String Quintet in C major K.515

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

Performance date: 03/07/2017

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 1787

Duration: 00:35:41

Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation Category:String Quintet

Artists: Dana Zemtsov - [viola]
Quatuor Zaïde (Charlotte Juillard [violin], Leslie Boulin Raulet [violin] Sarah Chenaf [viola] Juliette Salmona [cello]) - [quartet]

The early spring of 1787 was a busy
time for Mozart. He was working on a commission for his new opera,
Don Giovanni, his father was slowly dying in Salzburg, Mozart
himself was not well, he moved house, the young Beethoven arrived on
his doorstep looking for instruction and he wrote the two miraculous
quintets in C major and G minor back to back. He moved from his
elegant but very expensive city centre apartment to a spacious house
with a large garden in a quiet suburb. Some Mozart scholars follow
Leopold Mozart in immediately assuming the worst, namely that Mozart
had been overspending and needed to retrench by moving to less
expensive lodgings. Others have argued persuasively that Mozart no
longer needed the large city centre apartment that he took on at the
height of the success of his subscription concerts; instead a quiet
district and a large garden may have seemed attractive with a young
child, another on the way and his own indifferent health. Whatever
the answer, the majestic, outgoing C major Quintet was written in the
old apartment and the tragic, inward-looking G minor Quintet was the
first product in the new house.

Music making in Vienna had changed
since the height of Mozart’s fame as a pianist and composer a few
years earlier. The threat of the Turkish War and the Emperor’s fiscal
reforms had reduced the desire and the ability of the aristocracy to
spend lavishly on orchestral concerts. Instead there was a growing
bourgeoisie who liked to ape the aristocracy by promoting chamber
music soirées and were prepared to pay both musicians and composer.
Unfortunately Mozart’s chamber music had become increasingly complex
for this kind of audience and, hard though it is to believe, there
were no subscribers for the set of three quintets in C major, G minor
and C minor.

There is something indescribably joyful
about the effortless mastery and bewitching beauty of this quintet.
The opening cello theme and the violin’s deft answer create a sense
of serene spaciousness, as though an entire world existed inside
those phrases. This is immediately turned upside down as the cello
intriguingly becomes the answer instead of the question. The second
group opens into a web of bewitching patterns that culminates with a
gently murmuring figure which leads us back to the opening duet.

The Andante is one of Mozart’s sublime
rhapsodies, an inspired dialogue between first violin and first
viola. The other strings act as a discreet accompaniment, so openly
spaced as to enhance the passages where they blend with the two
leaders into the richness of the full quintet. In contrast the minuet
is much more inward looking and darkly questioning as though suddenly
uncertain of its direction. The Trio, however, unveils sudden bursts
of confidence and the craftsmanship throughout is so exquisite that
no listener can remain unmoved. By darkening the minuet movement
Mozart redoubles the effect of the buoyancy of the final
sonata-rondo. This is one of those movements you wish would go on for
ever and, indeed, at 537 bars, is the longest single instrumental
movement he ever wrote. He treats the enchanted opening melody with
incredible diversity and brilliance at each of its returns. There is
a mid-movement imitative episode, whose profound simplicities
prefigure the inspired naïvety of The Magic Flute. This is music
that could restore one faith in a broken world.

Francis Humphrys