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Name of Work

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus (1756-1791)
Flute Quartet No. 1 in D Major, K. 285

Movements:
Allegro
Adagio
Rondo: Allegretto

Performances:


Feb 21, 1993



Michel Debost, Flute
Kathryn Votapek, Violin
Steven Tenenbom, Viola
Peter Rejto, Cello
Michel Debost, Flute


Feb 22, 1993



Kathryn Votapek, Violin
Steven Tenenbom, Viola
Peter Rejto, Cello

MOZART - Quartet (No. 1) in D Major, K. 285, for Flute and Strings

Composed in 1777

The Köchel catalogue numbers of Mozart's surviving quartets for flute, violin, viola, and cello are 285, 285a, 285b, and 298; K. 285b is now usually listed as K. Anh. (supplement) 171, since its date of origin, and precise relationship to its companions, cannot be accurately determined. Actually this is more or less true of all four pieces, though the one in D Major can at least be dated; Mozart's own autograph score places its completion in December 1777. The others are probably later, but scholars dispute how much later.

Mozart is alleged to have disliked flute sonority, but he certainly wrote beautiful music for it, here and in the "Concerto for Flute and Harp," the opera "The Magic Flute," and several symphonies. What he may well have disliked, for whatever reasons, were the circumstances of the commission that called forth the D Major Quartet and at least one of the others. On the face of it, the commission should have been welcome. Accompanied by his mother, his father having stayed home to hold down the fort in Salzburg, Mozart traveled to the German city of Mannheim in 1777, part of a journey that would take him also to Munich, Augsburg, and Paris, in search of permanent employment and some financial security. Mannheim, the home of a famous orchestra full of virtuoso players, certainly looked promising; it was a lively musical "capital" despite its relatively small size. Mozart's friendship with Mannheim's principal flutist, Johann Wendling, led to that most valuable of 18th-century contacts, from a musician's point of view: an introduction to an amateur player with money to spend on new music. This was a Dutch flutist-businessman named possibly Monsieur DeJean, or possibly DeJong, who requested from the young composer some concertos with orchestra, and chamber music with strings, for his instrument. The handsome fee he promised was not paid in its entirety, but Mozart's didn't exactly fulfill the entire commission, either. He certainly wrote for DeJean two quartets, most probably K. 285 and K. 285a, but the other extant quartets were most likely written at other times under different circumstances, and if farther ones were written for the Dutch flutist, they were never delivered, and have since been lost. As for the concertos, only one was original - K. 313 in G; the other, K. 314, was a hasty (though beautiful) reworking of an earlier oboe concerto, and DeJean — who inevitably found out about Mozart's shortcut - felt not unreasonably that he had been cheated.

The whole story suggests a certain lack of professionalism that's not especially characteristic of Mozart, who was often guilty of disorganization, but seldom of laziness or deceit. Assuming we really have all the data, his dilatoriness can be explained partly by the fact that even a well-paid commission promised to be distracting, in his view, from his main purpose in Mannheim, which was not only to land a job worthy of his talents, but also to find a chance to write an opera — his perennial, pre-eminent ambition. Another likely distraction from work, one made much of by the distinguished Mozart scholar Alfred Einstein, was the presence in Mannheim of the Weber family, with its pretty and musically talented daughters. Aloysia, a remarkable soprano, was Mozart's first love, though the Weber he eventually married was her younger sister, Constanze.

Einstein's landmark biography, "Mozart: His Character, His Work," is often critical of the Webers, Constanze especially, but it also contains a lyrical summary of the D Major Flute Quartet. "It is somewhat concertante [in the style of a concerto]; the flute predominates - without, however, entirely subordinating the violin or even the viola; and, as a [prelude] to the Rondo, there is an Adagio in B Minor of the sweetest melancholy, perhaps the most beautiful accompanied solo ever written for the flute. The Rondo itself is of the most delightful gaiety, full of charming melodic invention and lovely sound."

Program Notes by Andrea Lamoreaux

Performed February 21 and 22, 1993



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