Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s (1756-1791) Oboe Concerto in C major, K. 314 was originally composed in Spring or Summer 1777 for oboist Giuseppe Ferlendis from Bergamo, then reworked by the composer as a concerto for flute in D major in 1778.
Mozart and his mother arrived in Mannheim in October 1777 as one of the stops on his long journey to Paris in search of a position worthy of his talents. There was no position in Mannheim for the 21-year-old Mozart but the composer very much enjoyed the four months he spent in that city, where he discovered a first-class orchestra, a sophisticated court, talented colleagues, and (to the dismay of father Leopold back in Salzburg) an attractive 16-year-old soprano.
In Mannheim, Mozart was approached by Ferdinand DeJean, a surgeon with the Dutch East India Company and amateur flutist, who commissioned three flute concertos and three flute quartets. The commission was welcome and Mozart set to work. But he promptly stopped work, and when his father wrote to chide him about his lack of progress, Wolfgang complained: “you know that I become quite powerless whenever I am obliged to write for an instrument which I cannot bear.”
Much has been made (probably too much) of Mozart’s dislike for the sound of the flute, and certainly the music he completed for DeJean is very elegantly written for the instrument, but there is not a great deal of it. For DeJean, Wolfgang wrote only one flute concerto and one flute quartet. And then he had an idea. The previous year he had written an oboe concerto for the new oboist in the Salzburg court orchestra, Giuseppe Ferlendis, and now he had his father mail him that concerto in Mannheim. He then arranged the oboe concerto for flute and presented it to DeJean. DeJean could not have been fooled (the oboe version was performed in Mannheim while Mozart was there), so he and Mozart reached an accommodation: DeJean got the one new concerto, one arranged concerto, and one new flute quartet, and Mozart got only half the original commission fee.
Mozart gives the concerto’s first movement the unusual marking Allegro aperto. Aperto means “open” in Italian and Mozart may be referring to the movement’s grand orchestral introduction, full of strength, with a wealth of ideas. The emphasis in this music is on lyricism, and much of this movement has the soloist playing gracefully above a quietly-murmuring orchestra. Lyrical melody also lies at the center of the Adagio non troppo, in which the soloist and orchestra share the melodic line freely. Some of you will discover that they already know the music of the concluding Allegro. Mozart liked this rondo so much that six years later (in 1784) he adapted it as Blonde’s aria “Welche Wonne, welche Lust” in Act II of The Abduction from the Seraglio, in which Blonde looks forward to being rescued from Selim’s harem.