Practice Blueprints: Concerto in G Major, K. 313, Movement I. Allegro maestoso

There are a handful of pieces that are considered the essential meat and potatoes of all flute repertoire. The Chaminade Concertino is one. The Ibert Concerto is another. But the two that appear most often on competition and audition repertoire lists are the Mozart flute concerto twins: Concerto in G Major (K. 313) and Concerto in D Major (K. 314). The Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen of flute concerti, make no mistake that each concerto has its own identity. The challenge with these pieces, that we all love and perform frequently, is finding creative ways to breathe new life into them while mastering the deceptively difficult technical hurdles that lie below the surface. In today’s blog, we begin our journey with a “practice blueprint” of basic ways to approach the opening movement of Mozart’s Concerto in G Major (K. 313), Allegro maestoso.

Start with a bit of inspiration! To better understand the vibe of the piece, we need to understand its context within history. Both of these concerti bring us back to a time when wealthy aristocrats, kings, and emperors often financed the production of extraordinary works of art. Read up on the history and biographical information, yes, but also watch a few period films such as Amadeus or the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, to imagine yourself in that time and place. This seems like overly simple advice, but when it was given to me in my youth, and I watched Amadeus repetitively over the summer, my performance transformed tenfold, resulting in a winning concerto competition performance later that year. Inspiration works! (Thanks Netflix!)

Think of the measures not in 4/4 but instead in a larger 2/2 beat pattern. By emphasizing the larger beats, the music retains the simplicity and balance that the entire movement embodies. A great way to accomplish this is to add slight breath kicks on the notes falling on beats 1 and 3. A breath kick could be a slight accent, a subtly elongated note, or a sprinkling of extra vibrato. Think of the music as an elegant classical dance at the Bridgerton estate rather than flash mob in front of Times Square.

Take articulation markings with a grain of salt. Different editions may include suggestions for slurs, accents marks, staccatos, and other articulation markings but take these with a grain of salt. Articulation in classical works is subtle, used more for color than style. Think about the elaborate dresses featured on period dramas. The dress is the main event and the jewelry, gloves, and sometimes the weird moving chandeliers in various headpieces, are used to draw attention back to the dress itself. In this case, the music is the dress, and the articulation is the lace trim.

Embrace the Mozart Lean. There are a number of instances in this opening movement where accidentals tend to enjoy an elongated lean before resolving to the next note. I like to refer to this as the Mozart Lean. For example, in measure 46, grace note A#s are used to lean into the repeating B’s. This is followed in measure 47 with a quarter note D# patiently waiting to resolve in the next measure to an E:

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Emphasize the leaning accidental with a breath kick or by slightly elongating the note. The Mozart Lean is like a brief psychological cliffhanger, a moment of tension before a resolution.

Be a little extra on trills. I like to start trills in this movement from the note above, adding a turn into the next note, even in the difficult development section. This helps propel the music forward while maintaining the elegance of the work with a few more pieces of compositional “jewelry.” Again, the emphasis is still on the dress (aka the music), but it is now sparkling brighter with spinning trills.

Magic trill exercise. Speaking of trills, let’s be honest: There are a lot of trills in this opening movement! And some of them are a tad clunky and not kind to our fingers (I’m looking at you, Mr. F# trill). A great way to approach the myriad of trills is by using what I like to call The Magic Trill Exercise. The idea is to place slightly more pressure on the finger holding down the note you are trilling to, which frees the trilling finger from unnecessary extra tension. It is already doing a lot of work! Let’s take that pesky F# trill for example. By placing slightly more pressure on the G key, the finger trilling the F# can be light and loose to trill away. No tension needed!

Bring out “conversations” within the melody. We know that Mozart was a talented opera composer, and if you listen closely to the melody in these flute concerti, you can pick out different voices in different octaves using different compositional styles to have a conversation. A great example of this can be found in measures 164-171. In measure 164, we see the first voice pose a statement in the higher octave using frantic sixteenth notes, which is followed by a calmer, cooler voice that begins in the low register and moves in a descending pattern using eight notes to guide its path. You can bring out these voices by using tone color changes for each voice. The first voice may feature a vibrant sound with tighter, more brilliant vibrato while the second voice could use a darker sound with wider vibrato.

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Practice your harmonics to tackle those wide leaps. There are many passages within this opening movement that make use of wide leaps from the low register to the high (measures 143-146 is a great example). Wide leaps are super taxing on your embouchure. If your embouchure muscles are not in great shape, your leaps will sound more like stumbles. Add harmonics to your daily practice routine to strength these muscles. There are some very basic harmonic exercises in Trevor Wye’s Practice Book on Tone but I also really like the harmonic exercises in Eric Ruyle’s Fun with Flute and Piccolo Harmonics. Practicing harmonics daily will help make your Mozart leaps graceful and painless.

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Finally, let’s talk cadenzas. What would a Mozart concerto be without an impressive cadenza?! Most editions include a suggested cadenza that you may use or substitute with another version. The great thing about cadenzas is there is no 100% right or wrong way to design one. You are essentially using a pause in the performance to strut your stuff! There are several cadenzas available on the market. One of my favorites is from the Galway edition, which transforms many of the basic rhythmic motives from the work in clever, beautiful ways. Better yet – write your own cadenza! Don’t panic: It’s not as difficult at it seems. Start by finding a rhythmic motive that you love from the piece and rewrite it in different keys, at different intervals, and in different styles. This is your chance to be truly creative! Make it your own.

How do you approach learning the opening Allegro maestoso to Mozart’s Concerto in G Major? What creative ways do you use to breathe new life into the work?

Happy fluting!

About the Author, Rachel Taylor Geier:

Rachel Taylor Geier holds a DMA in Flute Performance from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, an MM in Flute Performance from San Francisco State University, and a BM in Music Performance from DePauw University. Former applied instructors include Immanuel Davis, Linda Lukas, Anne Reynolds, and Rhonda Bradetich. Dr. Geier currently teaches and freelances in Davis, California and hosts a popular Flute Friday Blog Series.