The 19 Best Flute Concertos NOT by Mozart
Because we've all had enough K.313 and K.314
Perfect for: flutists who really don't understand why we excluded Mozart from this list
Written just 2 years after Mozart wrote his Concerto in G, Stamitz’ Concerto in G is quintessentially “Classical” sounding - we like to call it “Mozart-light.”
Perfect for: harmony flute enthusiasts
Ready, set, harmony flutes! Dances with the Winds requires the flutist to play on 4 flutes - piccolo, C flute, alto flute and bass flute. This beautiful work evokes the snowy Scandinavian landscape, a cold and dark work reminiscent of Sibelius and Nielsen.
Perfect for: flutists with some sass up their sleeve
Malcolm Arnold’s Flute Concerto No. 1 screams of sarcasm, dissonance, and a certain cheeky-ness. Your audience will be on their feet after the raucous third movement, clocking in at just over 2 minutes of rhythmic syncopation and jazzy harmonies.
Perfect for: pulling off a concerto without enough practice time
Devienne often referred to himself as the “French Mozart” - we think that’s a stretch, but we’ll let you (and your audience) be the judge of that! The Concerto in E minor is overtly virtuosic while also falling well under the fingers, so it sounds harder than it is. Always a plus.
Perfect for: nature-lovers
Sir James Galway commissioned this piece, and will be the first to tell you how difficult it truly is to perform! Flutists without the fingers to pull off the daunting first movement (it is Hard with a capital H) will find the second and third movement to be much more approachable, with one of the most haunting and beautiful pastoral melodies in the flute concerto repertory.
Perfect for: standing up against hate and violence
“Halil”, which means flute in Hebrew, is a piece commemorating a young Israeli flutist named Yadin Tanenbaum who was killed during the 1973 Yom Kippur war. Halil is a dark and powerful work that makes a statement against hate and violence while at the same time ponders some of the universe’s most unanswerable questions.
Perfect for: Halloween (and/or the apocalypse)
Our favorite post-apocalyptic concerto. The curious and conversational opening of this concerto features short recurring motives passed off seamlessly between all the members of the chamber orchestra. The conversation crescendos, abruptly turning into a spooky, barren soundscape - a modern, tragic aria that commiserates with other members of the orchestra.
Perfect for: making your violinist friends angry
Violinists may hate it, but this may be our favorite concerto for flute that was not written for flute! The famous opening shows off your killer low register (if you need a new low register study, this is it) while the main motives are themselves catchy little ear worms. It’s definitely only for the bravest of flutists with a ton of stamina, but this monumental work will give you instant street cred.
Perfect for: traditionalists
C.P.E Bach May not be as popular as his dad (we see you, J.S), but this concerto certainly stands on its own two feet. The style straddles the highly contrapuntal style and orchestral sound (read: harpsichord) of the Baroque with the newer forms of the Classical Era. Fans of Sturm and Drang style will especially love the first and third movements, while the sentimental among us will sing through the expressive middle movement.
Perfect for: a dark and stormy night
Warning: this concerto will NOT give you warm and fuzzy feelings. From the thick chords juxtaposed with open chords, to the fragmented, broken melodies, Jolivet creates a jarring sense of dissonance throughout this work.
Perfect for: classical flutists who want to play jazz flute
Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue meets Shostakovich’s Festive Overture in this highly approachable work by Gordeli. Your audience will love the jazzy harmonic language and pointed rhythmic backbone.
Perfect for: Celtic-music lovers
The outer movements of the Rouse Concerto feature Irish folk song melodies that almost sound improvised. This concerto is substantial, yet easy to follow for the audience and fun to play from a performer’s perspective.
Perfect for: trend-setters
This 2013 masterpiece will most certainly grow in popularity as it becomes more well-known. The rhythms and meters are complex and driving, bordering on frenetic at times, but there’s lots of room for pensive expression in the elegiac and powerful slower moments. The finale is a brilliant and virtuoso scherzo that evokes the forceful fate of Tchaikovsky or Mahler.
Perfect for: flutists looking for music with a deeper purpose
From the composer: "My flute concerto is a musical journey into how the human spirit discovers ways to deal with upheaval, adversity and adapting to a new environment." The “Trail of Tears” soundscape is absolutely beautiful and captivating. Written in 2010, this makes a top play for our “Best Compositions of the 21st Century” list!
Pefect for: virtuosi
With endless virtuosity and the crowd-pleasing aesthetic, the Mercadante is a real winner. Like the Devienne Flute Concerto and the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, this piece fits well under the fingers, and the performer will benefit from the composer’s “flutistic” writing.
Perfect for: Concerto competitions that only allow a single movement
This Concerto could have been #1, if only it had one or two more substantial movements. As it stands, the immaculate, masterfully-composed first movement is always a strong choice.
Perfect for: movie-loving virtuosi
A true masterpiece that we are lucky to be able to call our own, Liebermann's concerto was an easy choice for top 3. The first movement is an exquisite tone poem reminiscent of a movie score with violent outbursts of jazzy syncopation. The middle movement - difficult to interpret by most standards - is a slow, beautiful crescendo and reprieve, and the finale throws the soloist into a front-and-center role with full virtuosity on display.
Perfect for: the optimists among us
A sunny first movement and brilliant finale evoke bright optimism throughout this concerto (despite a more introverted middle movement.) Coming in at 23-ish minutes, this Romantic concerto is the perfect length for the professional flutist, and the pace of the piece does not prove overly difficult.
Perfect for: everyone!
Coming in at #1 is the Flute Concerto by Jacques Ibert. This Concerto has a lot to love: the length is perfect (20 minutes), the style is approachable, and the music is both virtuosic and substantive. The first movement is a study in the avant-garde style of broken-interval melodies over a neo-classical harmonic underpinning, the second movement oozes an impressionistic style a la Debussy or Faure, and the finale is basically it’s own mini-concerto wrapped in a neat 8-minute package. In fact, the third movement by itself would score top-5 or so on this list! All in all, it's our top pick for concertos that aren't by Mozart!
Honorable Mention: Ballade by Frank Martin
Honorable Mention: Poem by Charles Griffes
Honorable Mention: The Concerti for Piccolo (or Flute) by Antonio Vivaldi
Honorable Mention: Ballade by Carl Reinecke