Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Tuesday, May 16

Mozart made to order

Synopsis

Today we have a letter to read, written by Mozart in the middle of May in the year 1778. Mozart was in Paris, 22 years old, and had this to say to his father back in Salzburg:

"I think I told you in my last letter," wrote Mozart, "that the Duc de Guines plays the flute extremely well, and that his daughter is my pupil in composition. She also plays the harp magnifique. She has a great deal of talent, even genius, and in particular a marvelous memory so that she can play all her pieces, actually about 200, by heart. It is, however, extremely doubtful as to whether she has any talent for composition, especially as regards invention or ideas."

"Her father's intention," Mozart continued, "is not to make a great composer of her. 'She is not,' said the Duc De Guines, 'to compose operas, arias, concertos, symphonies, but only grand sonatas for her instrument and mine."

The Duc de Guines was the former French ambassador to London, and believed by Mozart's father to be in the inner circle of the French Queen Marie Antoinette, and hence a contact well worth cultivating. De Guines commissioned Mozart to write a double concerto for himself on flute and daughter on harp. Mozart complied with this courtly Concerto in C Major. Four months after delivering the music, Mozart had to report to his father that he still hadn't seen any payment for his efforts!

Music Played in Today's Program

W.A. Mozart (1756 - 1791) Concerto for Flute and Harp, K. 299 Emmanuel Pahud, flute; Marie-Pierre Langlamet, harp; Berlin Philharmonic; Claudio Abbado, cond. EMI 57128

Additional Information

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