Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

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

String Quintet No. 4 in g minor, K. 516

(for 2 violins, 2 violas and cello)
9:47 I. Allegro
5:16 II. Menuetto. Allegretto
8:46 III. Adagio ma non troppo
10:10 IV. Adagio - Allegro
Duration: 35 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1787, May (age 31)
Published: c. 1790, Vienna: Artaria (age 33-34)
13 recordings, 35 videos
autoopen autoplay
10:17
Alban Berg Quartet, Markus Wolf
I. Allegro
4:47
Alban Berg Quartet, Markus Wolf
II. Menuetto. Allegretto
8:29
Alban Berg Quartet, Markus Wolf
III. Adagio ma non troppo
10:27
Alban Berg Quartet, Markus Wolf
IV. Adagio - Allegro
14:43
Vienna String Quintet
I. Allegro
5:20
Vienna String Quintet
II. Menuetto. Allegretto
8:43
Vienna String Quintet
III. Adagio ma non troppo
10:26
Vienna String Quintet
IV. Adagio - Allegro
11:29
Tokyo String Quartet, Pinchas Zukerman
I. Allegro
5:21
Tokyo String Quartet, Pinchas Zukerman
II. Menuetto. Allegretto
9:10
Tokyo String Quartet, Pinchas Zukerman
III. Adagio ma non troppo
3:08
Tokyo String Quartet, Pinchas Zukerman
IV. Adagio - Allegro (part 1 of 2)
7:34
Tokyo String Quartet, Pinchas Zukerman
IV. Adagio - Allegro (part 2 of 2)
32:32
Unknown ensemble
7:42
Talich Quartet, Karel Rehak
I. Allegro
5:06
Talich Quartet, Karel Rehak
II. Menuetto. Allegretto
8:42
Talich Quartet, Karel Rehak
III. Adagio ma non troppo
9:53
Talich Quartet, Karel Rehak
IV. Adagio - Allegro
33:54
Löscher, et. al.
37:44
Hausmusik (complete)
7:55
Fine Arts Quartet, Dupouy
I. Allegro
5:44
Fine Arts Quartet, Dupouy
II. Menuetto. Allegretto
9:22
Fine Arts Quartet, Dupouy
III. Adagio ma non troppo
10:05
Fine Arts Quartet, Dupouy
IV. Adagio - Allegro
8:31
Budapest Quartet, Trampler
I. Allegro
5:37
Budapest Quartet, Trampler
II. Menuetto. Allegretto
9:38
Budapest Quartet, Trampler
III. Adagio ma non troppo
10:05
Budapest Quartet, Trampler
IV. Adagio - Allegro
34:38
Bowman, et. al.
7:30
Amadeus Quartet, Aronowitz
I. Allegro
5:05
Amadeus Quartet, Aronowitz
II. Menuetto. Allegretto
8:40
Amadeus Quartet, Aronowitz
III. Adagio ma non troppo
10:08
Amadeus Quartet, Aronowitz
IV. Adagio - Allegro
32:07
Amadeus Quartet (complete)
38:43
Accardo, et. al.
From Kai Christiansen

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

String Quintet No. 4 in g minor, K. 516, 1787

Wolfgang Amadeus MozartIn 1787, Mozart wrote a pair of string quintets scored for two violins, two violas and cello. Often called "viola quintets" to distinguish them from the "cello quintets" of Boccherini and Schubert, where the cello is doubled, these two Mozart quintets essentially gave birth to a new ensemble and genre that runs like a rarefied thread of rich chamber music through the 19th and 20th centuries. As he did in his final two symphonies, Mozart imbued his nearly simultaneous but clearly fraternal twins with yin and yang natures: K. 515 in C major is sunny and bountiful; K. 516 in g minor is predominantly dark, tragic and, at times, violent. Together, they are typically regarded as Mozart's finest chamber music. Both works spread out on a grand scale with untold riches of musical art. Always astonishing with his deft scoring, Mozart surely indulges his love of the viola here with an emphasis on rich inner voices as well as prominent lead roles for the first chair.

Given its apparent ruling key of g minor, K. 516 is startlingly dramatic and vivid in personality and form. The sweeping opening sonata movement migrates from an agitated theme in g minor to a more lyrical, falling theme in B-flat major, a key change that is much easier to hear than sonatas written in a major key. As if speaking to textbooks on form that would first be written several decades later, Mozart provides a dark "masculine" theme that softens into a "feminine" theme, each with an individual short rhythmic motif that places the two in stronger contrast. The first theme belongs to the violin, the second to the viola. Mozart's lavish development juxtaposes this inner yin and yang with great flexibility including playing the motives together as well as shifting their modality between major and minor imbuing the motives with entirely new character. The "textbook" rule for any sonata movement predicts that it will resolve into it's home key. For now, any lyrical brightness is subdued and conquered by shadow.

This dark and light polarity becomes most vivid in the minuet. The outer section features a pair of stabbing, accented chords, anguished outbursts of powerful musical violence. A brief interlude of calm only provokes the sinister as the chords return, three times with greater dissonance and black resolve. The trio throws open the window as pastoral light floods the atmosphere in euphoric repose. But this is only an ephemeral respite before the da capo resurgence of stark severity.

With the third movement adagio, Mozart finally relents into a languid, tender song that floats softly on muted strings into more peaceful realms. A prominent four-note motive engages in conversational counterpoint and twice, the mood edges towards a hint of despair. But all sorrow is gathered again in the embrace of a duet for violin and viola, each singing to the other with affectionate reassurance as the music settles, unperturbed.

Mozart concludes his epic quintet with a masterful dramatic stroke that twice confounds the future textbooks as far as their simple formulae. The finale begins with a lengthy adagio introduction practically writhing in a suspended atmosphere of dissonance and unresolved tension. It is unusual for a classical composer to place two adagios back to back, but the contrast of mood and potential energy renders their similar tempi moot. Mozart is surely leading us to the final slaughter of a decisive conclusion in g minor. Not so! Suddenly, a lilting, carefree rondo dances into G major, its genial beneficence made all the more magnificent by Mozart's feint. Balance, light and gallant elegance dispel all trauma like turning on the lights and laughing after a perfectly convincing ghost story.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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