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In Mozart’s time, it was common for flute and oboe parts to be interchanged; music written for one instrument was (and still is) often suitable for the other as well. Of course, each instrument has its own idiomatic quirks and specialties – and Mozart, master of subtlety within form and structure, understood these quirks. He was able to take material he’d already written for one instrument and convert it into something altogether new. Such is the case with his Flute Concerto No. 2. Mozart arranged the material so idiomatically for flute that later generations were fooled into thinking the concerto was originally penned for flute. It wasn’t.
Mozart had been commissioned by the Italian oboist Giuseppe Ferlendis to write an oboe concerto. The C-major Oboe Concerto was the result, completed in Salzburg in 1777. Mozart later met Ferdinand Dejean, a surgeon with the Dutch East India Co. and an amateur flutist, who commissioned flute concertos from the young Mozart, with the stipulation that they be neither too long nor too difficult. Composing one new work (K. 313), Mozart arranged the earlier Oboe Concerto as the second of two Flute Concertos for Dejean.
This work calls for two oboes, two horns, and strings, in addition to the solo flute. The first movement, marked Allegro aperto, is full of sparkling solo flute passages and elegant, crystalline accompaniment from the orchestra. The orchestra’s rising and falling passages create close dialogue between flute and accompaniment throughout the movement, giving it an especially collaborative feel. The extensive, melodic cadenza is made even more lovely by the grand re-entrance of the orchestra and the final re-statement of the movement’s main theme leading to a luminous close.
The slow movement, Adagio non troppo, is melancholy and full of effortless, flowing movement from the flute, while the orchestra plays a sustained melodic line.
The finale is in a bouncy 2/4 meter with a vigorous and zig-zagging rondo theme. Mozart liked the theme enough to use it once more, in his opera The Abduction from the Seraglio. His instrumental concertos contain a natural intimacy between orchestra and soloist, and the Second Flute Concerto is no exception and has enriched the repertoire of both flutists and oboists.