Program Notes: Mozart’s Flute Sonata in Bb major

by Jack Bryce

board member and
Carleton College
professor emeritus

Listen below to a recording in the original instrumentation for violin and harpsichord:

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Jane Garvin, Flute

Jane Garvin, Flute

The Flute Sonata in Bb major, K. 10, originally published as Opus 3 #1 on June 13, 1765, was one of six keyboard sonatas written in London in 1764, when Mozart was eight years old, and dedicated in a florid French prologue “to her Majesty Charlotte Queen of Great Britten.” The “London Bach,” Johann Christian, was Queen Charlotte’s music tutor; he had written very similar pieces for his Opus 2, and as a great London friend to the visiting Mozarts became an important influence on Wolfgang’s evolving style. Mozart’s title page says the sonatas can be played with the accompaniment of violin or transverse flute, and with a ’cello, and parts are provided; further, it states that they were “printed for the Author and sold at his Lodging, Mr. Williamson in Thrift Street, Soho.” The Mozarts had in fact moved about 2 miles in September of 1874 from 180 Ebury Street in Belgravia to 20 Thrift Street in Soho, where Thomas Williamson lived; he was a manufacturer of corsets. (Rather confusingly the street is known today as Frith Street; Williamson’s house was demolished and rebuilt in 1858, and since 1930 the building has served as the stage door entrance for the Prince Edward Theatre on the adjacent Old Compton Street.)

As Mozart wrote no flute sonatas, flutists have not hesitated to rearrange the six keyboard sonatas of old Opus 3. A conservative way to do this is to simply play the original violin part mostly an octave higher on the flute, which is probably what Mozart foresaw. But more imaginative arrangements have been done, such as this afternoon’s by Joseph Bopp, with the flute part coming largely from the original right hand of the keyboard part. It’s an extremely pleasing piece in three movements, Allegro, Andante, and a Minuet in the usual double form.

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