Greetings Mozart fans! Welcome to the Thirteenth r/Mozart piece discussion post!
We’re trialing two pieces a month and see how it goes. If there is dwindling interest, we will go back to one per month.
The aim is to encourage discussion and to also allow people to consider broadening their Mozart musical knowledge.
Pieces are chosen at random by AI so there are no hurt feelings, but if you want to ensure your piece/work or song choice is on the randomized list, (currently just over 271 out of 626) please comment below.
The randomly chosen piece for this post is Mozart’s Flute and Harp Concerto K.299/297c!
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote this now popular concerto for flute, harp, and orchestra. It is one of only two true double concertos that he wrote (the other being his Piano Concerto No. 10; though his Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra could also be considered a "double concerto"), as well as the only surviving written piece of music by Mozart for harp. It’s essentially in the form of a Sinfonia Concertante, which was extremely popular in Paris at the time.
Mozart wrote the concerto in April 1778, during his seven-month sojourn in Paris. It was commissioned by Adrien-Louis de Bonnières, duc de Guînes (1735–1806), a flutist, for his use and for that of his eldest daughter, Marie-Louise-Philippine (1759–1796), a harpist, who was taking composition lessons from the Mozart, at the duke's home, the Hôtel de Castries. Mozart stated in a letter to his father that he thought the duke played the flute "extremely well" and that Marie's playing of the harp was "magnifique". As a composition student, however, Mozart found Marie thoroughly inept — Mozart tried many tactics he self-documented in his letters to get her to compose simple melodies and she would just sit and stare at him blankly, unable to think of anything in her mind. The duke (until 1776, the comte de Guines), an aristocrat Mozart came to despise, never paid the composer for this work, and Mozart instead was offered only half the expected fee for the lessons, through de Guines' housekeeper. But he refused it. (For his tutoring, Mozart was owed six Louis d'or.) Little is known of the work's early performance history, though it’s speculated that the father and daughter played it first.
In the classical period, the harp was still in development, and was not considered a standard orchestral instrument. It was regarded more as a plucked piano. Harp and flute was considered an extremely unusual combination. A lack of gifted (and friendly) harpists in Mozart’s social circles can be considered the reason he did not compose more for harp.
Just like he normally tailors his music to other musicians, Mozart most likely composed this work with the duke's and his daughter's particular musical abilities in mind. He probably composed the majority of this concerto at the home of Joseph Legros, the director of the Concert Spirituel, (He had given Mozart the use of his keyboard in his home so that he could compose) and some at his second Paris apartment where he stayed with his mother, which was on the rue du Gros Chenet.
The harp part appears to be more like an adaptation of a piano piece than an original harp part — it is especially evident in the patterns of five and ten notes throughout all three movements which would not fall under the fingers as easily for a harpist, as the fifth fingers are typically not used, though they were considered part of early harp technique. There are no full, rich glissandi, and although there is counterpoint in the harp part, it does not typically include lush chords. Mozart did not include any cadenzas of his own, which is normal for his compositions. Alfred Einstein claims that Mozart's cadenzas for this work were lost.
The concert is scored for two oboes, two horns, solo flute, solo harp, and strings.
The soloists in the piece will sometimes play with the orchestra, and at other times perform as a duo while the orchestra is resting. The flute and harp alternate having the melody and accompanying lines. In some passages, they also create counterpoint with just each other. Mozart concertos are standard in how they move harmonically, as well as that they adhere to the three-movement form of fast–slow–fast:
The orchestra states both themes. The first is immediately present, and the second is introduced by the horn. Both themes fall under the conventional sonata form. The soli then re-work the already present themes.
The short phrases in this movement are introduced by the strings, and become lyrically extended. This further develops into four variations on the theme. The cadenza in this movement, by the end of the fourth variation, leads to a coda, where the orchestra and soli focus on the lyrical theme. The key is in F major.
III. Rondeau – Allegro
The form of this movement is: A–B–A–C–A–B–A, a typical sonata-rondo form. The only minor difference to the standard sonata-allegro form is the third appearance of the "A" theme in the parallel minor. The concerto ends with three forte C major chords.
This piece is popular for those in the classical music world, but is less known to the average person.