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ClassicsOnline Home » MOZART: String Quartets, K. 464 and K. 428
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of a musician who was later appointed Vice-Kapellmeister to the ruling Archbishop, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart won international fame as a child prodigy. He showed particular ability as a keyboard-player and as a violinist, astonishing audiences by his skill and musical understanding, and later as a composer. Adolescence in Salzburg proved less satisfactory, particularly after the death of the old Archbishop and the succession of a new patron who showed much less indulgence to members of his household. Leopold Mozart had early realised the exceptional gifts of his son and had made it his business to develop them to the detriment of his own career, but father and son both understood that provincial Salzburg was far too limited in its opportunities. Eventually, in 1781, during the course of a visit to Vienna in the entourage of the Archbishop, Mozart quarrelled with his employer and secured his dismissal. The remaining ten years of his life were spent in Vienna, where he enjoyed initial success and later more variable fortune, in relative independence of his father and of a patron. He died in December 1791, when matters seemed to have taken a turn for the better, with the success of the German opera Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) and a promise of employment at the Cathedral of St. Stephen.
In Vienna Mozart appeared during his early years in the city as a virtuoso pianist, writing a series of piano concertos, principally for his own use. In Salzburg he had at one time paid considerable attention to the violin, and his father, an authority on the subject of violin teaching and author of a well known book on the subject, considered he could have been as good a violinist as anyone. In Salzburg he was for some years Konzertmeister, before leaving in 1777 to seek his fortune in Mannheim and in Paris. When he returned in 1779 it was as court organist. It must be supposed that Mozart would always have been ready to take part in musical performances at home or perhaps at social gatherings, in whatever capacity, and we have one account, at least, of a memorable evening of quartet playing at a party given by Stephen Storace, when Mozart played the viola, Haydn and Dittersdorf the violins and a fourth composer, Vanhal, the cello, to the great pleasure of the singer Michael Kelly, who recorded the event, and to the poet Casti and the composer Paisiello, who were also present.
Mozart completed some 26 string quartets, the first in 1770, at the age of fourteen, and the last in June 1790, the year before his death, when he wrote the first three quartets of a proposed set of six for the King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia. The Quartet in A major, K. 464, was entered into Mozart's index of his works on 10th January 1785, to be published in September by Artaria as one of a set of six, forming, collectively, Opus X, in the publisher's description. Mozart dedicated the six quartets to Joseph Haydn, offering them as the result of long and laborious study. Three of the quartets were not new, but had been written in 1782 and 1783, while Haydn had heard the three new ones played at Mozart's house in February, during the course of a visit to Vienna by Leopold Mozart, who was comforted by the praise Haydn bestowed on his son. These Haydn quartets of Mozart, written under the influence of the older composer, had their own reciprocal influence on Haydn's own later quartets. The A major Quartet, the fifth of the set, opens gently enough with a delicate first violin melody, echoed in contrapuntal imitation by the other instruments. The second subject proposes a simple interrogative, answered in a triplet rhythm that allows later imitation. There is scope for further imitative treatment of the first subject in the central development section of the movement. The Minuet opens with a figure played in octaves, delicately answered in a phrase that gives room for further development. The E major Trio provides a contrast in key, rhythm and dynamics. The first violin announces the principal theme of the D major Andante sotto voce and this is followed by a series of variations, the fourth in D minor. The repeated accompaniment figure of the final variation has led to the nick name "The Drum", current among Austrian musicians. The last movement of this quartet, the Mozart quartet that Beethoven most admired, opens with harmonic ambiguity and containing two short rhythmic figures that have an important rô1e to play in what follows.
The Quartet in E flat major, K. 428, was written in Vienna in the summer of 1783. It is the fourth of the set dedicated in 1785 to Haydn. In April the next year Mozart mentions Zeno Franz Menzel as a charming violinist and one who has proved an excellent sight-reader in the composer's quartets, probably the earliest three of the Haydn set, K. 387, K. 421 and K. 428, the last of which preceded in order of composition the third quartet, K. 458 in B flat, The Hunt. The E flat Quartet opens with a motif in octaves, followed by a subtle combination of elements that form a movement of deceptive simplicity. The A flat slow movement, in compound metre, is in tripartite form, its opening figure suggesting the material developed in the central section. The original key is restored in the Minuet, more of a scherzo than a dance, framing a B flat Trio that eventually allows each instrument a share of the running melody. The surprises of the last movement again show Mozart's understanding of Haydn, in a form of composition that is taxing to the composer in its transparency of texture, where nothing can be hidden.
The Éder Quartet
The Éder Quartet was founded by members of the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music. The present players, the first violinist Pál Éder, the second violinist Erika Tóth. violist Zoltán Tóth and cellist György Éder, have been performing together since 1977 throughout Europe and America.
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MOZART: String Quartets, K. 464 and K. 428