How fast can a flutist play the flute?
That question will be answered 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 9, when Dolce Flutes perform a free concert at Liverpool Public Library featuring Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's delightful and dynamic "Flight of the Bumblebee."
The interlude closes Act III, Tableau 1 of Korsakov's 1900 opera "The Tale of Tsar Saltan" during which the magic Swan-Bird changes Prince Gvidon Saltanovich (the Tsar's son) into an insect so that he can fly away to visit his father who doesn't know that he is alive.
"Flight of the Bumblebee" is well-known for its frantic pace when played up to tempo, with nearly uninterrupted runs of chromatic 16th notes. It is not so much the pitch or range of the notes that challenges the musician, but it certainly takes an especially quick and agile player to keep up with the pace of the piece.
Although the original orchestral version mercifully assigned portions of the 16th-note runs to various instruments in tandem, in the century since its composition the "Bumblebee" has become a showcase for solo instrumental virtuosity, whether on the original violin or on any other instrument.
From 'Hornet' to heavy metal
For instance, heavy metal guitarists such as Joey Demaio from the band Manowar have enjoyed showing off their speed on the six-string by playing Korsakov's masterpiece.
The classical composition has become a staple of popular culture, notably as the theme music to radio's "The Green Hornet" and more recently on the hit TV series "Glee" in which an a cappella version was used as background for an episode named "Throwdown." It's also on the soundtrack to the 2010 movie "The Karate Kid."
Dolce Flutes is a professional quartet featuring Kelly Covert, Dana DiGennaro, Martha Grener and Jeanne Pizzuto-Sauve. When they perform here Sunday as part of the Arts Alive series at Liverpool Library's Carman Community Room, the foursome will not only tackle the frantic "Flight," they'll also play Mozart's Sinfonia from "The Marriage of Figaro" and a Pastoral on Northeast Indian tunes by Arts Alive Director Ralph D'Mello.