A sultry flute duet

Mozart flutes

Aha—with that title I will perhaps manage to offend both flute and clarinet aficionados at once! I’ll try and redeem myself.

The Mozart clarinet quintet appears in my post on Hugh Maguire, and the clarinet concerto is just as sublime. To complement Andrew Marriner’s exquisite solo in the slow movement of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd symphony with Rozhdestvensky, here he is with the Adagio of the Mozart concerto:

The Rondo finale (below) is full of wonderful chiaroscuro contrasts—solemnity (3.17), and pathos (4.40) with slapstick interludes. But my inspiration for this post is a tiny passage in between (just seven bars, from 4.01, beginning breezily enough at 3.45) that has always entranced me: languid, sultry flutes sustaining hushed low chords, joined by bassoons; upper strings chugging, even chirping; while the clarinet does a little “bad cop­–good cop” routine in low and high registers:

More to relish there: the violins leading into the passage with staccato quavers, taking over from the clarinet’s legato sign-off; and the way the bassoons fill out the flute chords by joining in a bar later:

(clarinet part “in A”, you gather, sounding a minor 3rd lower than written)Mozart

BTW, without going on about original instruments, it’s good to hear the bass notes that Mozart conceived restored on basset clarinet (played here by Tony Pay).

* * *

Under my Mozart medley, you can find many instance of his wonderful writing for winds—not least in the operas and piano concertos. For another telling orchestral detail, try the famous low tuba entry in Mahler 1!
As to numinous flute solos, besides Debussy’s Prélude à l’aprés-midi d’un Faune, I think of La flûte enchantée in Ravel’s Shéhérazade, and the finale of Mahler 10 … Looking further afield, Chinese mouth-organs and Irish flutes has a link to a fine Irish flute and fiddle duet. And OK then, the classic Beijing temple style of shengguan ritual ensemble features what I have blithely called flute “arabesques” (audio gallery §14, in sidebar, with commentary here).

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