supernatural and out of this world.
Voice (Flute Alone) by Toru Takemitsu
Takemitsu’s “Voice” is the perfect addition to your spooky program! It includes an array of extended techniques and theatrical elements including microtones, singing while playing, key clicks, air articulation, flutter tonguing, multiphonics, timbral trills, and more. I love all of the interpretative possibilities with this piece.
Asphyxia (Flute Alone) by Nicole Chamberlain
“Asphyxia” is the medical term for a person's inability to breathe and lack of oxygen in the body. Chamberlain’s piece, Asphyxia, requires extended techniques that are an intensive athletic demand for the flutist, which gives the audience an illusion of asphyxia! This haunting work captures multiple voices at once even with the single melodic line of the flute. With the rhythmic power of the extended techniques against the soaring flute lines, this piece evokes an otherworldly experience.
Sonata (Flute and Piano) by Lowell Liebermann
The expressive abilities of the flute are drawn upon in Liebermann's Sonata. I consider this piece to be one of the saddest and most beautiful pieces in the flutist’s repertoire. Liebermann brilliantly combines functional harmony with polytonality in his writing. Traditional techniques such as augmentation, diminution, retrograde and sequence are also used. What strikes me the most in this piece is the beauty of the flute, and how the melodies yearn for resolution.
Ballade (Flute and Piano) by Frank Martin
Martin’s Ballade for flute and piano is among one of my favorite pieces ever written for the flute. I always envisioned this piece as a haunting poem of woe and beauty, filled with dramatic tension and dynamism. Dissonance and repetitions are used as a compositional technique to evoke the listener into a trance. I would consider this to be the perfect addition to your spooky recital.
Chant de Linos (Flute and Piano), also available for (Flute, Harp, and String Trio) by Andre Jolivet
Considered to be one of the most transcendent pieces of the repertoire, Chant de Linos is spellbinding. I am so enamored with the mystical elements of this piece, and it is also among one of my favorites of all time. Similar to Cinq Incantations, this piece is intoxicating and liberating. Jolivet aspired to discover music's original ancient meaning and recreate it through modern writing. His influence from spirituality and ancient mythology are what makes his music such an outworldly experience, and what makes it an absolute show stopper.