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4 of the Best Slow Movements in Classical Flute Music

Outside of the classical flute world, the flute gets a reputation for being slow and pretty. And if you ask my students, that's the only kind of music they like to play depending on the day!

Although the flute can imitate birds, play super high, and play a million miles a minute, it's great to slow down and take in the beauty of the instrument.

Some say that the flute is the closest instrument to the voice, so here are my top favorite slow movements in classical flute music that can really sing!

Btw, if you order music through the blog links, I get a little commission, and you get a little discount at checkout. Or, use the code SIMPERMUSIC when you're ready to order through Flute Center of New York. You're welcome.

  1. Carl Reinecke: Concerto, Op. 283, II. Lento e mesto

We're started off strong with the slow movement from Reinecke's only flute concerto. My grand-teacher, famous British flautist Geoffrey Gilbert, shared my opinion in regarding this as the most beautiful slow movement of a concerto, ever. (He also taught famous flautists Sir James Galway, William Bennett, Trevor Wye, and others, so he knew his stuff.)

This movement reminds me of a dramatic soprano aria in the heaviest, most emotional part of an opera. The melody is simple but striking against the ostinato of the low accompaniment. There are highs and lows as the melody travels through major and minor harmonies, finally settling on a more hopeful character before the flute slowly fades away to nothing.

Check out Jasmine Choi's interpretation of this emotional movement:


2. Amanda Harberg: Court Dances, II. Air de Cour

Did you know that Amanda Harberg is a pianist? You might question that considering how many flute pieces she has composed over the last decade, especially since she really knows how to write to showcase the best of the flute.

The beginning of this movement is described as "flowing," and you can hear it with the long, slurred melodic passages. The way the rhythms slightly shift and the flute leaps through the different registers makes the flute sound like flowing water, creating a soothing and meditative character. The extreme high melodies even seem to remain calm, even though it's usually associated with being sharp and harsh!


3. Francis Poulenc: Sonata for flute and piano, II. Cantabile

Every time I hear this movement of the Poulenc Sonata, I want to contemplate the beauty of sadness. The main melody is so simple and yet it speaks so much to the soul. This is another slow movement that allows the flute to flow like water in the slurred melodies. As the energy becomes more intense and longing, you hear a quick rhythmic motif that reminds you of what came before in the first movement. This movement takes you on an emotional rollercoaster without the whiplash or jolty twists.


4. Carl Marie Widor: Suite, Op. 34, III. Romance

As an organist, Widor only composed one work for flute, but I wish he had written more! The Romance movement comes after a brooding first movement and scherzando second movement. This movement embodies everything about romantic French music with a melody that tugs on the heartstrings. It follows a basic ABA format but is anything but ordinary.


Music is extremely subjective. Everyone likes and dislikes certain songs, pieces, and genres for their own reasons. This list is in no way the end-all-be-all of the best slow movements in classical flute music, so take it with a grain of salt! And if you have your all time favorite slow movements, share them so I can explore more music!


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