Flute Quartet No.1

About this work

The combination of wind and string instruments in chamber music is rare among Mozart's works, the composer preferring the greater homogeneity of the string quartet. Four of the five such works he composed in this form are flute quartets, of which the present work is the first. Scored for flute, violin, viola and cello, it was composed in December 1777 during the period Mozart and his mother Maria Anna were in Mannheim, where they stayed some months in the course of the ill-fated trip to Paris during which Mozart's mother died. It is one of a pair commissioned by a wealthy Dutch merchant and amateur flutist Ferdinand Dejean, who had approached Mozart through the Mannheim flautist Johann Baptist Wendling. Dejean's requirement was for three easy, short flute concertos, and two quartets, for which he was prepared to pay 200 gulden. Despite his professed dislike of the flute ("an instrument I can't abide"), Mozart accepted the commission and immediately set to work on the D major, completing it only about a week later on December 25 (the date was inscribed on Mozart's autograph copy, which was lost during World War II). As with his other flute quartets and the Oboe Quartet in F major, K. 370, Mozart constructed the work as if he were writing a string quartet with the wind instrument replacing the first violin. There are three movements, an Allegro followed by the central Adagio, and the concluding Rondo. Dejean's requirements were obviously modest, and Mozart responded by giving him music where the emphasis is on an easygoing and relatively uncomplicated style, the work seeking to entertain rather than attempt profundity.