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Sonata in E minor Allegro “Undine”

by Carl Reinecke

Eileen Gilligan Flute and Xinyu Allie Wang Piano – Sonata in E minor Allegro “Undine”

The Reinecke is an absolutely fabulous sonata. I have taken a slightly different approach to the frequent musical view of this work. My approach is projecting an emotional picture and connection to the listener in combination with referral to the novel by Friedrich de la motte Fouque “Undine”. Fouque’s novel is about a water nymph who chooses to live as a human and falls in love with a human to gain immortality and the journey this takes her on until he betrays her for a mortal and she lashes out to end his life with a death kiss, fourth movement bars 243 and 244.

This work is a partnership between like-minded musicians. The piano has an enormous part to play and the flute often, especially in this movement is the passion and romance sitting on top of the swelling and often tumultuous ocean and water movements. The first run through I had with Allie on this movement I thought to myself ‘well that’s not working” and when I thought about it, I wasn’t in musical sync with her on the rhythm of the quavers and the lilted crotchet quaver pattern. I listened and went with musical feel instead of playing like one part and voila!, it worked. There was another instance when I would have kept the musical line moving but I could feel she wanted musical space for expression, so I listened and went with her. It really is a true partnership. The players need to ride the phrasing together. It should feel like a boat rocking or waves lapping.

I have attached some pdf files that give interesting coverage and insight of the work.


Mary Ann Smart B. Mus.

A critical comparison of three settings of the Undine Myth in works be Hoffmann, Lortzing and Reinecke.

Carl Reinecke

Sheet Music

Cale Henderson

A Study of Authenticity through the Interpretive Analysis of Four Solo Flute Pieces.

The edition I used was a Wiener urtext edition. Here is a link to the edition, also has a lovely recording of the cello sonata Op.42 in A minor.

In this movement there are obvious direct links to water and the novel with the piano part and the swirling run passages on the flute. Here, the challenge is to get them to sound like rising waves and the ocean movements. The opening theme Allie and I are very much in sync riding the waves together until the melodic theme where she is the water and the flute takes the emotional role. Runs on the flute for me feel like they are swelling, swirling, and crashing against rocks. This was my main focus with them to evoke that feeling in the listener. Allie does a brilliant job throughout with the piano part achieving this.

The romantic thematic melodies I have treated in an emotional and expressive manner which definitely influenced the tone produced and the depth of expression I put into them. This is one sonata where the player doesn’t need to hold back, passion and feeling are the essence to it. If ever there was a piece that reflects Moyse’s quote “play like you are scraping the last spoonful of mayonnaise out of a jar” it is this one, chocolate brings out more passion in me personally.

So, whilst storytelling is a great method of connection there is also emotional connection to the listener. The player needs to decide how they are going to approach this work. This is just my musical approach. It doesn’t mean it’s right or the only approach. “If the performer is not convinced then why should the listener be “, a quote I refer to frequently. Therein lies the wonderful world of musical interpretation.

A quote by Reinecke referring to the sonata.

“A musician can very well express the feeling that overcomes him when watching the starry sky, but he cannot depict the starry sky itself; he can express Judas Iscariot’s despair and tormented conscience in music, but he cannot draw Judas himself.”

Some performance aspects to consider because the piano part is so big. At times the dynamic markings between the parts lead the flute to be under the piano and the player needs to decide whether to bring theirs up, to go under or meld with the piano. More often than not I meld.

There is a strong conversation between flute and piano all the way through the work. In this movement it is not a strong as the other movements, it is more an effect conversation of the swelling waters . The piano has its swirling patterns and the flute has its crotchet quaver lilting pattern and runs. There is definitely a feeling of the ocean throughout mixed with deep romance and love. An awesome combination to work with musically, powerful material.

No satisfactory back tracks for this on You Tube so I would just sit down with a recording of the work and the score and really look at what is happening ensemble wise and musically before launching into practice.

A great Tone Development Through Interpretation exercise which I do daily for flexibility on the website labelled page 78 E1, I demonstrate it, well worth watching for flexibility and air control.

Dozens more in the Foundation tools but I especially love this one.

William Bennett

Harmonic slurred #1 excerpt from Mastering the Flute

William Bennett

Harmonic slurred # 2 excerpt from Mastering the Flute

Attached is the link to buy Mastering the Flute by Roderick Seed available here:

 The reason why I have attached it and have the exercise on the website Foundation Tools is for the tone needed in the middle register especially the E’s. We are in E minor so it is crucial that it is rich and luscious. This exercise will do it for you. My video guide goes into it in detail. I also daily repeatedly hover up and down on E and Eflat between low -octave and B or B flat harmonically then going straight from B  B flat to low . It is excellent for pitching the middle register spot on. You can tell if you have nailed it if the lower note rings with ease and is rich then the middle E will also be ringing. I often test it against the Rodrigo Aranjuez theme. When the harmonics are in tune the flute should be vibrating under your fingers, the tone should be all around you and the room with no effort and it feels like the flute is plugged into a power point at times. If it is not then your harmonic or harmonics are out of tune, relax and get it to sound as beautiful as a real B would be. Like a note from Sonorite. 

Taffanel and Reichert scales hovering between major and minor are excellent for becoming aware of the key colour and personality of every key. It is a given that one would be practising these daily. A very simple example of key colour is play Melodious Study No 2 in the dominant minor E minor straight after it in A minor, it should really strike you. It is also the skeleton of study number 24 which players often miss.

I do a lot of thinking before I play a piece about the composer, his style and other works, the period of composition, thematic material, structure of the work and finally what is my view and musical voice going to say. I also avoid listening to other recordings if it is a flute piece before I have done mine so that nothing interferes with my thought process. 

For me it is always about the composer and the music, doesn’t mean in 12 months I won’t have some different ideas and play things differently.

There is a lot of information about Reinecke one can find and would recommend one goes about a deep investigation to try to understand him. He had a relationship with both Mendelssohn and Schumann which I think is so important to think about.

Below is a quote that Mendelssohn wrote about Reinecke’s composition he was reviewing, Much to think about in this quote.

” ’ … You must be more exacting with yourself; you must write no measure that is not interesting in itself; but do not become so critical that you cannot accomplish anything at all. Your playing is faulty in that you play too much en gros (on a large scale); you need to enter more closely into the finer details of the work—but then en gros again. Be industrious, young man. You have youth, strength, and talent as well. To be sure, even now you will find plenty of admiration and flattery at all the tea-parties of Hamburg and also of Leipsic, but that sort of thing helps no one. There is no lack everywhere of flatterers, but there are never enough of earnest artists, and you have it in you to become one—you have only to choose. However, no young artist like you should ever commit the error of ever publishing a whole book of songs every one of which is in triple measure.’”

A quote that is so relevant to the performance of this work. I can’t remember where I picked it up, but I love it. There are dozens of recordings of the Undine Sonata available, and everyone has the same notes to work with and markings but it is what we do with them is that counts and makes the difference. I believe the Tone Development Through Interpretation and the 24 little Melodic Studies by Marcel Moyse are the gateway for a player to really think about and understand this.

We all have the same 12 notes to work with. It’s how we put those notes together, the space we leave between them, and the passion we put behind them that makes our own unique music!!

I could go on forever about this wonderful work and movement. For me the Reinecke was a test of the work I have put into the Foundation Tools, Melodious Studies, Tone Development Through Interpretation and vocalisations. Not forgetting good old Taffanel and Reichert scales. But more importantly, I believe playing melodies will develop a players musical voice, this just happens to be a rather large long melody compared to the Tone Development and Melodious Studies, etc.

I hope you have fun with it and I have stirred up some thoughts for you on it. Hopefully, you will put your individual voice and mark on the work.