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Mozart’s First Flute Quartet, K. 285, was written for a wealthy amateur Dutch flutist, Ferdinand de Jean, whom the composer met in Mannheim in the winter of 1777/78. Mozart began enthusiastically, writing to his father in the middle of December that he will “soon have finished one quartet for the Indian Dutchman [de Jean made his fortune with the Dutch East India Company], that true friend of humanity.” But the commission proved burdensome, and when de Jean left for Paris in the middle of February, Mozart had to settle for a little less than half of the original fee, in return for a pair of concertos and three quartets, some of which music was unfinished or simply a transcription of an earlier work.

Melodic inspiration was not in short supply when Mozart began, however, as the jaunty tunefulness of the opening Allegro reveals. The haunting Adagio is a gorgeous song for the flute in B minor, accompanied by pizzicato strings. Mozart interrupts the movement’s final cadence to lead directly into the Rondo finale, a sprightly affair of echo games and sly motivic interplay.

— John Henken