Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

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

String Quartet No. 14 in G major, Op. 10, "Haydn", No. 1, K. 387, "Spring"

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
7:14 I. Allegro vivace assai
7:46 II. Menuetto. Allegro - Trio
7:39 III. Andante cantabile
5:47 IV. Molto allegro
Duration: 29 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1782 (age 25-26)
Published: 1785, Artaria (age 28-29)
Dedication: Joseph Haydn
7 recordings, 19 videos
autoopen autoplay
7:28
Takács Quartet
I. Allegro vivace assai
8:24
Takács Quartet
II. Menuetto. Allegro - Trio
8:20
Takács Quartet
III. Andante cantabile
5:46
Takács Quartet
IV. Molto allegro
7:59
Éder Quartet
I. Allegro vivace assai
8:53
Éder Quartet
II. Menuetto. Allegro - Trio
7:43
Éder Quartet
III. Andante cantabile
5:29
Éder Quartet
IV. Molto allegro
28:56
Unknown ensemble (complete)
30:56
Quatuor Rosamonde
5:51
Nomos Quartet
I. Allegro vivace assai
4:27
Nomos Quartet
II. Menuetto. Allegro - Trio
6:46
Nomos Quartet
III. Andante cantabile
4:20
Nomos Quartet
IV. Molto allegro
25:32
Kubin Quartet
5:55
Budapest Quartet
I. Allegro vivace assai
8:16
Budapest Quartet
II. Menuetto. Allegro - Trio
7:47
Budapest Quartet
III. Andante cantabile
4:17
Budapest Quartet
IV. Molto allegro
From Kai Christiansen

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756-179

String Quartet in G Major, K. 387, No. 1 of the "Haydn" Quartets, 1782

MozartAfter moving to Vienna, acquiring a deeper education in Bach, meeting Haydn for the first time and encountering his landmark string quartets, Op. 33, published only a year before in 1781, a twenty-six-year-old Mozart turned again to the genre of string quartet. Motivated purely by inspiration and respect rather than the dictates of patronage or the good fortune of commission, Mozart worked hard over a period of roughly two years to compose what became the set of six quartets he dedicated to Haydn. Of the twenty-three quartets he wrote, even among the celebrated last ten, the "Haydn" quartets are considered Mozart's finest. In technique, variety, ingenuity and sheer musical brilliance, they constitute an important landmark of their own equal to if not surpassing Haydn's models (at least up to that time). Together, the twelve quartets of Mozart and Haydn combined comprise the first great watershed of Viennese Classical chamber music. The first, and in some ways, most impressive of Mozart's set is the String Quartet in G Major, K. 387, completed in December of 1782.

The first movement sonata has two prominent themes, both sharply articulated by dynamic contrasts between loud and soft with segments that move in small chromatic steps. These qualities – frequent dynamic contrast and chromaticism – characterize themes in the other movements as well suggesting an artistic unity to the quartet as a whole, a rare trait this early in the string quartet history. The development is a rich example of the quartet as an enlightened conversation among friends, a musical conversation much in the manner of operatic recitative, a natural inclination for Mozart. As always with his chamber music sonata forms, the so-called "recapitulation" features significant elaboration and extension making the thematic recurrence more than a mere reprise, but in fact, a much fuller realization creating an elevated conclusion.

The Menuetto theme begins with two gentle downward leaps, then combines both the loud/soft dynamics and the chromatic vocabulary from the previous movement into a jerky upward climb that hints at the future of the scherzo genre with a mild jest elaborated in contrary motion by the cello. The section is rounded off by a lovely, poised minuet phrase, all gallant propriety restored with the unaccented chromatic line trailing off in well-mannered conclusion. The second reprise inverts both the leaps and the chromatic line while shifting the melodic roles down into the cello and viola parts for a witty contrast that revels in Mozart's newfound facility for independent part writing. Yet another contrast exercises the full range and power of quartet texture as the trio begins with all four players in bold unison. Dramatic with its minor key, continued chromatic and dynamic tension, and a sorrowful sighing motif (in the cello), the trio introduces the first dark shadow in the quartet. With a formal plan of dramatic modulation even in the Menuetto, all four movements of this early classical masterpiece are ruled by sonata form.

Moving to the warm glow of the sub-dominant key (C major), the Andante cantabile sings an exquisitely graceful song, sophisticated with shifts into pathos, its supple heroic reassertions and its radiant flairs of divine beauty. The dark intensity of the trio returns along with the stark intonations of all four instruments in unison. But this wayward tangent is lovingly coaxed back into illumination with gentle guidance that rises into a rich, polyphonic cadence that blossoms into four independent but interwoven threads. The marvel of this slow movement is beautifully expressed by Alec King who writes, "Mozart pours forth a stream of rapt, contemplative music . . . rich . . . soaring . . .with beautifully calculated climaxes. It is a remarkable example of the sustained, exalted feeling expressed with wonderful harmonic resource, yet without a single melodic phrase that is at all memorable in itself."

MozartThe finale is a further miracle and an important milestone in the history of the string quartet and classical music in general. Cast in sonata form, its exposition is made of equal parts polyphonic fugue and homophonic melody with accompaniment, the ancient learned style and the fashionable gallant style seamlessly mixed into a wonder of exciting complexity and relaxing ease, a unified drama par excellence. The reintroduction of polyphony as a compliment to the accompanied lyricism of the progressive sonata form is one of the key events in achieving the mature classical style and it is difficult to find another example of the effortless, almost insouciant blend that Mozart attained here (the closest example being Mozart's own Jupiter Symphony whose finale uses almost the same theme). Each of the two thematic areas of the sonata includes both a fugato (a portion of a fugue) and an accompanied theme. The second thematic area even combines the first and second fugato subjects into a double fugato. The development begins with yet another fugato based on a new, third theme. With its Molto Allegro drive, its rococo shimmer and its contrapuntal grandeur, one would expect a conclusion of awesome might. Instead, Mozart ends with subtle, delicate finesse, quietly completing the final statement of the first fugato subject with its missing three-note tail for perfect harmonic closure as if he were whispering the simple solution to a perplexing but delightful riddle. In addition to highlighting the contrapuntal riches of the fresh but now mature quartet form, Mozart simultaneously demonstrates two other cardinal features of the genre: humor and intimacy.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Related Composers

1800 Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788) Leopold Mozart (1719-1787) Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) Johann Schobert (c.1735-1767) Josef Mysliveček (1737-1781) Michael Haydn (1737-1806) Emanuel Aloys Förster (1748-1823) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) Johann Hummel (1778-1837) Franz Mozart (1791-1844)
Leopold Mozart (1719-1787)
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Nationality: German
Born: November 14, 1719, Augsburg Died: May 28, 1787, Salzburg (age 67)
Franz Mozart (1791-1844)
Son
Nationality: Austrian
Born: July 26, 1791, Vienna Died: July 29, 1844, Carlsbad (age 53)
Johann Hummel (1778-1837)
Student
Nationality: Austrian
Born: November 14, 1778, Pressburg (now Bratislava) Died: October 17, 1837, Weimar (age 58)
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
colleague
Nationality: Austrian
Born: March 31, 1732, Rohrau, Austria Died: May 31, 1809, Vienna (age 77)
Emanuel Aloys Förster (1748-1823)
Friend/Colleague
Nationality: Austrian | Bohemian
Born: January 26, 1748, Niederstaina Died: November 12, 1823, Vienna (age 75)