Croatian Chamber Orchestra performs Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra

Mozart – Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra

Conducted by Igor Tatarević, the Croatian Chamber Orchestra performs Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra in C major, K. 299/297c. Tamara Coha Mandić (flute), Diana Grubišić Ćiković (harp). Recorded at the Croatian music institute concert hall in Zagreb, Croatia on 12 November 2013.

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 older daughter, Marie-Louise-Philippine (1759–1796), a harpist, who was taking composition lessons from the composer, 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. The duke (until 1776, the comte de Guines), an aristocrat Mozart came to despise, never in fact 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.) And it is not at all certain whether the duc de Guines and his daughter Marie ever actually played this concerto.

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. Therefore, harp and flute was considered an extremely unusual combination. Currently, there is much more repertoire for a flute and harp duo, especially without orchestra. Much of this repertoire was written by composers in the nineteenth century. Mozart’s opinion of the harp, however, was perhaps dubious at best, for he never wrote another piece that employed it.

Mozart quite 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. Monsieur Legros had given Mozart the use of his keyboard in his home so that he could compose. (Mozart perhaps also composed part of the concerto at his second Paris apartment, which was on the rue du Gros Chenet.)

The piece is essentially in the form of a Sinfonia Concertante, which was extremely popular in Paris at the time. Today, the concerto is often played by chamber ensembles, because it is technically and elegantly challenging for both the solo instruments it calls for. It is also often played by orchestras to display the talents of their own flutists and harpists.

The harp part appears to be more like an adaptation of a piano piece than an original harp part; this 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.

There are three movements (fast/slow/fast):

  1. Allegro. 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.
  2. Andantino. The short phrases in this movement are introduced by the strings, and become lyrically extended. This further develops into variations on the theme. The cadenza in this movement leads to a coda, where the orchestra and soli focus on the lyrical theme. The key is in F major.
  3. Rondeau-Allegro. The harmonic form is: A–B–C–D–C–B–{cadenza}–A(coda). Some music theorists feel that this is actually more of an arch than a typical rondo form, because music from the A section is still audible in the C and D sections.

Sources

  • Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra (Mozart) on wikipedia