Flute Concerto in D major, K. 314

I. Allegro aperto II. Andante ma non troppo III. Allegro


In 1777, the Mozarts dissatisfaction with their situation in Salzburg reached breaking point. In August they submitted an official request to the Archibishops to be relieved of their posts. Although their request was granted, father Leopold was not prepared to quit his job. This was how the 20 year old Mozart came to undertake his next European travels with his mother in tow. First, they travelled to Mannheim via Munich and Augsburg. Mannheim was an important musical centre with its superb orchestra which boasted a revolutionary new sound, and also because the court enthusiastically loved music. Mozart soon became good friends with the orchestral leader Johann Christian Cannabich, flautist Johann Baptist Wendling and oboist Friedrich Ramm. He gave the latter musician an oboe concerto which he had written a few months ealier in Salzburg, which, as we know from Mozart's November 4th letter, “made him almost mad with joy”.


During the 19th century, this oboe concerto was believed lost. This state of affairs continued until the early 20th century when a handwritten copy of a set of parts for an unusual work was discovered in the Mozarteum archive: the researchers were astounded to realise that the discovered concerto agreed note for note with the well known D major flute concerto (K. 314), although transcribed down by a tone. The solo instrument was not a flute but an oboe. Thus Mozart's much mentioned C major oboe concerto was rediscovered, and the full story of the D major flute concerto was now clear as well.


In winter 1777, a retired doctor from Dutch East-India Company, a certain flute playing De Jean, commissioned a work from  Mozart for a princely sum. On December 10th 1777 Mozart wrote to his father: “Next day, as I usually do, I went to Wendling for lunch. There he said to me: our Indian (a Dutchman who lives from his savings, loves all sciences and admires me greatly) is truly a rare man. He is giving you 200 florins, if you will write for him three small, easy, brief concertos and some quartets for flute.” Mozart and his mother could live extremely well for several months from 200 florins, and so Mozart was extremely grateful for this commission. However, there was one major problem: Mozart could not countenance the flute, and was none too keen on flautists either. This is well illustrated by the following anecdote, in which Mozart told Wendling, the brother of the Mannheim flautist: “Your brother is an exception. He is not merely going through the motions, when I hear him, I don't have to tremble that the next note will be too high or too low – he always intones accurately. His heart is in its place, as is his ear and the tip of his tongue and he does not imagine that being able to blow a lungful of air or pull faces is enough for flute playing.”


The financially inept Mozart did not truly grasp the importance of the commission, and his distaste for the flute, his daily musical duties, his acquaintance with the Weber family and particularly his attraction to and wooing of the oldest Weber daughter, Aloysia, overwrote his imperative to complete the commission on time. And so Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart missed the deadline. Although he told his father, still in Salzburg, that he was progressing well with the work and that he had written two flute concertos and three flute quartets, in truth, by January 1778, he had only composed a single concerto (G major, K 313) and a single quartet (D major, K 285.) The second concerto, which Mozart mentioned to his father, was the oboe concerto written some six months earlier, which Mozart decided that as he had little to lose, he risk passing off as a new work, rewriting it in D major. He simply transcribed the solo material with one fell swoop for flute. Although he hoped it might fool his patron, the Dutchman De Jean realised what Mozart was up to and partly because of this, and partly because the works were so hard he was not even capable of playing them, he only paid Mozart a half of what he initially promised. Mozart's chaotic lifestyle, once freed from his father's immediately authority, is clearly shown by Leopold's reaction to what was clearly not the entire story from his son: “You mean that you received 96 florins instead of 200? And why? Because you only wrote him two concertos and three quartets? How many should you have written for him to only want to pay half? Why do you write lies to me, saying you only had to produce three small concertos and a few quartets? And why didn't you listen to me when I told you specifically that you really must treat this gentleman as well as you can? Why? Because you would certainly have received the 200 florins. I know people better than you do.”


The D major flute concerto (K. 314) follows the structure and form of earlier Mozart concertos, particularly the violin concertos, and from its routine and idiomatic style of writing, there is no sense just how much Mozart disliked the instrument for which he was composing. Even if it is not as original as the later piano concertos, it is still one of the finest examples of gallant music, the fashionable musical language of the era: virtuoso opening and closing movement embrace a magical slow movement which is reminiscent of the most beautiful love arias from Mozart's operas.

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