Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (b. 1756 - d. 1791)
Performance date: 26/06/2010
Venue: St. Brendan’s Church
Composition Year: 1782
Recording Engineer: Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation: 2vn, va, vc
Instrumentation Category:String Quartet
Artis Quartet (Peter Schuhmayer, Johannes Meissl [violins], Herbert Kefer [viola], Othmar Müller [cello]) -
Quartet is the first in the series of six that were dedicated to his
friend and mentor, Joseph Haydn, with
a long, highly personal and revealing dedication: ‘…
Here they are then, O great Man and my dearest Friend, these six
children of mine … the fruit of long and laborious endeavour …
You yourself, dearest friend, told me of your satisfaction with them
during your last visit to this capital … May it therefore please
you to receive them kindly and to be their Father, Guide and friend!
Haydn’s Op.33 set of six quartets had been completed the previous
year and published in the Spring of 1782. There seems little doubt
that Mozart’s set was by way of a reply. The year 1782 was also the
period when Mozart undertook his intensive studies of the fugues by
the Bach family, Wilhelm Friedemann’s and Johann Christian’s as well
as Johann Sebastian’s. He discovered their work in the library of his
friend and patron, Baron von Swieten, who hosted private concerts of
Bach’s and Handel’s music every
Sunday at noon.
These studies bore fruit in the many fugues that Mozart composed and
arranged in this period, but with none of them quite so superbly
outrageous as the Finale of this Quartet.
we consider the string quartet as the art of musical conversation
among four equal partners, then this quartet is not yet fully
liberated from its baroque origins where the musical interest is
confined to the melody instruments and rarely extended to the
continuo, the cello in this case. In the first three Quartets of this
series, Mozart is still tied by the baroque tradition, so the cello
does not get to take a leading melodic role except when the four-part
texture is subject to the laws of strict composition.
this is one of his most dense and elaborate works where both his
harmonic invention and his control of polyphony are at their most
impressive. The key of G major turns out to lead to some rough
dissonances despite the surface polish. The opening subject has a
sinuous line that readily lends itself to chromatic and contrapuntal
development. Indeed the extended development section is almost
entirely concerned with the possibilities this theme offers. The
second subject has two sections, both bright and airy and full of
brilliant dynamic contrasts. It ends with a cadence that serves as a
form of punctuation throughout the development and the lengthy
recapitulation and indeed has the last word in the coda.
feature of Haydn’s Russian Quartets was the increasing complexity of
his Minuets, which he renamed Scherzos (Hans Keller calls them
anti-minuets). He did this by calling into question the basic dance
structure of the minuet. Mozart follows Haydn’s example by distorting
the dance character of this minuet, the 3/4 beat keeps jumping the
rails in increasingly eccentric ways. This fascinating exercise
greatly extends the scope of this movement, without in any way
compromising its charm. The Trio announces itself with intrusive G
minor chords, which crush every attempt to create delicate threads of
melody. The return of the minuet is a relief after this threatening
another fantastic harmonic journey like the first movement. The
richly decorated theme is seduced into travelling to the most obscure
and faraway tonalities before returning to more familiar regions.
This is a wonderfully spacious movement, the emotional heart and
expressive climax of the quartet. The Finale is Mozart showing off
his mastery of the deadly serious business of composing fugues by
using themes straight out of opera
archaic notion of the fugue is made to turn somersaults with themes
that could have come straight out the Seraglio.
the sober four notes contour of the initial fugal theme quickly turns
acrobatic when juxtaposed with the joyful counter-themes. This
brilliant high-wire act of Mozart bringing together all his learning
in a high-spirited finale is the ideally effervescent conclusion to
this remarkable work.
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