No other classical music composer will appear in this Music Library Project as often as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791). What entails the ‘Music Library Project’?
This gorgeous concerto was included on the soundtrack of one of all my all time favourite movies Amadeus. He wrote the Concerto For Flute And Harp while staying for the second time in Paris with his 57 year-old mother Anna Maria who tragically died during their stay in June 1778 just 4 months after he wrote this commissioned piece.
According to the Mozart.com timeline, the young 22 year-old’s time in Paris even prior to his mother’s passing was ‘one disappointment after another’ Mozart wrote to his father: “Now I have to wait half an hour in a freezing, unheated room without a fireplace.” Whatever he tried, was to no avail. Only by taking on some music students was he able to support himself and his mother. One of those music students was Marie-Louise-Philippine, the daughter of Adrien-Louis de Bonnières, duc de Guînes who commissioned Mozart to write a concert for flute. Adrien-Louis who had served as a French Army general was a flutist himself. 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”.
Despite these sporadic commissions it is said that while Mozart was out, getting rebuffed by Parisian nobility again and again, his mother lingered in a dark, cold room, suffering from hunger. Ana Maria was a simple housewife who had given up everything for her son. Meanwhile Mozart could not understand why the Parisians were not raving about him. How different the times had been when as the child prodigy Mozart at 7 years old was welcomed with open arms by the Parisian aristocracies and presented at Court at Versailles.
At the time this composition for Flute and Harp were written, they were considered an extremely unusual combination. The harp was still in development and considered a ‘plucked piano’ rather than a standard orchestral instrument. Perhaps Mozart’s opinion was analogous to those times because he would not write another composition for the harp again, but the result was a charming and joyous work. According to wikpedia 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 flautists and harpists.
1. Wikipedia – Concerto_for_Flute, Harp,_and_Orchestra (Mozart)
2. Mozart.com Timeline – A Dark Chapter in the History of his Life
3. Redlands Symphony – Concerto for Flute & Harp, K. 299
I know it “fairly well” and it certainly is wonderful!
I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to find this information about this piece, but also saddened to read about his personal circumstances and his mother’s solitary existence during their stay in Paris.
How he composed this at 22 years old in a country he didn’t know the language and he and his mother under such economic and physical duress in poverty is remarkable.