Flute solos by women composers in the public domain on IMSLP
Maybe you want to start performing flute solos by women composers, but purchasing new music is outside your budget right now. Maybe you’re curious what flute music by historical women is all about, but aren’t quite ready to invest your time & energy… or maybe you just need to try a few things to see which composers resonate with you. Where do you even start?
Free sheet music PDFs are great for dipping your toes in the water – and there are actually quite a few flute solos by women composers in the public domain! Unfortunately, these compositions don’t all show up under the same search keywords, so it can be hard to find open-access flute music all in one place. Here’s an annotated list of six of IMSLP’s hidden gems to help you get started!
Anna Bon was a cembalist, singer, and composer from a family of travelling musicians. She studied at the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice while her parents toured the courts of Russian nobility. And after her graduation, she joined her parents at the court in Bayreuth, where Wilhelmine von Bayreuth (Frederick the Great’s elder sister) became her patron and mentor.
In 1756, Anna Bon became the first Chamber Music Virtuosa in the service of Margrave Friedrich von Brandenberg-Bayreuth. She wrote her first opus of flute sonatas in honor of her employer, who was a student of Quantz.
These pieces in the galant style make great alternatives to C.P.E Bach’s flute sonatas. Sonata No. 2 in F Major is my personal favorite, but you can find sheet music for all six at the link in the title above.
Maria Theresia von Paradis went blind at a young age, but that didn’t stop her from becoming a virtuoso pianist, learning music by ear and performing entirely from memory. Her blindness also did not keep her at home – she toured Europe in 1873 & 1874 with stops in Paris, London, and Salzburg, where she befriended Nannerl and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Maria began composing during her tour using a composition board invented by her librettist. She became a prolific composer of piano, voice, and staged works, and also founded a music school for young girls in Vienna.
This Sicilienne was originally written for violin, but you can find the flute transcription under the “Arrangements & Transcriptions” tab in IMSLP. There is some debate over the proper attribution of this piece – but since Classical era solos for flute are hard to find, I’m including it on this list just in case. This is a beautiful piece – so I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether to give it your attention.
Lili Boulanger grew up in an extremely musical family – her mother was a singer, her father taught at the Paris Conservatory, and her sister Nadia is remembered as one of the most influential teachers of the 20th century. Although Lili died young from complications due to tuberculosis, she made waves in the short time that she had. She’s most remembered for becoming the first woman to win the Prix de Rome in 1913, at age 19.
Lili composed in a transitional style influenced both by Romantic “impressionism” and 20th century innovation. Although D’un matin de printemps was one of her last compositions, it conveys a vibrant energy alongside its delicate lyricism. Some textural and melodic elements in her compositional style also sound reminiscent of Claude Debussy, who was a huge influence on Lili’s music.
Sérénade aux étoiles makes a great introduction to character pieces and salon music, since many intermediate & advanced level flutists are already familiar with Concertino. Op. 107 and Cécile’s compositional style.
This composition provides a great opportunity to explore the nuance and lyricism of Parisian music from the Romantic era without having to worry about virtuosic fingerwork. The spun-out chromatic motifs in the melody and clear harmonic textures are characteristic of Cécile’s writing, and the bell tones of the rolled chords in the piano accompaniment illustrate the stars in the work’s title.
Cécile composed this piece in 1911, and dedicated it to Adolphe Hennebains, principal flutist of the Paris Opera at the time.
Clémence de Grandval’s career is proof that you don’t need a conservatory education to become a successful musician. She’s also notable for continuing to take composition lessons and write music after the birth of her daughters, going against common social norms for 19th century France.
Clémence published her works under several different pen names and stayed active in Parisian musical society through involvement with the Société nationale de musique and the Société des Compositeurs as a composer, singer, and pianist.
This is a great piece if you’re looking for an advanced level recital piece with contrasting movements. Clémence dedicated this composition to Paul Taffanel, who performed its premiere. Its lyrical piano introduction also reflects the influence of Clémence’s piano instructor, Frédéric Chopin.
Laura Netzel was a Swedish pianist, composer, and philanthropist who sidestepped the social convention that discouraged women from composing or performing for profit by using concert proceeds to fund her charities – including a children’s hospital and women’s shelter in Stockholm.
Although she was Swedish, she composed in the French style and maintained her connections in Paris by contributing as a foreign correspondent to the magazine Le Monde Musicale.
Laura’s music was known for bold harmonies and melodic ingenuity, and her works were often compared to those of Edvard Grieg. Like Clémence de Grandval, she also dedicated her flute suite to Paul Taffanel.
To continue exploring the world of flute music by women composers, check out my database of over 160 flute solos by women composers! This list includes music from both historical and modern composers, so whether you’re looking for an alternative to C.P.E. Bach’s sonatas or are curious about extended technique, I’ve got you covered. Click the link above to check it out!