Mozart (1756-1791) - Concerto for Flute and Harp
to his father from Paris (1778), Mozart described his fruitless attempts
to teach composition to the Duc de Guines' daughter (intriguingly, Mozart
considered teaching music a “science”). His father suggested he persist
patiently, adding, “. . . should Monsieur le Duc hear some little thing
composed by his daughter, he will be beside himself with pleasure”. The
implication was “and surely be disposed to increase your fees”, for, in
truth, the erstwhile child prodigy was having a torrid time, struggling
for every penny. Mozart mentioned that “[the Duc] plays the flute incomparably,
and she magnificently on the harp”. The Duc commissioned a concerto, affording
Mozart another opportunity to rise in the Duc's estimation. Unfortunately,
“estimation” was all: the Duc and his money were not soon parted, while
Mozart and Money, it seems, would always mix like wax and water.
and the harp are perennial favourites of the French (think of Ravel!),
both supremely sensual in sound, both pure-toned and penetrating - the
harp is as near as you'll get to a “plucked flute”. A combination made
in heaven for which Mozart, being Mozart, would surely have written music
equally “made in heaven”. Is it heretical to suggest that he was not entirely
comfortable with this combination? Certainly, it is beautifully crafted
music, entirely characteristic of Mozart. Yet it sounds like a “Concerto
for Flute and Piano” adapted for harp. So, don't expect any luscious harp
glissandi (except possibly in the cadenzas, which Mozart didn't write).
all three movements contain cadenzas:
Allegro No messing - the orchestra immediately deploys both themes
(the second announced on horn) of a conventional sonata form. These are
re-worked by the soli, an orchestral bridge on the first subject descending
into a brief but breezy development. Recapitulation, cadenza, and coda
follow with pleasurable inevitability.
Andantino Ushered in on strings, the subject's short phrases become
lyrically extended, these two facets promoting variations which alternate
lighter and darker aspects, without either aspect dominating. The soli
bloom in the light of considerate orchestral accompaniment. Finally, a
cadenza leads to a coda where soli and orchestra dwell on the theme's lyrical
Rondeau: allegro Unusually, the finale demands the most concentration.
Mozart, I think, chose the only French marking not in deference to his
commissioner, but to underline that this isn't a typical rondo.
Unusually for Mozart's time, it's more like an arch: A-B-C-D-C-B- [cadenza]-A(coda),
because C and D are merely prefaced with hints of A, adding spice to our
amusement, or should that be “bemusement”?
three “unusually”s, an unusual number of “unusually”s for music once described
to me as “tedious”. It's surely a matter of expectations. Mozart wasn't
Ravel, but taken on his own terms, you'll discover in his overlapping,
weaving and intertwining of the unusual (again!) solo instruments all the
enchantment that was ever his gift to offer.
© Paul Serotsky
29, Carr Street,
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