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At the very beginning of Mahler's Symphony No. 1, where the strings drone an A in seven octaves, what does "Flag." mean in the orchestral notation?

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Also, The Wikipedia page mentions

...with the upper octaves being played on harmonics in the violins.

Is this related to whatever "Flag." means? If not, then what does the Wiki article mean by "playing on harmonics"?

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Flageolet. Which means playing harmonics by lightly touching the string at some fraction of its total length.

  • Thank you for a quick and concise answer. I just now learned that one can play string instruments like that - I was always under the impression that violinists (and other orchestral string players) always pressed the strings down hard onto the fret board (like a guitar)... Learned something new today! – pr1268 Sep 17 '16 at 22:32

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