Excerpts guide – Leonore Overture no.3 by Beethoven
Ory’s Flute Tips
Excerpts guide – Leonore Overture no.3
One of our most famous soli in our orchestral repertoire and a very popular excerpt in orchestra auditions is the Leonore Overture by Beethoven. The different sections from the piece (normally 3 sections are being asked) can show a lot to the audition panel of your control over dynamics, articulation clarity, keeping the tempo, intonation, harmony understanding and more.
I use here the opportunity that I’ve played this piece with the orchestra last week and I managed to record few videos during the rehearsals for you.
As a general suggestion, try to approach Beethoven (whether excerpts, in the orchestra or in chamber music pieces you play) in a more classical-baroque attitude rather than a late romantic interpretation. Keep the vibrato to the minimum needed, articulate very clearly and keep it light.
The first section
In this section you can show to the jury your control over your piano and over your articulation. Make sure you play the first E without any accent and I’d highly recommend not to use vibrato but rather to use your air stream to shape the phrase towards the first G and the middle of the second G (as it’s the appoggiatura, release the F# afterwards – play it a bit less than the G).
The character then changes from a dramatic-mysterious at the beginning to a lighter atmosphere starting with the staccato notes. Make sure though that you keep the same tempo changing from the longer notes to the staccato notes. These should not be played long nor short and the ideal solution for their length is to play each one of them as a bell note (read here about them).
In addition, the last note in each group has a different value – an 1/8 note. Therefore, make sure it’s longer but at the same time after hitting the note use the bell note effect to reduce it’s volume and allow the voice of the violins to be heard. If you listen carefully to the recording I believe you’ll be able to hear what I mean:
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The second section – the long notes
For this section you have to know exactly the harmonies in order to play each note with the right intonation. Some of the notes are major thirds (which should be played quite lower), some are the fifths (which should be slightly higher). As the exercises I’ve suggested in my articles about intonation, I’d recommend as well here to let your tuner play the base note of the chord (for example, in the first phrase a Bb, then a F together with the written C etc.) and then play the notes as written to make sure your intervals are clean. This is extremely important because if you don’t know the function of each note in the chord you will most probably play it out of tune – and the jury will surely notice it.
Avoid using the vibrato and make the phrasing rather with your air stream. Leave some extra air for the crescendi at the end of each phrase.
You should be able to play the whole phrase in one breath. Choose a tempo which is not slow (with the metronome I’d say around 60-64 for the bar!) and keep this tempo for the next solo section.
The third section – the big solo
This section is the main flute solo in the piece. Take care especially for these points:
- Make sure your articulation is short enough yet full of resonance. Use a similar articulation as if you were playing the Mozart concerto. You can read about how to improve your sound while articulating here.
- Make sure your entrance is loud enough – It’s a very low register and it has to pass through all the strings who are playing.
- Take care to be precisely on time and keep the tempo very stricly. Listen carefully to the bassoon part under you – while the flute plays the triplets and bassoon plays off-beats and if your triplets are too slow or too quick you won’t be able to fit with the bassoon.
- Play the last note, the long piano high D without any vibrato – it has absolutely nothing melodic in it and it’s just an accompaniment for the strings.
You’re more than welcome to leave your comments and questions.
Ory Schneor is a principal flutist with the Munich Chamber Orchestra, Tongyeong Festival Orchestra and member of the Geneva Camerata. He is teaching masterclasses around the world and he is the founder and instructor at FLUTEinWIEN
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