I want to occasionally feature excerpts from pieces of orchestral music that composers, in their infinite wisdom, really expected the flutists to be circular breathers.
This example is from Mahler's 1st symphony. I always feel uncomfortable here for the second flutists who don't circular breathe. Deep in the last movement, they are suddenly required to play a lovely little solo in Ab major. However, the high C is just outside the comfort zone to hold at this point in a very long piece. It is above the staff and very exposed. It is also 25 counts long and getting slower and slower! Most are forced to drop a couple of beats just prior to the solo to be able to take a sufficient enough breath. Additionally many cut the high C short due to the slowing of the pace of the music as they approach the impending collapse of a lung. Enter circular breathing! Not only does none of that effect you when you circular breathe, you complete the solo easily and your lungs are virtually full still.
Now I know most of you are thinking that just the thought of circular breathing is sheer madness! I assure you it is not. Actually I am really surprised it is not a regularly required technique. In future blogs I will go over more of the process. I urge you start learning today. I have a bit of advantage, in that now I have been circular breathing for 30 years! It has become so natural that it has ceased being called circular breathing. I call it just breathing.
I would say the difficulty of circular breathing in this example a solid 6. Not too hard actually. Your embouchure is already quite small due to the tessitura, greatly aiding the ability to take as many breaths as you need and being able to mask your movements easily. Fitting the breaths in while keeping a nice vibrato can be tricky, but not impossible. I would guess you would take 5 to 6 small breaths in there and no one would be the wiser.