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The 13 Hardest Flute Pieces

Between my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, I’ve studied some of the hardest flute pieces in the repertoire.

Those works came out of the Baroque era all the way up to the 2010s. If you’re looking to improve your playing, consider learning the following pieces.

Here are the hardest flute pieces to learn and play.

1. J.S. Bach Partita in A Minor

One of the hardest flute pieces is J.S. Bach’s Partita in A Minor. This piece is for unaccompanied flute, so you don’t get any breaks to rest while the piano takes over.

Partita in A minor, BWV 1013 (Bach, Johann Sebastian)
Performer Pages: Paula Robison (flute). Publisher Info: Boston, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Copyright: Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 3.0 

Also, the first two movements are almost entirely sixteenth notes. That means you have to get the notes under your fingers to play the piece well.

I played this piece in college, and it was tricky.

What did help was eliminating the repeats, which cut the performance time in half. But even my friends who aren’t musicians recognized how tricky the piece sounds.

It doesn’t help that modern flute players perform the piece way faster than necessary. If you want a more authentic recording, I love Sandra Miller’s playing.

2. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Concerto in G Major

One of the most famous flute pieces is probably Mozart’s Concerto in G Major.

I’ve read through the piece but haven’t tried to put it with a pianist or orchestra.

The piece has three movements, and each one is a bit different, and they’re long. You do get some time to rest between the sections of the movements. However, you have to have a soloistic sound that carries over an entire orchestra.

Also, the fact that this work is so famous makes it tough since people will know if you make a mistake. It’s a big part of the repertoire, though, so be sure to at least listen to it.

3. Eugene Bozza Image

Some players have deemed Eugene Bozza’s Image one of the hardest flute pieces.

I found it to be a fun and exciting challenge when I played it a few years ago.

It’s another unaccompanied work, so you’re alone on the stage. That means you don’t get to rest much, but there are a couple of places with pauses in the piece.

Some of the hard parts involve flutter tonguing and playing large leaps.

You can hear me play the work in this video of one of my master’s recitals.

Hannah Haefele Masters Recital (12.5.2019)
In one of my master’s recitals where I perform Eugene Bozza’s Image.

4. Otar Taktakishvili Sonata for Flute and Piano

When it comes to Soviet flute works, I prefer Taktakishvili’s Sonata for Flute and Piano. Some players call it “the Taktak piece,” and it has some difficult aspects.

The end of the first movement has 10 bars of repeated high C7s with no good place to breathe, for example.

I played the piece in grad school, and I loved it. But you need to find an excellent pianist because the piano part is also hard.

You can listen to me play it in the same video I played Bozza Image on, starting at around 26 minutes in.

5. Theobald Boehm Grand Polonaise

I have yet to tackle Grand Polonaise by Theobald Boehm.

In grad school, I took a flute literature class where I first heard this piece, and it sounds and looks like a doozy.

There is a piano part, so you don’t have to play all alone. However, the flute part is still very technical, so you’ll need to practice it quite a bit.

Jasmine Choi has played this piece and done amazing. Not only that, but she managed to memorize all of the notes and play without sheet music in front of her.

6. Nicole Chamberlain Death Whistle

Another unaccompanied piece that’s difficult is Death Whistle by Nicole Chamberlain.

The piece is for solo piccolo rather than the flute, which is part of what makes it hard.

Chamberlain also uses a lot of extended techniques, like beatboxing and tongue rams. The three movements all make fun of the piccolo with names like Ear Knife, Ballistophobia (fear of being shot), and #PiccolOhMyGod.

I spent a lot of time working on the piece to get it in good shape for a performance, and that makes it more enjoyable to play.

You can listen to a variety of recordings to hear how the piece sounds.

7. Brian Ferneyhough Cassandra’s Dream Song

One of the hardest flute songs to play is Brian Ferneyhough’s Cassandra’s Dream Song.

I don’t think I’ll ever learn it, partly because I don’t like the style.

It’s an atonal piece, which means there’s no home key. The composer has written some of the hardest pieces out there, but they can be worth learning if you like 12-tone music.

You can listen to a recording to hear how wild the piece is. If you get a chance to look at the score, you’ll see even more how it can be such difficult work to learn.

8. Jacques Ibert Piece for Solo Flute

When I was an undergrad, I learned Piece for Solo Flute by Jacques Ibert. The composer wrote the piece as an encore of sorts to his flute concerto.

This work is difficult because it’s for solo flute, and you don’t have a piano player to back you up. It’s also hard because it has some technical passages, including a scale in thirds.

Players like Emmanuel Pahud have released recordings of the music. As hard as the piece is, I love French music and think it’s fun for flute players to learn.

9. Sigfrid Karg-Elert Sonata Appassionata

Near the end of my master’s degree, I started working on Karg-Elert’s Sonata Appassionata.

I like that it’s unaccompanied, but that also provides some challenges.

The melody almost seems to have two parts when you look at the score. Since you can only play one note at a time on the flute, you have to emphasize certain notes to make it feel like you’re playing both lines.

You can listen to a recording to hear the piece and get an idea of how to play it. I’d recommend breaking it up into sections to help focus on one thing when you practice.

Publisher Info, Paolo Dalmoro. Copyright: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

10. Olivier Messaien Le Merle Noir

If you prefer playing flute with a pianist, you may want to learn Messaien’s Le Merle Noir.

A translation of “the black bird”, this is another 12-tone work, like Cassandra’s Dream Song.

I haven’t played this piece, but one of my friends has, and she talked a lot about how hard it is to put the music together. If I remember right, there aren’t any bar lines to help line things up.

And since it’s not a solo piece, you can’t just go with the flow when performing.

Be sure to listen to the piece a lot if you want to learn and perform it.

11. Sergei Prokofiev Sonata in D

Prokofiev wrote a lot of difficult works, in general. His Sonata in D for Flute and Piano is no exception.

While I haven’t performed it, I have read through part of it, and I can tell it will take a lot of work to put together.

You’ll need to work with a pianist to play the whole thing. Also, there is a lot of high D7s, which are three octaves and a major second above middle C. While that note is a part of the flute range, many players don’t learn it for years.

I think the piece sounds great when done well, but it’s a challenge. If you like Prokofiev’s work, you may want to listen to a recording or two and get the music.

12. Charles-Marie Widor Suite for Flute and Piano

Another one of the hardest flute pieces is Suite for Flute and Piano by Widor. I first worked on the piece when I was preparing to audition for grad school.

While I’ve yet to play it with a pianist, the faster movements are particularly difficult. It also doesn’t help that some editions (like the Kalmus edition) don’t have a full fourth movement.

The slower movements may be technically easy, but they require a lot of work on your tone to make them sound great. Players like Marina Piccinini have done a nice job performing this piece, so you can aim to sound like the greats.

13. Pierre Boulez Sonatina for Flute and Piano

If you like 12-tone music, you may want to try the Sonatina by Boulez.

He wrote the piece for famous flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal.

However, Rampal refused to play the piece because he didn’t like it. I can’t say I blame him because 12-tone music isn’t my thing, but it’s good to at least know of the piece.

The fact that it doesn’t have a home key makes it hard. But there are also other technical issues that you’ll need to practice if you want to play the music.

Even though Rampal never played it, other flutists have recorded themselves to help inspire you.

So, What Are the Hardest Flute Pieces?

The hardest flute pieces include the Bach Partita and the Mozart Concerto.

Some composers, like Boulez and Ferneyhough, wrote 12-tone works that are also difficult.

Be sure to listen to any piece you want to learn before you play it. Then, you can make sure you’re up for that specific challenge.

Frequently Asked Questions About Hardest Flute Pieces

If you still have questions about the hardest flute pieces, here are some things you may want to know.

What Is the Hardest Flute Solo?

Designating one flute solo as the hardest for everyone might not be possible. We all have different strengths, so what I think is hard, you might think is easy.
However, pieces like Cassandra’s Dream Song and Boulez’s Sonatina are going to be hard for almost any player.

What Is the Most Famous Flute Piece?

If you still have questions about the hardest flute pieces, here are some things you may want to know.
The Mozart Concerto in G major is probably the most famous flute piece. Other famous works include Syrinx by Debussy (not that hard but still challenging) and Bach’s Partita.

What are some good flute solos?

Like choosing the hardest piece, selecting good pieces can be very subjective. As someone who loves French music, I’d have to choose Syrinx, Image, and Ibert’s Piece.
However, someone who prefers Baroque music might choose the Bach Partita and the composer’s sonatas. Luckily, there are hundreds of flute works out there, so there’s something for everyone.


Hannah Haefele

Hannah Haefele is a flutist and blog writer. She runs Hannah B Flute, a blog and digital sheet music shop for flute players and teachers. Hannah was chosen to participate in a mass premiere of Oxygen by Julia Wolfe at the 2022 National Flute Association (NFA) Convention in Chicago. She earned her masters of music in flute performance from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in December 2020 under the tutelage of Dr. Christine Erlander Beard. While at UNO, Hannah served as the third flute and piccolo player of the Heartland Philharmonic Orchestra In addition to writing and composing, she regularly performs with the Lenexa Community Orchestra and the Kansas City Flute Choir.

two flutes on a music sheet