Mozart String Quartets - Solinger Streichquartett

Solinger Streichquartett
on peroid instruments
Heiko Schmitz, violin
Almuth Wiesemann, violin
Gunhild Mentges, viola
Peter Lamprecht, violoncello

Recorded in St. Georg church
Neu-Elfgen, Grevenbroich

Wolfgang Amdeus Mozart
Quartetto d-moll KV 421

[1] Allegro moderato (10:32)
[2] Andante (5:57)
[3] Menuetto, Allegretto (3:36)
[4] Allegro ma non troppo (8:54)

Quartetto C-dur KV 465

[5] Adagio - Allegro (13:43)
[6] Andante cantabile (6:27)
[7] Menuetto, Allegro (4:42)
[8] Allegro molto (10:58)

In the six quartets dedicated to Joseph Haydn - the D minor quartet K 421 is the second, the C major quartet K 465 the last of these - Mozart employed a completely new mode of quartet writing. The dedicating to Haydn was no coincidence: it was the encounter with Haydn’s string quartets which inspired Mozart to write these pieces. he made every conceivable effort in their composition. We know of no other scores by Mozart in which he rejected, reworked and improved passages to such an extent as he did here. Consequently, in his dedication of the works to Haydn, he recorded that these quartets were »the fruits of long and laborious toil«. Haydn in fact was the only contemporary whom Mozart regarded as his equal, and Haydn’s appreciation was of vital importance to him. He also was very keen to present the works to Haydn. Only one day after finishing the C major quartet and entering it in his personal catalogue, he had the complete series of six quartets performed before Haydn and a few friends. One month later, on the 12th of February 1785, three of the works, amongst them again the C major quartet, were once more played in Mozart’s appartment. In addition to Haydn, Mozart’s father was present on this occasion. It is quite probable that he played the first violin. Haydn was deeply impressed by the music. Leopold, in his famous letter to Nannerl, quotes him as follows:
»I tell you before God, as an honest man, your son is the greatest composer whom I know by person or by name; he has taste and what is more, the most comprehensive knowledge of musical composition«.
Even as a small child Mozart loved the pure major third more than any other interval and preferred major keys throughout his life. Of this twenty-six string quartets only two are in minor keys. In both cases his choice was D minor - beloved by string players, since it permits the full use of open strings. He was traditionalist in these matters and any desire for instrumental experimentation such as we know from Haydn’s quartets was completely foreign to him.
Constanze recounted that the D minor quartet K 421 was written during the delivery of her first child and that the cries she uttered had left their mark on the piece. The first part of the above statement is quite credible, for Mozart, when he was in the process of composing, did not let himself be put off even by the noise of a billiard room. One does not have to belive the second assertion though. One’s understanding of the quartet, at any rate, is not in any way furthered by searching for passages fitting this scene.
The C major quartet K 465 was later given the misleading nickname »Dissonance«; one that it has never been able to throw off. This name drives from a cross relation and a double suspension right at the beginning of the slow introduction of the piece. However, these are trifles when compared with the audacities Haydn invented to season his quartets. Mozart on his part was more intent on euphony and impeccable part writing. the C major quartet could serve as a model for these merits rather than for daring dissonances.
18th century string quartets were not written to be performed publicly in concert halls. They were meant to give pleasure to those who played them and to a few friends gathered in a music room. There is no hope that string quartet playing will ever again be the favourite leisure time occupation of the music lover, as it was in Mozart’s time. Instruments and music stands have vanished from modern living rooms and been replaced by stereo sets and CD players. They at least enable music lovers of our time, to enjoy Mozart’s quartet in the intimate atmosphere for which they were conceived.
Peter Lamprecht

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