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Free PDF: Seven Daily Exercises

Free PDF: Seven Daily Exercises

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The flute sonata is an extremely versatile medium, full of pieces from a wide variety of time periods.

Interestingly enough, a large portion of the most celebrated pieces in the repertoire are relatively recent, as in after the common practice period (Bach to Brahms). 

In examining the most significant flute sonatas, we’ll encounter a wide range of musical styles that really demonstrate the expanse of the repertoire.

Without further ado, in no particular order, let’s jump into the most significant flute sonatas in the repertoire.


1. J.S. Bach - Flute Sonata in Eb Major, BWV 1031

J.S. Bach’s Flute Sonata in Eb Major is one of the most celebrated works for flute, not just the flute sonata repertoire.

The 3 movement sonata has a bit of a debate in academia surrounding its true origin, some attributing it to the authorship of Bach’s son, C.P.E. Bach, although this has gone unproven.

Regardless of its origins, it’s an outstanding piece of flute repertoire from the Baroque Era and demonstrates not only Bach’s outstanding counterpoint skills but also his talent for writing for all sorts of instruments.

If you’d like to read more about Bach’s flute repertoire, check out this post on the most significant flute works composed by J.S. Bach.

2. C.P.E. Bach - Sonata in A Minor for Solo Flute, Wq. 132/H. 562

Going down a layer in generations, we arrive at J.S. Bach’s son, C.P.E. Bach.

C.P.E. Bach is known to be a pivotal composer in the transition from the late Baroque era to the early Classical era, in which a style known as “Empfindsamkeit”, or “sentimental style”, became common in the musical and literary works of German composers and poets.

This transition can be heard in C.P.E. Bach’s efforts to back off on the ornamentation of the melodic figures, prioritizing a clear cadential structure and focus on form.

From a flute perspective, the writing is incredibly captivating, and serves as a nice outlet to demonstrate a whole range of phrasing possibilities.

C.P.E. Bach’s writing, particularly in the second movement, is very intricate in its handling of single instrument counterpoint, and skilled players can emulate the effect of multiple polyphonic lines in this section.

3. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Flute Sonata in C Major, K. 14

Now moving forward just 20 years, we see our place in the Classical era solidified. 

Mozart’s Flute Sonata in C Major was written when he was only 8 years old, as a commission from Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the Queen of England.

The commission was actually originally for a set of violin sonatas, but they were adapted for the flute and became popular for the flute regardless of their origin.

Even at such an early age, Mozart is already demonstrating a clear sensibility of Classical harmony and form, and the piece feels like an excellent statement of the state of classical music as a whole in the mid-18th Century.

While much of the piece does feel a bit heavy on the keyboard side, the flute writing is still very expressive, and really accompanies the harmonic logic characteristic of Mozart's works.

4. Francis Poulenc - Sonata for Flute and Piano

Les Six composer Francis Poulenc’s Flute Sonata is simple at first glance but full of rich modal harmonies and alternating moods.

The flute sonata is structured in three movements- Allegretto Malincolico, Cantalena and Presto Giocoso, each of which demonstrates a very wide variety of musical characters.

Carol Wincenc, Juilliard and Stony Brook faculty flutist, offers excellent insight into the performance elements of this piece:

This course, as well as plenty more from other renowned flutists, are available on the tonebase Flute platform. Click here to sign up for a free 14-day trial to watch the entire course for free.

While this piece does a fantastic job of really treating the musical material like a creative sandbox, it’s incredibly grounded in Poulenc’s characteristic harmonic sensibilities. 

The harmonies are rich, extremely romantic, and make for a very pleasant, well-rounded piece of music.

Check out this flute practice guide on the Poulenc Flute Sonata to learn more about the history and flute perspective of the piece.

5. Sergei Prokofiev - Flute Sonata in D, Op. 94

Sergei Prokofiev’s monumental flute work, his Flute Sonata in D, is not only a masterfully composed piece, but one of the more rare-for-the-time works that was originally for the flute and later transcribed for violin, and not vice versa.

It comes from a very important period in Prokofiev’s life, during which he, as well as many other Soviet artists, were evacuated to Tbilisi following the invasion of the USSR by Nazi Germany.

It was the beginning of a new era for the composer, with many of his projects seeing their beginning there.

This particular piece was largely brought to light in the flute world by legendary flutist Jean-Pierre Rampaul in his 1958 edition, and has since been performed extremely often.

Marina Piccinini goes in depth on the historical background of this piece, as well as the performance aspects on the flute in her tonebase course on the sonata:

6. Paul Hindemith - Sonata for Flute and Piano

Paul Hindemith’s Sonata for Flute and Piano is a significant work in his overall repertoire, being one of the first of a series of 26 sonatas he wrote from the early 1930s to the mid 1950s. 

After its initial conception in 1936, the premiere was banned by the Nazi Regime, citing “cultural Bolshevism” as the driving reason. This was a common term used by the regime to denounce works of art they deemed too secular, or too modernist.

This sonata came about around the same time Hindemith was crafting his Unterweisung im Tonsatz, which was a theory on 12-tone harmony that he saw as an almost revision to 12-tone serialism.

Harmony aside, Hindemith was a huge advocate for representation of the winds in the concert repertoire, and this sonata is very curated towards the abilities of the flute distinctly.

It offers flutists a window into the very unique harmonic world of Hindemith.

7. Philippe Gaubert - Sonata No. 3 for Flute and Piano

Unlike the other composers on this list, Philippe Gaubert was a “weekend composer”, who spent most of his career as a serious concert flutist.

This background is evident in his Sonatas for Flute and Piano, especially his Sonata No. 3.

Composed just 3 years before the Hindemith Sonata, this piece still holds on to its romantic sentiments very much, as compared to Hinemith’s post-tonal departure. 

The flute writing has a lot of gymnastics, but it always aids the sentiment of the piece.

It’s very gestural, and its refinement in those gestures suggests the penmanship of a flute virtuoso. 

Many moments in the piece feel almost like little impromptus, and give the piece a lovely atmosphere.

8. César Franck - Sonata for Flute and Piano in A Major

While it was originally written for the violin, and is still a wildly popular violin piece, it has gained a large popularity amongst flutists for its frequently-performed flute transcription.

The sonata holds its grounds well in the Classical era formal tradition that Franck admired, but still implements Franck’s characteristic rich, romantic harmonic sentiment.

Despite the origins for violin, the lyrical writing holds up very well for the flute, and at moments could sound like it really was written for the flute all along.

Marina Piccinini also offers a fantastic breakdown of this piece in her tonebase course on the Franck Sonata for Flute and Piano:

9. Bohuslav Martinů - First Sonata for Flute and Piano

In round 3 of composers dealing with WWII repercussions, we see a pivotal work in martinů’s repertoire, which was composed during his 5 year stay in the U.S following Germany’s occupation of Paris.

The piece has a highly rhythmic quality to it, with odd meters left and right throwing the piece off of a metrical pulse.

It’s a fun listen, a fun play through, and just a cool glimpse into the unique musical language of the Czech composer.

Watch an introduction to Mark Spark’s tonebase course on this piece:

10. Henri Dutilleux - Sonatine for Flute and Piano

Finishing off the list of sonatas is a mini sonata, or sonatine, for flute and piano by Henri Dutilleux.

This piece was made popular by flutist Emmanuel Pahud, and has since been performed by advanced flutists very frequently.

It was originally intended to be a “test” for young flutists to demonstrate their technical capabilities, which is evident in the incredibly difficult flute writing throughout the sonatine.

On top of the high technical bar, it shows quite a modern sensibility in various parts of the piece, though not nearly as modern in sonority as many of Dutilleux’s other prominent works.

World-renowned flutist Jasmine Choi teaches this piece, as well as several other fundamental concepts for the flute, on tonebase:


The flute sonata medium is an incredible canvas for musical expression in the chamber music realm, and a quick examination of the most significant works that make it up will show that the repertoire that makes a mark comes from all kinds of musical backgrounds.

And the success of these pieces wouldn’t be possible without the triumphing of some truly incredible flutists advocating for these works.

If you’re a flutist looking to see progress in your playing, do give tonebase Flute a try.

We’ve got exclusive courses from the biggest names in flute, including the ones you saw throughout this post.

That’s Jasmine Choi, Mark Sparks, Carol Wincenc, Amy Porter, and many more.

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