Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra (Mozart)

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Opening of the first movement

The Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra in C major, K. 299/297c, is a composition by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for flute, harp, and orchestra. It is one of only two true double concertos that he wrote,[specify] as well as the only piece of music by Mozart that contains the harp.[1] The piece is one of the most popular such concerti in the repertoire, as well as often being found on recordings dedicated otherwise to either one of its featured instruments.

History[edit]

Mozart wrote the concerto in April 1778, during his six-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. 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 paid the composer the agreed amount for this work, and Mozart instead received half the expected fee through de Guines' housekeeper. And it is not at all certain whether the Duc de Guines and his daughter Marie ever actually played this concerto.[2][3]

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.[4] 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 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. The piece is essentially in the form of a Sinfonia Concertante, which was extremely popular in Paris at the time.[1] Today, the concerto is often played in chamber ensembles, because it is technically challenging for both instrumentalists. It is also often played in orchestras to display the talents of 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[citation needed]. 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, as is normal for his compositions.[5] Alfred Einstein claims that Mozart's cadenzas for this work were lost. A few popular cadenzas are often performed, such as those by Carl Reinecke, but many flutists and harpists have chosen to write their own. André Previn has also written cadenzas for this piece. The original manuscript of the Concerto for Flute and Harp still exists; it has been housed since 1948 in the Jagiellonian University Library in Kraków.[citation needed]

Form and movements[edit]

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:



Alexander Murray (flute), Ann Yeung (harp), Sinfonia da Camera University of Illinois, Ian Hobson conducting

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I. 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.[5]

II. 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.[5]

III. 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.[5]

Editions and recordings[edit]

In addition to the numerous cadenzas performers have to choose from, multiple editions of this piece also exist. One such example is by the harpist, arranger, and composer Carlos Salzedo. He edits fingerings in the first movement, re-writes trills to make the music easier on the performer in the second movement, and divides most of the right hand part between two hands in the third movement. However by doing this, Mozart's style has been somewhat lost, and some people have accused him of "changing Mozart", in consideration that this is one of his more popular pieces, and is often performed in standard classical repertoire. Many professionals try to play the most original version of this concerto grosso, however due to a range of editions, this can be difficult. The cadenzas composed by Carl Reinecke are the most commonly used to perform this piece.[4]

Many recordings of this piece are available. James Galway has performed and recorded this piece many times, with harpists such as Fritz Helmis, Marisa Robles, and Ann Hobson Pilot.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Briscoe, Doug. Program notes. Boston Classical Orchestra. Archived 2008-10-09
  2. ^ Symphony No. 31 in D major, K. 297 (Paris). John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
  3. ^ Horsley, Paul. Program notes. Philadelphia Orchestra. Archived 2005-02-12.
  4. ^ a b Salzedo, Carlos. "Editing Mozart's Flute and Harp Concerto". American Harp Society. Vol. 18, No. 4, Winter 2002, p. 33.
  5. ^ a b c d Paul Serotsky: "Mozart-Concerto for Flute and Harp", MusicWeb International, ed. Rob Barnett

External links[edit]