String Quartet in C major K.157

Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (b. 1756 - d. 1791)
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Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (b. 1756 - d. 1791)

Performance date: 29/06/2009

Venue: Bantry Library

Composition Year: 1772-3

Duration: 00:12:26

Recording Engineer: Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation: 2vn, va, vc

Instrumentation Category:String Quartet

Artists: Callino Quartet (Sarah Sexton, Mihaela Girardi [violins], Rebeccca Jones [viola], Sarah McMahon [cello]) - [quartet]

Mozart father and son travelled three times to Italy, each time the teenage composer had to write a new opera. He would fill the time spent waiting for librettos or singers by writing symphonies or quartets. The so-called Milan quartets (K.155-160) belong to Lucia Silla, which was composed in November/December 1772 for a premiere on St Stephen’s Day. The obstacles were endless, first Vienna had to approve the libretto, then he had to await the singers for he must hear them before he wrote their music. The tenor fell ill of course and his replacement arrived nine days before the performance and was so unsuitable, great chunks of his music had to be cut and the rest rewritten. However the Teatro Regio Ducal functioned with astounding efficiency, manuscript with ink still wet flew from seventeen-year-old composer to copyists as singers and musicians rehearsed what they could. Even so the start of the 6-hour opera was delayed by two hours waiting for Archduke Ferdinand to appear and it went on until two in the morning. The production went on to get twenty-six consecutive performances.
Somewhere in all of this Mozart found time to write his six short quartets (around twelve minutes each) that were almost contemporaneous with Haydn’s Opus 9, 17 and 20. When Mozart next came to compose quartets later in 1773 he would have seen Haydn’s scores and would strive to emulate him. The Milan quartets see Mozart no longer restricting the viola and cello to slavishly accompanying the violins, while the second violin also gets a chance to strike out on its own. The opening movement of K.157 is cheerful and playful in mood. The Andante grows out of a plaintive theme presented by the first violin before being picked up by the viola and second violin. After the first half repeat the theme bursts into passionate declamation before sinking back. The Finale is a miniature presto rondo that races by with youthful high spirits.