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In December 1777 Mozart received a commission for “three short, simple concertos and a couple of quartets for flute,” as he wrote to his father. His patron was Ferdinand de Jean, an amateur flutist who worked for the Dutch East India Company. The commission had to be completed within two months, however, and Mozart – in Mannheim at the time, and newly entranced with Aloysia Weber – found that even his incredible facility and inspiration were not equal to the task. When De Jean left for Paris in the middle of February he had only part of the requested works (including a concerto that was simply a transcription of Mozart’s earlier Oboe Concerto and some incomplete quartets), and in turn he left Mozart with less than half of the promised fee.
Mozart began well, at least. “I shall soon have finished one quartet for the Indian Dutchman, that true friend of humanity,” he wrote to his father a week after first mentioning the commission. The opening movement is a joyful Allegro, overflowing with sparkling tunes from Mozart’s seemingly inexhaustible store.
The Adagio, in the relative minor key, further displays Mozart’s melodic genius in its long arching and aching flute lines, suffused with operatic pathos over pizzicato strings. It leads directly into the blithely dancing rondo finale.
— John Henken is Director of Publications for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.