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WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-1791)

Flute Concerto No. 1 in G major, K. 313, (1778)

 

I. Allegro maestoso

II. Adagio ma non troppo

III. Rondo: Tempo di menuetto

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria, on January 27, 1756, and died in Vienna on December 5, 1791. The date of the first performance of the Flute Concerto No. 1 remains unknown. The work is scored for 2 oboes (2 flutes), 2 horns, strings, and solo flute.

The year 1778 was a magical year for the flute, with Mozart penning both the Concerto in G major, K. 313, the Concerto in D major, K. 314 (a rearrangement of the Oboe Concerto), as well as the Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra in C major, K. 299, the Andante for Flute and Orchestra in C major, K.315, and the first two of four Flute Quartets (K.285, 285a).

 

Very little is unknown about the life and work of Mozart, but there is a mystery in respect to the flute concertos. Such a prolific output for the flute is strange since Mozart had no affinity for the instrument and was indifferent to completing the works. Nevertheless, his father insisted upon them, and if there was any sign of Mozart's unwillingness, it's no surprise that the second concerto was an arrangement of the Oboe Concerto. Yet, the master craftsmen he was, the works remain shining staples of the flute repertory with delightful melodic and formal invention. The pieces were composed for Dutch flutist Ferdinand Dejean. Mozart likely gifted the manuscript to Dejean, the source of the mystery, for no copy of the concertos exists in Mozart's writing. Current editions, derived from the first printed edition of 1803, are generally regarded as heavily edited by the publisher.

 

Composed in Mannheim, 1778 was a transitional year for the 22-year old wunderkind, suffering the death of his mother in July and facing a lackluster and disappointing reception in Paris. Yet, the first concerto displays none of these hardships. Scored for an intimate blend of oboes, horns, and strings, the concerto takes form in three movements and runs for 25 minutes.

 

Beginning with a stately Allegro maestoso, coronation music introduces the royal character of the work. Thirty measures in, the flute enters with the same music as the orchestra. For a lesser composer, the exposition would simply repeat with the soloist mixed in, but not here. Instead, Mozart's mastery of detail showcases different perspectives of the thematic materials with subtle chromatic shifts in harmony, balancing ceremonious dotted rhythms with lyricism and passages of elegant virtuosity. The interplay with solo and ensemble continues into the development. Strings periodically interrupt with a rising scalar figure, a musical current propelling the soloist into unexplored harmonic realms of expression. The recapitulation brings welcome comfort with familiar melodies and the security of G major. After a brief cadenza, the orchestra closes the excursion in victorious regal majesty.

 

The middle movement, Adagio ma non troppo, begins with an ascending outline of the D-major chord; it will return three more times throughout, a musical marker hinting at the start and end of major sections. Soon after, a pair of orchestral flutes appear. Mozart switches the two oboes for two flutes, a musical manifestation of friendship. Among family, the solo lines bathe in operatic and vocal qualities of contentment; it is the authoritative definition of cantabile. The form resembles a da capo aria; the outer pillar sections fence in a richly lyrical and contrasting middle section. Near the end, Mozart gives space for a second cadenza, a moment of reflection. If there is an allegory in this music, Mozart's maturing middle movements channel memories long past, of mortality, and perhaps in these fleeting moments of beauty, there exists a recollection of motherly warmth within the folk-like tune that brings the movement to its final close. Through surviving letters, Anna Maria Mozart was a loving figure in the household and a buffer to the less sympathetic Leopold. She traveled with Mozart as he departed Salzburg in 1777 to find fortune elsewhere. Completing the concerto in February the following year, his mother would succumb to an unknown illness shortly after. Mozart watched over her bedside as she passed on July 3, 1778.

 

The final movement concludes the work in grace. A Rondo marked Tempo di menuetto; the theme starts with a heralding three quarter-notes with flute and violins together, dance partners. Easy to imagine, hear, see and feel these opening notes as the first three steps in a festive noble dance. The movement unfolds in a palindromic seven-part rondo (ABACABA). The A-theme will return three more times, musical pillars, with some variation in each successive statement. Between these thematic sections are contrasting music, exploring different keys and figurations, excursions. The middle C-section offers a serious and sorrowful detour in E-minor, a turning point before the music returns in reverse order. 

 

If music is autobiographical, it offers a perspective of its creator. The flute concerto aptly captures the gifted soul of a young composer rooted into the finer qualities of aristocratic society in the first movement. The reprieve of escaping fatherly oversight with a motherly companion is cause for operatic singing in the second. In the third, the self-portrait of the creator, his sight on his mirror self, the public celebrity hiding a very human soul. © MTF

(Notes By Michael-Thomas Foumai)

ABOUT THIS PERFORMANCE (MASTERWORKS 1):

Unleashing a universe of sonic imagination, Darius Milhaud's jazz ballet conjures the primordial passion of humanity through African mythology in The Creation of the World. Sculpting beauty and elegance, Mozart's Flute Concerto in G bridges a gateway into the realms of sorcery with Ravel's extended universe of fairy-tales in Mother Goose and Stravinsky's spellbinding magical revolution in The Firebird. © MTF