The patronage and playability of Mozart’s flute works

Stephen Martin
Durham, United Kingdom


Mozart D Major flute quartet.
Fig 1. Exposition of the D Major flute quartet. Beethoven borrowed the first two bars. Mozart obviously used a thicker-cut quill for hand-writing than for the notes. ‘Figur Handschrift’ is in a later hand. (IMSLP, CCA-SA 4.0)

It is therapeutic to have an intellectual interest outside clinical work, a hinterland to recharge the batteries. Music gives stimulation, enjoyment, and refreshment while resting the verbal brain. This is nothing new. Dr Ferdinand Dejean1 paid Mozart to write an extraordinary number of flute works, the largest example of a great composer’s music for a doctor. Anton Mesmer also commissioned twelve-year-old Mozart’s opera Bastien and Bastienne, first performed in the doctor’s Viennese garden.2 Some historians have interpreted it differently, but the biographer Nissen wrote, “for a society theatre . . . of Mesmer.”3

When asked how easily amateurs in the late eighteenth century could master Mozart’s flute music, we played them on a Dejean-style 1789 boxwood flute to consider this. It led to having to research afresh what Mozart wrote, while uncovering a business fraud behind a 240-year-old riddle.


What did Mozart write for Dejean?

In 1777 Mozart agreed to a 200-guilder commission4 in Mannheim for Dejean. From Mozart’s letters5 and Köchel’s chronological first catalogue of Mozart’s works,6 there had long been a consensus that this comprised two concertos, an Andante,7 and three quartets. Writing to his father, Mozart described the original commission as “3 little, easy and short” concertos and a “pair” of quartets.8 Eventually he transposed an oboe concerto, wrote one original flute concerto plus the Andante, and produced a number of quartets for violin, viola, and cello, with the flute as lead instrument.

Mozart fourth flute quartet
Fig 2. The fourth quartet, spoof title and tempo in Mozart’s hand, reverting to a thick quill for the handwriting and key signature. (IMSLP, CCA-SA 4.0)

Mozart variably described two to four flute quartets for Dejean in his letters at the time, but he mentioned one concerto9 with three quartets in his last account. This understatement contradicts suggestions that Mozart exaggerated his flute output to please his father. The pattern is more in keeping with the genius being scatterbrained in his numerical rather than musical working memory. The ambiguity has caused debate over the number of Dejean quartets.


New evidence on Dejean’s later proximity to Mozart

Mozart finished the first two quartets10 by February 1778. (Fig 1) Dejean was in Vienna around the putative completion of two more flute quartets, numbers three (1781) and four (1787).11 Also, the third12 was printed in 178813 in Speyer on the Rhine, where Dejean must have stopped at least briefly on his journey that year. Mozart lived in Vienna from March 1781. Dejean was there too in May-June 1781 and spring-summer 1788, finally settling in the city in 1790.14

The short, simple fourth quartet was excluded from Mozart’s own catalogue, which he started in 1784,15 perhaps because, like other pieces, it was not for public use. A satirical Italian tempo title (Fig 2) has a cheeky overinclusion, shouting of Mozart’s mind: Rondieaoux: Allegretto grazioso, ma non troppo presto, però non troppo adagio. Così-così—con molto garbo ed espressione = (A neologistic) Rondeau: Graciously fairly fast, but not too fast, nor too slow. So-so—with much politeness and expression.

Given that Dejean was in the Freemasons with Mozart in Vienna, his involvement, though not proven, remains possible, consistent with Masonic fun. It still has outstanding charm and beauty. An early ink note on the manuscript says it was composed in Paris in 1778, but more reliably in time and specificity, records the donor as Mozart’s friend Baron de Jacquin. (Fig 3) Interestingly, he was in Dejean’s circle of Enlightenment scientists in Vienna. Dejean’s son inherited as sole heir in 1797, but died himself in 1799.16 Both deaths fit possible dates for Jacquin acquiring the manuscript with some distorted knowledge of a link to Dejean.

Opening theme, Mozart fourth flute quartet
Fig 3. Opening theme, fourth quartet. Mozart wrote the instrument names in thin, note quill. The note about Jacquin is attributed to Ignaz von Mosel, a composer and Court Library Director in the 1820’s. He wrote a book about Mozart’s Requiem in 1839. (IMSLP, CCA-SA 4.0)


New evidence on watermarks and the third quartet

In 1989, watermark analysis suggested that the third quartet was written too late to be part of Dejean’s contract.17 Six similar “REAL” watermarks with three crescents from the 1770’s are known,18 but the earliest sketch watermark letters of “AS C Z” are not watermark-catalogued, nor is any reference comparator of the 1781 date. That is because they are forgeries.

Unconnected work in 200119 proved that “AS CCC REAL” genuine watermarks were restricted to eighteenth-century Italian paper: “. . . but were widely imitated in other countries, notably in Austria and Czechoslovakia. Hence, great caution should be observed in making comparisons and drawing conclusions.”

So, the Italian word Real (Royal) only appeared as fake Austrian watermarks when manufacturers disguised poor, dark, rough paper, with pulp imperfections. Whether Mozart or someone else had leftover Austrian paper in Mannheim, took some afterwards to Paris, posted it later still, or used it in Vienna, we now know the watermarks are pretty meaningless for dating and batch classification. Because of cost, most paper at the time was used the year of purchase or within three years.19 The devious papermakers cast ripples of deception around the third quartet still felt 240 years later.


Painting of Dejean holding a flute
Fig 4. Dog-eared sixteen-side manuscript on Dejean’s music stand. (Kind permission Academic re-use free, not for commercial use without permission)

Discord over Dejean as a poor player

The musicologist Alfred Einstein revised Köchel’s catalogue three times. In 1945, he considered that Mozart wrote the Andante in C20 because the slow movement of the D major concerto was too hard for Dejean: “. . . the man who had commissioned the work evidently did not know what to do with it.”

This has been quoted ever since, but Dejean had sought out the world’s greatest flutist, Jean Baptiste Wendling, who introduced him to Mozart. He must have discussed practice with Wendling, and probably had formal lessons. Outstanding flutists teach methodically, and numerous baroque flute tutors reflected high standards.21,22,23 With regular, structured work most students progress well. Einstein was not a flutist and seems only to have considered Dejean playing folk tunes at a village dance, like something out of Breughel.

Dejean likely started flute lessons with a now forgotten player under the baton of Beethoven’s Kapellmeister grandfather, both colleagues of Dejean’s father Anton in the Bonn Court. There is no difference between the Andante and concerto slow movements in fingering complexity or their demand for expression. Dejean was probably more than capable of reading them with Wendling’s guidance.24

Dejean asked Mozart to compose for him and must have traveled up to 316 miles by Rhine boats from Leiden in Holland or Rheinberg to Mannheim.25 A successful senior professional does not spend four figures modern equivalent on such ventures unless they are productive. Dejean’s actions were probably commensurate with his ability, or at least his considered self-potential.

Painting detail
Fig 5. MO in sepia, beginning third line of the autograph title page. This is only discernible under magnification, indicating how it was painted. The picture has three other double letter clues. (Kind permission Academic re-use free, not for commerical use without permission)

Dividing eighteenth-century flute players as amateur or professional is artificial, as they would have overlapped in skill. Mozart lamented that flutes were usually played out of tune but praised Wendling as a master of baroque intonation’s differing semitones, now largely obsolete. Steady listening work on well-made instruments would have advanced most keen players’ tuning. They had a realistic possibility of sight-reading, tonguing semiquavers, and getting into the third octave in the second year.

Mozart’s flute concertos today are in advanced examination syllabuses, but hard-working intermediate players can make quick progress with them on either the baroque or the modern concert flute. The quartets and concertos are in C or even easier sharp key signatures, chosen for facility, with variety for color. The frequent F sharps in the lower two octaves need less effort to finger on late baroque flutes than the modern concert flute, because the right forefinger alone is flexed, not the little finger.26 D major is the easiest key on the baroque flute and it is no coincidence Mozart chose it for one each of the concertos and quartets. Some baroque flute third octave notes are tricky, if not impossible, but can be played, with practice, on a good instrument. Mozart’s more frequent top Ds and Gs tend to play very nicely.

Possibly on Wendling’s advice, Mozart minimized top F naturals, which play sharp and weak on many early flutes. They improve with exercises on a good instrument. Amateur musicians of tenacious personality like Dejean could have mastered the concertos. The quartets are easier still with the effort shared with the strings. The disparaging view that Dejean would have struggled is speculation contrary to evidence. The pieces are not so demanding technically or aesthetically as to have been a permanent, elitist exclusion. Mozart would not have wanted that.

The beautiful 1778 concerto for flute and harp has a relatively easy flute part, suggesting Dejean had superior ability, though Mozart admired the playing of its patron, Count Adrien-Louis de Bonnières. Blended with a complex harp contribution for his daughter, the virtuoso Marie Adrienne, the effect is glorious.27 Commissioned works could make helpful study pieces. The harp’s standard again illustrates the amateur-professional overlap.



Wendling was also a very talented composer. His flute concerto autographs usually have eight sides, lasting ten minutes. Mozart’s last twenty minutes. Dejean’s portrait shows a sixteen-side manuscript on his music stand. (Fig 4) The letters “MO . . .” on the front,1 in curling sepia bands, suggest an autograph, not a printed edition. (Fig 5) This was painted in miniature, under magnification. If it is a concerto, it appears to be double-length, consistent with Mozart’s durations.28 The dog-earing of Dejean’s copy fits a very intelligent player, who gravitated to the worlds’ best musicians, working hard. Dejean’s manuscript is open right in the middle, at the slow movement.

In performance duration, Dejean had four dazzling concertos-worth, and a fabulous additional slow movement, not the planned three short concertos. Mozart looks very eager to have kept his word. Dejean and Mozart were painted in the same Masonic group in Vienna,29 so it is hard to see that Dejean had not eventually paid Mozart in full for a satisfactory commission. Dejean deserves credit for a full patronage with no good reason to doubt he could play it. How many quartets did he get? Definitely two, probably three, possibly even four.


End notes

  1. He was a ship’s surgeon in the Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie (= United East India Company, VOC) and town surgeon in Batavia, Java, where he also did autopsies. Dejean later studied anatomy in Leiden. An earlier Hektoen article looked at the Enlightenment symbolism in his portrait by Jacobus Buys:
  2. gives Professor James L. Franklin’s fine, full account.
  3. Von Nissen, Georg N. Biographie W. A. Mozart’s. Breitkopf and Härtel, Leipzig, 1828, p. 127. After Nissen died in 1826, the book was finished from his notes by Johann Heinrich Feuerstein. The full quote is: “Dagegen wurde die von ihm für ein Gesellschafts-theater des bekannten freundes der Mozart’schen Familie, Dr. Mesmer, componirte deutsche Operette, Bastien und Bastienne, in dem Gartenhause Mesmers in einer Vorstadt Wiens aufgeführt.” A Danish diplomat, Nissen married Mozart’s widow, Constanze.
  4. Martin S. “Was the VOC funding Mozart? The diaries of Wilhelm Buschman on Kharg Island.” In press, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 2021. The bulk of Dejean’s millions in modern equivalent came from illicit pearl trading in the Persian Gulf by his wife’s first husband. Mozart documented struggling with the commission and doubts over completion and payment of about $2,500 modern equivalent.
  5. – open access facsimiles and German transcripts of all the family letters. Accessed October 2021.
  6. Von Köchel L R. Chronologisch-thematisches Verzeichniss sammtlicher Tonwerke Wolfgang Amade Mozart’s. Breitkopf & Härtel Leipzig, 1862. The original KV catalogue.
  7. All three: Concerto in G KV 313/K6 285c, Concerto in D KV 314/K6 285d (autographs lost; did they fall to bits? q.v. use evidence) and Andante in C KV 315/K6 285e (autograph in Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale) have Mozart’s orchestral accompaniment. He apparently orchestrated a Wendling flute concerto too, currently lost (personal communication, Dr. Emily Gunson). K6 is the 1964 6th edition catalogue, twice since reprinted unchanged.
  8. 10 December 1777, Mozart to Leopold, from Mannheim. Mozart had sought work in Mannheim, whose superb orchestra ran on a modern budgetary equivalent of about one million US dollars per annum.
  9. 3 October 1778, Mozart to Leopold, from Nancy. Presumably referring to the original G major concerto for Dejean, KV 313, while forgetting or ignoring that for the oboist Giuseppe Ferlendis in Salzburg, which he apparently transposed for Dejean from C major to D major, KV 314. The oboist Tiago Coimbra (personal communication) even argues very well from the existing evidence that KV 314 was original flute music and the concerto for Ferlendis is lost. Did Mozart have some dyscalculic numerical amnesia? It would account for these discrepancies and a compensatory neurodevelopmental musical genius.
  10. KV 285/K6 285 in D major and K6 285a in G major.
  11. Seiffert W-D. Schrieb Mozart drei Flötenquartette für Dejean? Neure Quellendatierung und Bemerkungen zur Familienkorrespondenz. Angermüller R, Berke D (Eds). Mozart-Jahrbuch 1987/88 des Zentralinstitutes für Mozart-Forschung der Internationalen Stiftung Mozarteum Salzburg. Bärenreiter; Kassel, Basel, London, New York, 1988. The “improbability” of a delayed date of quartet 3 is not persuasive with Dejean’s new movement evidence. The demarcation of the northern border of Mysore on Dejean’s globe dates his portrait and continuing interest in playing and emblematizing Mozart’s music to 1782 or later. The fourth quartet was plausibly dated to the end of 1787 by Alan Tyson from quoted musical passages.
  12. In C major, KV 285 Anhang (attachment) 171/K6 285b. Part of the of the music overlaps with the Third variation, Movement VI, Serenade no 10 in B flat major, KV 361/K6 370a, suggesting but not proving from its watermarks a later date than the first two quartets. See Tyson, A. Mozart: Studies of the Autograph Scores. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1990. Tyson concluded that Mozart traveled with the Dejean-style small rectangular paper in 1777-1779.
  13. By Heinrich Philipp Bossler, who knew Mozart personally and printed other works for him. He also published for Beethoven.
  14. Dejean lived in Vienna in the Jacoben Hof from 1790 until his death in 1797, when Haydn and Beethoven were also there. Nothing documents their meeting Dejean, but Beethoven drew on the first two bars of Dejean’s lovely D major flute quartet K 285 in the opening theme of the first movement of his Duo no. 1 for clarinet and bassoon, written in 1792. It is a tantalizing suggestion of contact with Dejean, who after all grew up with Beethoven’s father, a tenor in the Bonn Court. The Napoleonic crisis pushed migration, the Viennese Enlightenment pulled it. Beethoven started composing a flute chamber work, the Serenade op 25, in Dejean’s last year, but it was not completed for four years.
  15. Mozart W A. Eds Rosenthal A, Tyson A. Mozart’s Thematic Catalogue. A Facsimile. The British Library Board, London, 1990. The absence of the third quartet is consistent with the original notion of an early work for Dejean. The very last work Mozart entered was Masonic: Cantata K 623, Laut verkünde unsre Freude. The fourth flute quartet in A major is KV 298/K6 298.
  16. by Falk Steins, accessed October 2021 and: Bleker O, Lequin F. Ferdinand Dejean.1731-1797. VOC-chirurgijn, wereldburger en opdrachtgever van Mozart. Stichting Uitgeverij Noord-Holland, Wormerveer, 2013.
  17. Seiffert W-D. Neue Mozart-Ausgabe: Digitized version. Kritischer Bericht. Series VIII. Chamber Music 88: Quartets with one Woodwind Instrument, 1989. Online at: Accessed October 2021. Seiffert relied on a firm 1781 date for the watermark on the earliest sketch, now known to be spurious.
  18. Accessed August 2021.
  19. De la Rue J. Watermarks and Musicology. The Journal of Musicology, Vol. 18, No. 2, Spring 2001, pp. 313-343. Fake marks make batch analysis a lot less reliable without date limits. This appears to restore Köchel’s received wisdom quite considerably.
  20. Einstein A. Mozart, His character, His work. OUP 1962, p. 283. The author Alfred Einstein may have been a distant cousin of the physicist.
  21. Hotteterre J M. Principes de la flûte traversière, ou flûte d’Allemangne, de la flûte à bec ou flûte douce et du hautbois, divisez par traictez. Ballard, Paris, 1707.
  22. Quantz J J. Versuch eine Anweisung die Flöte Traversiere zu spielen. Voss, Berlin, 1752. Quantz played, composed, and taught for the flutist Frederick the Great. Several of his flutes survive in Berlin and Hohenzollern Castle.
  23. Tromlitz J G. Kurze Abhandlung vom Flötenspielen. Breitkopf, Leipzig, 1786. Tromlitz’s outstanding musical intelligence as an instrument maker, teacher, performer, and composer must have passed through his daughter, the singer-pianist Marianne, to her daughter: he was Clara Schumann’s grandfather.
  24. Wendling features frequently in the Mozart’s family correspondence, (ref 5, op cit, passim) always supporting and advocating him in Mannheim and later Paris. They met again in Munich and finally at the theatre in Frankfurt in 1790 when Mozart still spoke warmly of him. Mozart was excited to kiss Wendling’s soprano daughter Gustl in Mannheim, who was previously engaged to J C Bach. Telling his parents that, mentioning Wendling having “no religion,” and about Gustl having been the Elector Palatine’s mistress, seems to have come back to haunt him. Mozart’s mother wrote eagerly that he should not go to Paris with Wendling, who might have been a bad influence! The matter appears to have been a strong enough psychodynamic to contribute to distracting Mozart from monitoring and completing the task for Dejean, with or without any partial developmental dyscalculia.
  25. Rhine/Danube sail barges were the preferred eighteenth-century mode of transport North-South, being much smoother, safer, and more reliable than road carriages. See Arthur Lawton, quoted in “A Trip Down the Rhine” in, a fascinating account of eighteenth-century German emigration routes to Pennsylvania. Accessed September 2021. Dejean often resided with family in Rheinberg near the Rhine, still at least a 200-mile river trip to Mannheim. He kept his library somewhere in Leiden.
  26. Nor the little and ring finger F sharp, recorder-style, which Jacques-Martin Hotteterre used on his early baroque flutes.
  27. It is KV 299/K6 297c, autograph in Kraków BJ. He was Louis XVI’s ambassador to Britain and made Duke of Guines in 1776. He and Marie Adrienne escaped the guillotine, keeping out of France. Brutality, in the name of the Enlightenment, actually killed it.
  28. The surviving autograph score of the D major quartet (KV 285/K6 285), autograph in Kraków BJ, has thirty-one sides of written sheet music, again suggesting it is a Mozart flute concerto on Dejean’s stand. Accessed September 2021. Mozart inscribed the top of the first page “di Wolfgang Amadeo Mozart Mañheim in 5 Dec 1777.” Besides MO there are no other letters painted on Dejean’s music, though the picture has three other cryptic, miniature double-letter clues.
  29. Robbins Landon H C. Mozart and the Masons. New light on the lodge ‘Crowned Hope.’ The Walter Neurath Memorial Lecture 1982. Thames and Hudson, London, 1982. The great American musicologist analyzed the 1790 Viennese Masons painting with Mozart in the right foreground. (Wienmuseum) Pivotally, we note that Dejean appears to be center left, with his unusual light green suit described in his Viennese will inventory (Ref 16, Bleker op. cit.). He sits arthritic, knees splayed, as per a letter to Georg Forster regarding gout. He has the same old, dark, long, frontal-pointed wig, aquiline nose, and thick, dark, flat eyebrows; matching his portrait and an orchestral pencil drawing. It is him. In the latter, he is drawn tacit on second flute, alongside obvious images of Prince Max, the Count of Forbach, and Wendling on first flute. (Salzburg Mozarteum) After erroneous attribution to Zoffany, we think it is possibly by the Mannheim Court artist J C von Mannlich, and done under a beamed ceiling of Pettersheim or Schwetzingen. Falk Steins concluded Dejean arrived in Vienna in the summer or autumn of 1790, so Dejean’s presence indicates a date months later than 1 Jan to 15 Feb, as HCRL opined. The Masons appear to have been painted very shortly before the death on 28 September of Haydn’s boss, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, the Lodge Master. A September date explains Dejean’s absence from the earlier 1790 Lodge lists published by HCRL.



STEPHEN MARTIN is a retired neuropsychiatrist, was professor of flute at the University of Mahasarakham, Thailand, and holds medical approbation in the Rhineland Palatinate. He earlier studied paper, graphology, and facial recognition as a forensic medical examiner. He identified Dejean’s portrait.


Acknowledgements: Thanks go to Dr. Emily Gunson for clarifying primary sources on Wendling as a teacher and information on the Duke of Guines.


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