Jaimie Lee Mendoes - flute expert
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How to play the Largo by Handel

Tips to play Handel's Largo from Serse

In this video, Jaimie shows you how to approach the beautiful Largo by Handel included in our Wedding Collection for flute and piano.

Released on August 3, 2016

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hello everyone, this is Jamie Lee Mendoes, the flute expert on virtualmusicsheet.com. First of all, I'd like to apologize for the lighting in this video, this is because of the wild fire that we have been experiencing in the northern Los Angeles area, which has been burning for the past few days. It has burnt over 22,000 acres so far, threatening hundreds of homes. I'm very thankful for the firefighters who have been battling to keep the fire from spreading anymore and trying to contain it. And I really hope it gets contained very soon and I hope there wouldn't be any more loss.

Anyhow, today we're going to talk about one of the most well known piece by George Frideric Handel. The version that we have on virtualmusicsheet.com says, "Largo," as a title. And while that is the widely used title for this particular piece, the original title is "Ombra mai fu", which means "Never was a shade". This is actually the opening aria from Handel's opera Serse, and I'm sure a lot of you guys know this piece since it has been used in various different kinds of movies and TV shows, and from also...I'm sure you've heard this piece from different occasions as well, since this piece is a great piece to play at a wedding or at a special occasion.

If you look at the music, then right off the bat you'll recognize, you'll notice that there are really not that many high notes. In fact, I can only see one third octave note, which is in the second to last major, which to be honest, I play octave lower just to keep the same atmosphere and nuance that this piece has from the beginning to the end. But it's, you know, it's up to you, this is transcription anyways. If you like, you can play this piece octave higher from the beginning. I just personally think this arrangement, this octave, that is written on virtualsheetmusic.com works very well for this particular piece because this a very solemn and somber piece.

If you look at the lyrics then you'll be able to understand the vibe even better. So I strongly encourage you to look that up on Google. And another reason I think this arrangement would be beneficial for you to at least try, is because that way we can really learn to play in tune and also with a rich and very luscious and full tone in the middle and lower register, which is very difficult to do on the flute. Oftentimes we focus a lot of our energy on the high notes, you know, trying to make it in tune, and full and, you know, luscious, but it's actually, in my opinion, it's more difficult to play beautiful middle and lower register tones on the flute because when you think about playing a rich tone, then you immediately want to blow a lot of air out. And when you blow a lot of air out, then you tend to crack a lot in this particular register if you don't have a lot of strength around your lip area, especially upper lip area.

So that's why this is kind of tricky to do. So, I guess if you practice this piece in this range, then I think this would be a very good piece to actually work on that middle to low register sound. In the beginning it says "Piano", and while it says "Dynamically piano", I want you to really think of that as more of a vibe than actual dynamic marking because especially with beginners, a lot of times when I tell them to play piano, they focus so much on the volume of the sound, so that they lose the quality. So I want you to think about the quality and the vibe of this whole opening, rather than the dynamic itself. So you can I think even think of it as mezzo piano.

So [music] that would be mezzo piano for me. And also when you play this piece, I want you to also think about the phrasing. So, I stopped in the middle of the phrase. I hope you noticed that and I hope you don't do that. You can, of course, breath there, but even if you breath there, I want you to carry the whole phrase until the fifth major. So it'll sound something like that, and I'll try not to breath in the middle. [music] Something like that. Another thing I want you to think about is whenever you begin any note really, but especially long notes like the first note we have here, try to put vibrato from the very beginning, instead of [music]. Right now I'm demonstrating no vibrato to gradual vibrato. That works sometimes, for example when you have to maybe hold a long note in the middle of a phrase and you want to give some kind of variety, because this sounds boring if that long note has same vibrato from the beginning to the end, which lasts, I don't know, two majors or something like that. But in this case, this is an opening of a piece and I want there to be a very rich and very strong presence in the note from the very beginning. [music] Yeah. Now, in the sixth major, you'll see mezzo forte. Yeah, so mezzo forte is good, but I want you to make sure that there should be some kind of a gradual dynamic change instead of piano to suddenly mezzo forte.

And again, in other words, I want you to think about the whole phrase. [music] Yeah? Now from there, another thing I want you to also talk about in this piece is tonguing. Whenever you see detached notes, you tend to, for example in the major 39 where I just stopped for example, there we have G, G, F sharp. If you were to play that normally with just normal tonguing, it'll sound something like. Again, it cracks if you are not careful. [music] Now see, I don't want it to sound too punctuated. Again, I want you to think about the bigger flow, bigger phrase. So, even if you need to tongue and distinguish each note from another, the tonguing should be very soft.

So I do more kind of a D syllable, so the tip of your tongue is touching almost in between your front teeth and the ceiling of your mouth. I hope that makes sense. [music] So, in English alphabet we really don't have this sound, but it's closer to D, but not quite D, it's, I guess, something between D and R. So you want your tip of your tongue to be a little bit more towards the ceiling than when you were to pronounce "da" sound. And of course, your tip of your tongue should be more rolled towards your ceiling than when you were to pronounce "da". So that's the kind of tonguing that I would use throughout the piece because you don't want to have any kind of harsh tonguing for this piece, since this is a very flowy and somber piece.

Even when you see tenuto markings, for example in major 58 and 60 or 68, same thing, [music]. So, in that case, I would actually do these tenutos more with the air rather than the actual tonguing. So you want to give a little bit of a, I guess pulse with your air pressure from your diaphragm. [music] And again, I want you to think about the phrase so that it doesn't sound like a soldier playing. No, not something like that. [music] Something like that. I didn't breath enough in the beginning before I started playing, that's why. But anyhow, so that's the main idea. In terms of tonguing, use softer tonguing but still something that you can distinguish each note clearly. And second of all, think about longer phrasing. And in terms of octave, I think this virtualsheetmusic.com version is good, unless you want to play octave higher and show off your high register.

Yeah, so I think that'll be the brief, very brief, introduction and a little bit of explanation on how to play this Largo by Handel, and I hope you have an occasion to play this piece since it's a very versatile piece to play for many different occasions like weddings, or church events, or even some home gatherings. So I hope you enjoyed this video, I hope it was helpful and I hope you have a great August, and I'll see you next month, in September.
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