top of page


Concerto for Flute and Harp, K. 299

June 2, 2024: Mozart’s Double Concertos

Mozart went to Paris in the spring of 1778, and, as the cost of living was high, he presented himself to members of the nobility and the Parisian socialites in hopes of receiving musical commissions, being paid for performances, or giving music lessons. One of his composition pupils was the daughter of Adrien-Louis Bonnière de Souastre, Comte de Guines. (Mozart referred to him as the Duc de Guines, though he was actually a count.) Mozart wrote to his father that the “Duc” played the flute extremely well and his daughter’s harp playing was “magnifique.” In April 1778 he duly composed a flute and harp concerto, for which he fully expected to be paid. The daughter ceased her lessons when she was to be married, and the Duc went off to the country. Mozart went around to the house to collect, not only for the lessons, but for the Concerto, which the Duc had already had for four months. He found only a housekeeper who offered him such a meager sum that he indignantly refused it.

Although Mozart eventually had nothing but contempt for this aristocratic family, some gratitude is owed them for eliciting such a delightful work—his only composition for harp. Mozart, incredibly, is said to have disliked both the flute and the harp, yet this Concerto shows both instruments to advantage, and maintains the standard one expects of the master. The Concerto was designed to please eighteenth-century French society, and hence its galant style avoids contrapuntal complexities. The work employs a multitude of engaging melodies, many of which are only given to the soloists.

The first movement follows sonata form, with a long exposition and recapitulation, but a short development. About midway into the movement Mozart wrote a low D-flat and C for the flute, which, doubling the harp’s lowest notes, form the bass(!) line. Apparently the “Duc” de Guines had a flute with the D-flat and C holes (and possibly keys), which Mozart may not have been able to count on later, for he never wrote those notes for the flute again.

Mozart’s imaginative orchestration in the second movement includes violas divided into two independent parts throughout, providing a lush string texture, while the oboes and horns are left silent. A warm, elegant mood prevails. The third movement suggests a courtly gavotte; the main theme begins with the characteristic upbeat of two quarter notes. The oboes and horns are prominent here after the silence of the previous movement. The rondo-form movement again shows an unusual abundance of melodic material, even for Mozart.

—©Jane Vial Jaffe

bottom of page