Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Nationality: Austrian
Born: January 27, 1756, Salzburg Died: December 5, 1791, Vienna (age 35)

Horn Quintet in E-flat major, K. 407 (386c) (for violin, 2 violas, cello and horn)

(for violin, 2 violas, cello and horn)
5:53 I. [Allegro]
6:05 II. Andante
3:59 III. Rondo. Allegro
Duration: 17 minutes (approximately)
Composed: c. 1782 (age 25-26)
Note: No tempo indication for first movement. "Allegro" typically used.
9 recordings, 21 videos
autoopen autoplay
4:21
Radek Baborák, Baborák Ensemble
I. [Allegro]
6:08
Radek Baborák, Baborák Ensemble
II. Andante
3:58
Radek Baborák, Baborák Ensemble
III. Rondo. Allegro
4:12
Denis Brain, et. al.
I. [Allegro]
4:55
Denis Brain, et. al.
II. Andante
3:41
Denis Brain, et. al.
III. Rondo. Allegro
6:05
Nash Ensemble
I. [Allegro]
6:09
Nash Ensemble
II. Andante
3:42
Nash Ensemble
III. Rondo. Allegro
6:41
Zheng, Lipohar, Wright, Dukas
I. [Allegro]
4:45
Zheng, Lipohar, Wright, Dukas
II. Andante
4:21
Zheng, Lipohar, Wright, Dukas
III. Rondo. Allegro
17:47
Unknown ensemble (complete)
6:27
Unknown ensemble
I. [Allegro]
6:26
Unknown ensemble
II. Andante
4:13
Unknown ensemble
III. Rondo. Allegro
17:02
Greer, et. al.
6:19
Allegrini, et. al.
I. [Allegro]
7:18
Allegrini, et. al.
II. Andante
3:48
Allegrini, et. al.
III. Rondo. Allegro
18:00
Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields
From Kai Christiansen

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Quintet in E-flat Major for Horn and Strings, K. 407, 1782
Wolfgang Amadeus MozartMozart's Horn Quintet is, like all of his chamber music, utterly charming, engaging and perfectly constructed. But this work is engaging for different and more subtle reasons than his other string chamber music. Rather than the counterpoint, rich harmonies, suave chromaticism and the frequent drama prominent in his other works, this quintet engages with different aspects: the tone and natural personality of the horn, and the unique but dynamic nature of quintet ensemble itself. This is an adventure in sonority and juxtaposition.

The work is curiously scored for two violas rather than two violins. With the weight shifted to the lower voices, the horn seems to enjoy a more kindred, warm accompaniment. In addition, the single violin becomes more prominent. The quintet is sometimes considered to be closer to a concerto than a pure chamber work of equal players, but if this is so, it is for a concertante ensemble that includes the violin as well. Much of the texture features the interplay of the violin and the horn against the backdrop of the lower strings emphasized not only by the presence of the horn but even the frequent absence of the violin. Upon attentive listening, the quintet reveals a constantly shifting texture featuring different sub-groupings: the string quartet and the horn, the violin and the horn, the pairing of the horn and the cello, and the string quartet alone. With the fundamentally contrasting timbre of the horn and the isolation of the violin, the ensemble is more spacious, highlighting these dynamic aspects of texture more vividly than other string chamber ensembles.

The quintet has three movements. The first movement sonata features the antiphony between violin and horn. As is often the case with Mozart, it is the development in the recapitulation that is more interesting than the development section itself. The return of the opening material is treated to delightful elaboration with elongated phrases, richer lines and a refreshing key change. The second movement is literally the heart of the work: it is a sweet and even longing andante with the truest chamber textures in the work in the full range of shifting alliances. The final movement restores the bright mood with a lively rondo, playful but always elegant. Its last episode and rondo refrain satisfy any want of chamber texture with excellent part writing including the final bow of each instrument in five-part imitation for a witty close.

Mozart wrote his horn quintet in 1782 for Ignaz Leutgeb, a horn player in the Salzburg orchestra who also inspired Mozart's four horn concertos. The entire personality of the quintet is influenced by the horn, not only by its presence but also by the motifs and harmonies that so naturally, even affectionately, highlight its essence. (For rich variety of primary intervals, chord inversions, pedals and blending, this is an ingenious and supremely musical study). A work of grace and balance, it nonetheless demands much of the horn player to achieve an effortless effect, particularly if played on the valveless "natural" horn of Mozart's time.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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