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Intermediate Solo Repertoire for Woodwinds

Andrew J. Allen | November 2014

    The Hue Flute Fantasy, the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, and the Creston Saxophone Sonata, just to name a few, are wonderful pieces that can be played by extremely talented, hard-working high school students. For those still developing their skills, however, these works are out of reach, and many teachers are at a loss when it comes to recommending intermediate literature for their students. Many state lists exist, but they can sometimes be overwhelming in their breadth. It is also the case that some lists may be updated infrequently, meaning many wonderful new pieces have yet to be added.
    Below are lists of suggested grade 3 and 4 solos for woodwinds, although these are not meant to be comprehensive. Each of the woodwinds is represented by collections and a few selections of both grade 3 and grade 4 works, except for the tenor saxophone, for which there are only collections and a few grade 4 pieces, because of a surprising paucity of less challenging literature that some composer would be wise in alleviating. It is also worth noting that much of the standard grade 3 repertoire for oboe and bassoon exists in collections, so lists of these were substituted for individual pieces. Students who primarily play bass clarinet should be directed to standard clarinet pieces, as these can be played just as easily on the larger instrument. Students should also be taught that a bass clarinetist should also be a clarinetist, just as a tenor saxophonist should be comfortable on other sizes of saxophone.

    Concert and Contest Collection, edited by Himie Voxman (Rubank). This classic collection contains many popular pieces, including works by Bach and Haydn. Young flutists of many different skill levels can find worthy material in this publication.

    Solo Pieces for the Intermediate Flutist
by Mizzy McCaskill and Dona Gilliam (Mel Bay). Included here are many standard pieces for young flutist, with some written by Handel, Haydn, Mozart, and Bizet. A new edition includes an accompanying cd with a recorded piano part to aid students in practicing.

    Flute Music by French Composers, edited by Louis Moyse (Schirmer). This extremely valuable resource for advancing young flutists includes several pieces of literature that will be appropriate for students’ collegiate study. However, a few gems are included that are well within the reaches of grade 4.

Grade 3
    Menuet from “L’Arlésienne, Suite No. 2” by Georges Bizet, arr. Himie Voxman (Rubank). This classic arrangement offers a chance to play a beautiful melody from one of the world’s great lyrical composers. The range and fingering requirements of this work should be readily in the grasp of any technically sound flutist. The musical demands, however, will be difficult, forcing the soloist to play long, delicate lines and to articulate smoothly and evenly.

    Serenade by Georges Hue (Kalmus). This is an excellent, musically deep piece. While the fingering requirements are well within a developing player’s reach, flutists will have to work on focusing their sound across all registers and on playing precise articulations in the instrument’s second octave.

    The Swan by Camille Saint-Saëns. This piece, an arrangement from Carnival of the Animals, is without great technical gymnastics but still offers wonderful, appropriate challenges. Long, smooth phrases are absolutely necessary for the piece to come off correctly, and students will have to work on breath control and proper support in all registers, even when playing wide intervals.

    Pastorale by Germaine Tailleferre (Presser). Tailleferre was a member of Les Six, a group of six French composers who worked in Montparnasse. This composition is a beautiful, lush work with long, tuneful lines that will be attractive to most performers. A full, round, pleasing sound is of the utmost importance with this work.

    Sonata in F Major by Georg Philipp Telemann. Without ornaments, this work can prove to be a fine first multi-movement piece for the flutist. Later in students’ development, it will also be a good initial introduction to true Baroque performance practice.

Grade 4
    Sonata in C Major (BWV 1033) by J.S. Bach. Although this is definitely a difficult grade 4, this masterwork provides a wonderful introduction to Bach’s collection of chamber music for the flute. If necessary, a student can certainly pick just one or two movements to perform if the whole work proves too challenging.

    Morceau de Concours by Gabriel Fauré (Bourne). Fauré’s great gift for lyricism shines forth in this sophisticated, late Romantic work that most students should be able to handle. This piece offers limited technical difficulties, but it must be performed with the utmost fluidity. The ability to shape an effective phrase is a skill that this work will definitely help students to develop.

    Madrigal by Philippe Gaubert (International). This lovely piece matches difficult technical passages with fluid melodic lines. A student’s sense of dynamic contrast will be pleasantly pushed by the requirements of this work, as will their finger dexterity.

    Sonata in E Minor (op. 1, no. 1a, HWV 359b) by Handel. An excellent introduction to Baroque style by a master composer, this work is well within the technical limits of many advancing performers. All movements work equally well, and the work gives chances for flutists to refine technical and lyrical playing.

    Sonata in F Major (op. 2, no. 1) by Benedetto Marcello. This work can be a great introduction to Baroque sonatas. Technical challenges are fairly minimal, with the exception of repeated, quick articulations in the second movement. This may be a perfect piece for a flutist who has a tendency to tongue a bit thickly.

Concert and Contest Collection, edited by Himie Voxman (Rubank). This time-tested publication includes many excellent pieces for clarinet; nearly every diligent young player should be able to find a piece that suits their skill level. Several standard works are included, such as movements from clarinet masterworks by Brahms and Schumann.

Solos for the Clarinet Player
, edited by Arthur Christmann (Schirmer). This work includes a wide selection of movements from the standard literature for clarinet, including the Mozart and Carl Stamitz Concertos, the Mozart Quintet, and several works by Carl Baermann. In addition, some Baroque transcriptions are included to aid young students in studying works from diverse time periods.

Grade 3
Entr’acte from Carmen by Georges Bizet, arranged by Quinto Maganini (Edition Musicus). This beautiful melody allows clarinetists to work on phrasing, breath control, intonation, and a great many other skills. Technical difficulties are nonexistent for performers who are able to execute solid and smooth passage from note to note.

Fantasy Pieces by Niels Gade (Schott). While the finger dexterity of some of the movements of this piece may better be classified within grade 4, much of the excellent music in this piece will be playable by younger clarinetists. Beautiful, long operatic melodies reign throughout the work. This is a very pleasant, appealing composition.

Two Arias by Mozart, arranged by A.W. Benoy & A. Bryce (Boosey). This work consists of two direct transcriptions of popular arias, “Voi che sapete” from The Marriage of Figaro and “Ah, Perdona” from The Clemency of Titus. These are highly recommended. Wind players should learn to phrase as singers do, and borrowing vocal music is an excellent way to do this.

    Piece in G Minor
by Gabriel Pierne (Southern). This wonderful, light piece requires precise articulations throughout the range. A beautiful, break-crossing melody in the second section is just what many young clarinetists need to develop smooth finger motion.
Six Studies in English Folksong by Ralph Vaughn Williams (Boosey). These classic pieces, rearranged for virtually every instrument through the years, are perfect for developing melodic and dynamic expression in developing students. Only the last movement provides a quicker pace, but the rest of the works offer wide melodic leaps and other aspects that should be practiced carefully.

Grade 4
    Four Short Pieces for Clarinet by Howard Ferguson (Boosey). An evocative work, this should be playable by any clarinetist who has a solid sound and scalar technique. Each movement has a different character, and this could make a fine recital or audition piece.

    Five Bagatelles by Gerald Finzi (Boosey). This is an excellent work that allows students to display technical achievement, while offering plenty of opportunities for the development of phrasing, sound, and intonation. This delightful piece is a difficult grade 4, although less developed players still may be able to perform one or two of the movements. This is a piece worthy of consideration for college auditions.

    Sonata No. 1 by Jean-Xavier Lefevre (Schott). This refined, classical piece offers clarinetists a high-quality multi-movement work with considerable stylistic contrast. The range is quite compact because the piece was written for an earlier precursor of the modern instrument. As long as students are comfortable in the clarinet’s range in and just above the staff, they will find success with this work.

    Fantasy in G Minor by Carl Nielsen (Hal Leonard). A student-level work by the great Danish symphonist, this is a meaty, Romantic, theme-and-variations piece. There are some technical considerations here that will push a developing student, but the piece will be well within reach with practice.

Bass Clarinet
    Concert and Contest Collection, edited by Himie Voxman (Rubank). This collection includes both transcriptions and original works. Bass clarinetists should also be encouraged to perform pieces written for Bb clarinet and to become proficient on the higher instrument.

Alto Saxophone
    Concert and Contest Collection, edited by Himie Voxman (Rubank). This publication includes a handful of transcriptions and original pieces that may be interesting for developing saxophonists. Some of the works are a bit obscure and dated today, but the transcriptions are still quite pleasing.

    Solos for the Alto Saxophone Player edited by Larry Teal (Schirmer). This collection offers many extremely effective transcriptions from a wide range of musical history, from the Baroque to the early twentieth century. A great swath of musical and technical range is present in the pieces, and this collection offers a challenge for students at many different skill levels. The publication includes works by Schumann, Bach, Mozart, and Rachmaninoff, as well as the saxophone solo from Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

Grade 3
    Aria by Eugene Bozza (Leduc). This classic piece consists of long, beautiful strands of melody. While there are no real technique concerns, students must be comfortable with changing registers and playing the upper reaches of the normal range with the same beautiful sound as the rest of the tessitura.

    Vacances by Jean-Michel Damase (Billaudot). A recent addition to the saxophone’s literature, this piece is a wonderfully beautiful choice. While fingering troubles will be minimal, if a saxophonist has a tendency to bite or tense up when approaching the notes above the staff, this is an excellent chance to break that habit and play with resonance and a beautiful sound.

    Sicilliene by Pierre Lantier (Leduc). This classic work from the French tradition has a lovely, lilting melody. While technical challenges are few, the piece uses much of the instrument’s non-altissimo range.

    Chanson et Passepied by Jeanine Rueff (Leduc). The Chanson is a pleasant, slow melody that will offer challenges in phrasing and dynamic control. The Passepied, while not incredibly difficult technically, will force students to count carefully and will get fingers moving. This piece is difficult for a grade 3.

    Romance by William Grant Still (International). This all-too-often overlooked piece is another great melody. The work uses most of the conventional range of the instrument, and students must understand that all of this range should be played with a beautiful sound and in tune. True dynamic contrast should also be stressed.

Grade 4
    Suite by Paul Bonneau (Leduc) is a wide-ranging four-movement work that offers many musical and technical challenges in a fairly compact package. If one of the movements proves too difficult, it can be skipped. However, this piece, with some work, is within the grasp of many serious young players.

    Pieces Characteristiques en forme de suite No. 2 “A la Russe,” and No.3 “A la Francaise” by Pierre Max Dubois (Leduc). These two pieces, written as part of a larger suite, stand alone or with each other quite well. “A la Russe” alternates between a slow, pesante melody and some slightly athletic technical passages. “A la Francaise” is a beautiful, smooth melody that requires the performer to play with a beautiful sound across the saxophone’s range.

    Sonata by Henri Eccles, arranged by Sigurd Rascher (Presser). A transcription of a Baroque bass sonata, this work in four movements is on the difficult end of the grade 4 spectrum but is entirely performable with diligent practice. It will help immensely for students to have a steady foundation in scale work. Leaps are abundant, so this is an excellent piece to remind students to keep their fingers on the pearls and to maintain a consistent embouchure.

    Sonata by J.F. Fasch, arranged by Sigurd Rascher (McGinnis & Marx). This piece, originally for bassoon, offers an excellent opportunity to play in Baroque style. The dotted rhythms of the first movement will encourage accurate counting, and the quick movements are great finger builders.

    Sonata No. 3 by G.F. Handel, arranged by Sigurd Rascher (Hal Leonard). An excellent introduction to Rascher’s transcriptions by Eccles and Fasch (above), this work offers wonderful stylistic contrasts while still containing plenty of technical work. Rascher did not include ornaments in the piece, so students may wish to experiment with adding them in the third movement with proper guidance on style.

Tenor Saxophone
    Concert and Contest Collection, edited by Himie Voxman (Rubank). This work contains several high-quality transcriptions from the Baroque and Romantic periods that will suit developing tenor saxophonists. Highlights include transcriptions of Handel and Bach and the Piece in G Minor by Gabriel Pierne.

    Solos for the Tenor Saxophone Player, edited by Larry Teal (Schirmer). As with the alto edition, this work includes many transcriptions from a wide range of musical eras. Composers represented include Saint-Saëns, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, Debussy, and Beethoven. Tenor saxophonists of many different ability levels will find excellent options here.

Grade 4
    Premier Solo by Jules Demersseman (Northeastern). This charming work was originally penned in the 1860s, in the saxophone’s infancy. It can provide saxophonists with an excellent Weber-style musical experience. There are some technical demands, but they largely consist of scalar runs and some thirds-based passages.

    Poem by Walter Hartley (Tenuto). This dark, brooding work may be very appealing to some students. The texture is fairly sparse throughout. The soloist is called upon to perform some slow leaps across the range of the instrument. The lower reaches of the tenor will need to be tamed in this piece.

    Adagio et rondo by Jean-Baptiste Singelee (Lemoine). This is an early work for saxophone, written in the 1860s. The piece has a pleasing slow movement followed by a slightly technical fast section and will be a wonderful learning experience for many players.

    Sonata in G Minor by Vivaldi, arranged by Sigurd Rascher (McGinnis & Marx). This outstanding transcription will be a good test for even advanced tenor players. The technical requirements can be challenging, but this is an appealing work that will be enjoyed by many. If the entire work proves too much, selected movements can be performed.

    Oboe Solos, edited by Jay Arnold (Music Sales). This publication offers a large amount of high-quality literature that is well-suited for oboe players of many different skill levels. Several standard works by Corelli, Handel, Mozart, and Schumann are included.

    Solos for the Oboe Player, edited by Whitney Tustin (Schirmer). This collection includes many good original works and transcriptions for the oboe from the Baroque period through the early 20th century. As with many of the collections in this series, pieces of considerably different skill levels are found here, making this an ideal collection for most developing players.

    Various Oboe Classics for the Beginner (Music Minus One). This publication stands out for its concentration of late-Romantic and early-20th century pieces. The book contains some outstanding older music as well, and it can provide some much-needed stylistic diversity for solo contests and general growth.

    Concert and Contest Collection, edited by Himie Voxman (Rubank). While being just a bit dated, this is still an extremely valuable collection, offering many Baroque selections, as well as a handful each from the Classical and Romantic eras. Some of the other collections may be more advisable to start with, but this adds options for oboe players.

Grade 4
    Concerto in Bb Major by Tomaso Albinoni (various). This standard work offers challenges, but much of the material is based on scalar motion. It will help reinforce basics of technique that students should be learning.

    Sonata in G Minor (BWV 1030b) by J.S. Bach (Peters). This work offers more advanced students a chance to play great art music. While the technical requirements of this piece put it near the top of the grade 4 range, it should not be avoided by students with the necessary chops. This is a true gem.

     The Winter’s Passed by Wayne Barlow (Carl Fischer). This lovely work will aid oboists in developing their sound, vibrato, and breath control. The technical requirements are relatively minimal, but students will have to be careful to execute long, sweeping lines in order for the work to be effective.

     Concerto Grosso No. 8 by Handel (Southern). This work may serve as an excellent introduction to Baroque performance practice. Several of the melodic passages require a great deal of breath control. Additionally, the technical requirements may be a bit difficult without proper knowledge of scales and thirds. Aside from these considerations, however, this is an ideal work for an advancing oboist.

    Classical and Romantic Pieces for Bassoon, Vol. 1 and 2 by Watson Forbes (Oxford). This work offers a wealth of excellent melodies by famous composers, including Vivaldi, Handel, Beethoven, Schumann, and Dukas. The flexibility in these collections will yield worthwhile material for many bassoonists.

    Master Solos Intermediate Level for the Bassoon, edited by Linda Rutherford (Hal Leonard). The focus is most strongly on late Romantic works, including some by Weissenborn and Beethoven. Several standard solo contest pieces can be found in this collection. A CD with recordings of both the works and the accompaniment alone is included.

    Solos for the Bassoon Player, edited by Saul Schoenbach (Schirmer). Many of the solos in this work are arrangements of standard orchestral excerpts for the bassoon, yielding an exciting and educational opportunity. With this collection, bassoonists will be able to acquaint themselves with many of the most well-known melodies written for their instrument, including those by Dukas, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Stravinsky, and even Leonard Bernstein. The variety and depth found within make this choice highly recommended.

Grade 4
    Lyric Suite by Thomas Dunhill (Boosey). This five-movement work requires a fairly large range. Fingerings should not prove too difficult, as long as students have a firm basis in scales, but articulations must be clean and clear in moving lines.

    Four Sketches by Gordon Jacob (Emerson) will certainly require some sophistication of musicianship and technique. However, it may prove just the challenge to spur a bassoonist to continue in his development.

    Allegro Spiritoso by J.B. Senaille, arranged by A. Andraud and V. Pezzi (Southern). While providing some challenges, this piece should be easily executed with firm knowledge of scales and practice. After a slow, lyrical, rhapsodic introduction, the performer is largely called upon to play various articulated scale passages. This may be the very thing to help students work on tonguing.

    Sonata in F Minor by Telemann (International). This fine piece has many tonal, technical, and articulation demands, but the musical results are well worth the work. This is an excellent composition.

    Capriccio, Op. 14 by Julius Weissenborn (Alfred). Weissenborn’s piece, in the wrong hands, could sound like a technique etude. However, with attention to musical detail, it can be a charming work that challenges young performers. A lovely B-section melody should be treated with great tenderness and care.