Antonio Vivaldi penned over five hundred concerti for different instruments. Three concerti feature the flautino – a prolonged flute with a high register, close to the modern piccolo flute. The composition of the Concerto in C Major is based on the standard three-movement pattern. The first movement and the finale are written in a fast tempo while the middle movement is a lento. The interaction between the orchestra and the soloist also occurs in different ways. In the outer sections the orchestra has a competitive dialogue with the flute, while in the middle section it has an accompanying role.
Franz Doppler composed operas in Hungarian that were great successes in theatres in Budapest. Moreover, he remains in history as a virtuoso flautist and composer of numerous works for the flute. Doppler frequently appeared with his brother Karl, who was also a good flautist. Probably the Double Flute Concerto in D Minor was composed to be performed together with his brother. The music of the concerto, and particularly the impetuous first movement, is imbued with the spirit of early romanticism and brings to mind works by von Weber and Mendelssohn. The second movement is a duet in the style of an Italian canzone accompanied by the harp. The dance-like finale returns to the mood of the first movement.
From the latter half of the 19th century flute-playing fashion was dictated by the French flute school. Professor Paul Taffanel (1844–1908) of the Paris Conservatoire trained a plethora of virtuoso flautists who inspired many composers to write music for the flute. Among Taffanel’s finest pupils was Marcel Moyse, to whom Jacques Ibert dedicated his Flute Concerto.
Ibert studied at the Paris Conservatoire at the same time as Arthur Honegger and Darius Milhaud. Ibert’s Flute Concerto brilliantly reveals the expressive possibilities of the instrument. The first movement is written in the neoclassical spirit and is incredibly virtuoso. In the second movement cantilena is foremost. In the outer sections of the finale the rhythms of a tarantella are miraculously combined with jazz syncope moments, while the middle section reminds us of the music of “the French East”.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote in one of his letters to his father that he didn’t love the timbre of the flute and was reluctant to compose music for it. However, the composer’s works for flute negate this notion and reveal his wonderful knowledge of the possibilities the instrument affords. Mozart composed almost all of his works for flute in 1778 in Paris and Mannheim. Two concerti for flute were written after a commission from the amateur flautist Ferdinand De Jean. The lento movement of the first concerto seemed to De Jean to be too complex and he requested that Mozart replace it. Subsequently the initial version was published as a separate work – thus appeared the Andante for flute and orchestra in C Major. The melody of the Andante closely resembles arias from Mozart’s early operas, and the pizzicato of the strings, imitating the chords of plucked string instruments, gives the music the character of an Italian canzone.
Aram Khachaturian composed the Violin Concerto in the summer of 1940 in just under two months. “Having completed the Concerto, I dedicated it to David Oistrakh,” the composer recalled, “… I remember how one musician congratulated me, saying ‘How happy you must be: you have written your Concerto, and now your son has been born.”
David Oistrakh was enchanted by his friend’s latest work and learnt it like lightning. “Very soon, in two or three days,” Khachaturian continued, “Oistrakh came to me at the House of Art in Staraya Ruza to perform the Concerto... My little cottage was full to bursting... And I and everyone else present were staggered by the firework that was Oistrakh’s performance. He performed the Concerto as if he had learnt it over the course of many months, as he subsequently went on to play it at the great venues.”
The picturesque beauty, vivid national flavour, festive optimism and virtuoso effervescence of the Concerto’s music also immediately enchanted professional musicians and the wider audience in general.
The premiere of the Violin Concerto came on 16 November 1940. The State Orchestra of the USSR was conducted by Alexander Gauk. Soon Oistrakh and Gauk presented the Concerto in Leningrad (24 December 1940). The arrangement of the concerto for flute was produced by the composer himself.