Day 16 | Recorder31
For today's post we take a look at some solo alto recorder repertoire. The alto (or treble) is known as the "main" instrument of the recorder family, and there is a wealth of repertoire to choose from. If you are thinking of taking up the recorder as an adult, it depends on what kind of music you want to play, but if you particularly want repertoire written for the recorder, the alto is your best starting instrument.
There are lots of different series of tutor books for the recorder including Recorder from the Beginning, Red Hot and The New Recorder Tutor. The Fun & Games series is particularly good for younger players as it gets them thinking about their sound and the air stream through the recorder (not a bad thing for any age!). For adult beginners Franz Giesbert's Method for the Treble Recorder is fantastic. It moves at a good pace and contains a great collection of solo baroque pieces at the end.
Medieval and Renaissance
Most medieval music is arranged for the soprano recorder, though there is no reason why you can't transpose solo pieces and play them on the alto recorder. The alto recorder in the renaissance period was commonly in G more moving to F towards the baroque period. However, there are many collections and anthologies of renaissance music arranged for the alto recorder. The Renaissance Recorder Anthology Volume 3 & 4 are great for players wanting to play accompanied music but find themselves without an accompanist as they include backing tracks performed by early musicians.
There is a huge wealth of alto recorder music from the baroque period. This was the golden age of the instrument and we're provided by works composed especially for the recorder like the Complete Recorder Sonatas by George Frederic Handel. Music was becomingly more readily available to buy for amateur musicians, and publishers such as John Walsh compiled lots of books to cater for the amateur market, such as The Division Flute. This is a collection of divisions with ground basses on popular tunes of the day as well as unaccompanied solos by popular composers. As well as specific pieces for the recorder, there is all of the baroque flute repertoire that can be played on the recorder by transposing the piece up a minor 3rd. This is because the bottom note of the (baroque) flute was a D and the bottom note of the alto is an F. As the flute gradually became the bigger instrument, the voice flute (recorder in D) became more popular, so that you could play flute music without the need for transposition, which is essential if the piece is accompanied.
There are lots of different collections for solo alto recorder and the must-have book for any recorder player is The Baroque Solo Book, edited and published by Bernard Thomas. This compilation will keep any recorder player busy for a lifetime with works such as Telemann's 12 Fantasias for Flute and J. S. Bach's Partita for Flute. There are the Baroque Anthologies by Schott that like the Renaissance ones come with backing tracks for the accompaniment.
The recorder has been written for extensively since its revival in the early 20th century. Carl Dolmetsch commissioned a piece once a year for his Wigmore Series and this has given us some of the huge staples of 20th century repertoire including Gorgon Jacob's Suite and Lennox Berkerley's Sonatina. The avant-garde in the 1960's led to new and interesting techniques in recorder playing, and many recorder players have been introduced to these in the music soundscape piece Music for a Bird by Hans-Martin Linde. For many years Sweet by Louis Andriessen was seen as the hardest piece ever written for recorder due to it stretching the range of the recorder.
There are two reference series that focus on providing a foundation for playing with a secure technique – The Modern Recorder Player by van Hauwe and Advanced Technique by Heyens & Bowen. These are essential books for any recorder player wanting to solidify and improve their technique. Some parts are useful for a beginner, for example their discussion on producing sound, but the musical examples in both series assume a firm knowledge of playing the alto recorder. There are lots of exercise and study books to improve technique, the most popular ones including The Daily Lesson by Staeps, 5 Studies for Fingercontrol by Brüggen, and (for truly dedicated!) Three Exercises by Boeke!
Our 10 top picks
- Various: The Baroque Solo Book
- Various: Solo Book for Treble Recorder
- Bali: A Baroque Ornamentation Tutor
- Ortiz: 4 Recercadas
- Sammartini: 6 Sonatas
- Staeps: Sonata in Eb
- Hirose: Meditation
- Rose: I'd Rather Be in Philidelphia
- Steenhoven: 7 Minimal Preludes
- Braun/Fischer: Studies & Solo Pieces for Recorder