Traces of the old art of whistling in contemporary, neoclassical and post-romantic Romanian flute literature.


Today’s Romanian space displays a wide variety of folklorical musical landscapes which makes a great use of wind instruments since immemorial times. In the secular Romanian peasant way of living, a great variety of pipes/whistles are present in all moments of existence. In everyday life, birth, wedding or death, the pipe is the invaluable tool that never misses to translate the human emotions. There are many reasons for this. Not only it can easily be transported by man when working the land, but it has also been proven to be the best substitute for the human voice. Furthermore, any shepherd can rely on it to cast out lonliness. The "secret companion" can come to life at the first breath of wind.

There is a very beautiful anonimus pastoral ballad called Miorița about three shepherds (a Moldavian, a Transylvanian and a Wallachian) that meet while looking after their flocks. An apparently enchanted ewe belonging to the Moldavian tells its master that the other two are plotting to murder him and steal his goods. Placed face to face with the possibility of death, he utters his testament. The allegorical lyricism of the burial ceremony starts with the express desire about shepherd’s own pipes. They acquire a mystical quality that testifies about the shepherd’s feeling even after his death.

”Lamb, my little ewe,
 If this omen’s true,
 If I’m doomed to death
 On this tract of heath,
 Tell the Vrancean
 And Transylvanian
 To let my bones lie
 Somewhere here close by,
 By the sheepfold here
 So my flocks are near,
 Back of my hut’s grounds
 So I’ll hear my hounds.
 Tell them what I say:
 There, beside me lay
 One small pipe of beech
 Whith its soft, sweet speech,
 One small pipe of bone
 Whit its loving tone,
 One of elderwood,
 Fiery-tongued and good.
 Then the winds that blow
 Would play on them so
 All my listening sheep
 Would draw near and weep
 Tears, no blood so deep.”

The big family of Romanian pipes consisting from the more aerated or warm tone characteristics, to the more flageolet style high register reed, is able to render a large emotional content from the most melancholic to the most euphorical of the dances. The sound spectrum is extended by the bagpipe, the caval (long shepherd pipe) and the ancient pan flute(nai) family.

A strong connection with this rich heritage can be seen in a high percentage of the Romanian flute compositions. This ancient musical culture is still alive today for the fortune of contemporary musical creation and continue to be an important reference point for the refreshment needed from time to time in our ever evolving musical language. The work of folklore collectors for conserving this treasure is as important as its evolution and mimetisation in more styles of music from contemporary classic, to the most popular ethno-like inspired modern music.

Gabriel Mãlãncioiu - Hommage à Marsyas for solo piccolo flute (2014) has three musical tableaus that lead our attention towards a mythical space, in the intimacy of the fantastic aulos virtuoso Marsyas, the satyr who with his audacity, provoqued Apollo to a musical confrontation where he lost his life.

Dedicated to Vlad Colar, the piece was inspired by the wonderful tone of the new piccolo flute made by Anton Braun. The association of Marsyas with this work is not casual. Marsyas fascinates his audience by playing an instrument called aulos, an ancestor of the flute. I tried pointing to a space of mythical consciousness by using a scale found in Byzantine music, called "the wheel", suggesting the cycle of life. Also, using repetition as a principle of construction material, provides a space near ritual musics. Ideally, the work should be played in a natural setting, the piccolo flute superacute register intertwining birds voice, sound of the first register dialoguing with the wind whispering.(Gabriel Mãlãncioiu)

Romanian Pastoral Scenes(Symphonic Fantasy originally with Flute solo - Riduction for piccolo flute & piano) was created by Petre Elinescu (1869-1947), a romanian flautist, pedagogue, composer and folklore collector. This piece has minimal processing of the parts that make up the Romanian folkloric little suite. The solo part retains a great deal of genuine pipe playing style with a more classic sound of the piano as substitute for the cimbalom(tambal). Introduction-Song of outlawry(doina).Hora with Caval. Doina. Tempo di Hora. Bagpipe, Circle dance. C.

Introduction et Allegro was written in 1939, originally for solo flute. The work is dedicated to the French flautist Roger Cortet whom Dinu Lipatti(1917-1950) came to meet during his time in Paris. A wonderful miniature of two movements employ the French aesthetic based on Romanian musical elements and can be translated into two specific musical instances. With the general indication of Rubato, Introduction, it is a richly ornamentated Doina* with vocal runs in real notation. The second part is a Romanian dance called Brãu, a fast and brilliant piece with the indication Con brio. The Allegro con Brio (Brãu) is in a binar 2/4 rhythmical structure and its character is similar to Bach’s Bourrée from the A minor Partita for solo flute, which is also preceded by the slow dance of Sarabande. In the piccolo flute version of this piece, the imprint of whistling tradition is even more pronounced in the neoclassic style of Dinu Lipatti, without becoming tedious.

Prelude and Rigaudon by Vasile Jianu (1904-1968), Romanian flautist, pedagogue and composer was originally written for flute and piano. The melodic fluency of the Prelude with its longing feeling is followed by the brilliant Rigaudon in the same spirit of two contrasting movements. The same ideea of tightly relating these two succeeding part of very slow-very quick motion, completes the "drama". The octave higher version then becomes possible with the C-foot piccolo flute, which emphasizes the effect.

*Doina is a widespread poetic or instrumental creation in a slow non- measured tempo. Doina's particularity resides in deep emotions -sorrow, longing, loneliness, rebellion, love, or melancholy- expressed by improvisations using various melodic and rhythmic ornaments.

Vlad Colar