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Flute Concerto No. 2 in D major, K. 314

About the Work

Wolfgang Mozart
Quick Look Composer: Wolfgang Mozart
© Richard Freed
Mozart composed this work in Mannheim early in 1778, originally as an oboe concerto, and then adapted it for the flute, as explained below. In the National Symphony Orchestra's first performance of it, on December 6, 1938, the flutist Georges Barrère was the soloist and Hans Kindler conducted; in the orchestra's most recent presentation of the Concerto, at Wolf Trap on July 28, 2005, the soloist wasSir James Galway, who performs in this week's concerts, and the conductor was JoAnn Falletta.
In addition to the solo flute, the score calls for 2 oboes, 2 horns and strings. Duration, 21 minutes.
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Mozart declared that he hated the flute; while he appears to have contradicted himself in the music he composed for the instrument, he composed all of that music in a fairly brief period, in consequence of his visit to Mannheim in hopes of landing a court position there, in the winter of 1777-78. The Mannheim Orchestra was regarded as the finest in Europe at that time, and its wind players, whom Mozart admired profoundly, achieved such fame in their own right that they toured widely; it was at their suggestion, in fact, that he went from Mannheim to Paris, where they were scheduled to perform. Before he left for Paris—as soon as he arrived in Mannheim, in fact, in December 1777—the Mannheim flutist Johann Baptist Wendling introduced Mozart toa wealthy Dutchman named either De Jean or De Jong, who is described variously as having been a sea captain or having been a surgeon in exotic locales for the Dutch East India Company. Whatever his actual name, he was an enthusiastic amateur flutist and he commissioned Mozart to write three concertos and a set of quartets for flute and strings, stipulating that the works not be too long or too difficult. Mozart delivered only part of the specified quantity, advising his father in a letter, "You know how laggard I become when obliged to write for an instrument which I cannot bear."

Only one new concerto was completed: the G major (K. 313) which Mozart composed at about the time of his 22nd birthday. He was able to supply a second concerto, the work performed in the present concerts, by adapting an oboe concerto he had composed earlier (perhaps as early as 1775, for the Italian oboist Giuseppe Ferlendis) and which the Mannheim oboist Friedrich Ramm had performed with great success on numerous occasions. An isolated Andante in C major (K. 315) may have been intended for a third concerto, or more likely as an alternative slow movement for the Concerto in G, whose highly personal and expressive Adagio may have been too demanding for De Jean. In any event, the notion of "an instrument I cannot bear" is simply not borne out in any of these works.

Since Ramm had made the Oboe Concerto a signature piece, De Jean surely knew the Second Flute Concerto was not a new work. It was not unusual in Mozart's time, after all, for music written for the flute or the oboe to be suitable to both instruments (or interchangeable with a violin), and this handsome work has enriched the repertoire of both flutists and oboists, though the original oboe version was lost for 150 years and has been heard far less frequently than the flute version.

The opening movement bears a marking—Allegro aperto—which Mozart used otherwise only in his Violin Concerto in A major (K. 219, 1775) and in two piano concertos dating from 1776 (K. 238 in B-flat and K. 246 in C major). The slow movement, a straightforward aria for the soloist against a lovely cantilena in the strings, is followed by a vivacious rondo whose theme Mozart liked well enough to use again, in 1782, for Blonde's aria, "Welche wonne, welche Lust," in his first Viennese opera, Die Entführung aus dem Serail.