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ClassicsOnline Home » MOZART: String Quintets, K. 593 and K. 614
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
String Quintets Vol. 3
String Quintet in D major, K.593
String Quintet in E flat major, K.614
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of a musician who, in the year of his youngest child's birth, published an initial book on violin-playing. Leopold Mozart rose to occupy the position of Vice-Kapellmeister to the Archbishop of Salzburg, but sacrificed own creative career to that of his son, in whom he detected early signs of precocious genius. With the indulgence of his patron, he was able to undertake extended concert tours of Europe in which his son and his elder daughter Nannerl were able to astonish audiences. The boy played both the keyboard and the violin and could improvise and soon write down his own compositions.
Childhood that had brought Mozart signal success was followed by a less satisfactory period of adolescence largely in Salzburg, under the patronage new and less sympathetic Archbishop. Like his father, Mozart found opportunities far too limited at home, while chances of travel were now restricted. In 1777, when leave of absence was not granted he gave up employment in Salzburg to seek a future elsewhere, but neither Mannheim Paris, both musical centres of some importance, had anything for him. His Mannheim connections, however, brought a commission for an opera in Munich in 1781, but after its successful staging he was summoned by his patron to Vienna. There Mozart's dissatisfaction with his position resulted in a quarrel with the Archbishop and dismissal from his service.
The last ten years of Mozart's life were spent in Vienna in precarious independence of both patron and immediate paternal advice, a situation aggravated by an imprudent marriage. Initial success in the opera-house and as a performer was followed, as the decade went on, by increasing financial difficulties. By the time of his death in December 1791, however, his fortunes seemed about to change for the better, with the success of the German opera The Magic Flute, and the possibility of increased patronage.
Mozart's last two string quintets were written in Vienna in December 1790 and April 1791 respectively. These were published posthumously together by Artaria in May 1793, with the first of them described as "composto per un amatore ongarese" (composed for a Hungarian music-lover} and both advertised in the Wiener Zeitung as auf eine sehr thätige Aneiferung eines Musikfreundes (at the very urgent request of a music-lover}. It has been suggested by Ernst Fritz Schmid, quoted by Ernst Hess in his introduction to the Neue Mozart Ausgabe edition of the quintets, that this unknown person was Johann Tost, to be identified with Haydn's violinist and the purveyor of some of the latter's compositions to Paris. Tost, leader of the second violins at Esterházy and seemingly to be identified with the cloth-merchant of the same name, the business to be presumed a consequence of his marriage, had moved to Moravia, but later in the 1790s was certainly in Vienna, when he struck a bargain with Spohr for the right to allow the performance of the latter's compositions at places to which he would also be invited, in the interests of business. That the quintets were written at the urging of Tost is speculation. Nevertheless Tost had been a talented player and Haydn and others had dedicated works to him.
The String Quintet in D major, K.593, scored like the others for two violins, two violas and cello, starts with a slow introduction, opened by a brief ascending figure in the cello that recurs in at first ascending sequence, answered by the other instruments. The mood changes with a cheerful Allegro and an exuberant first subject. As the movement progresses there are motifs that had been suggested in one form or another in the introduction. The second subject key of A major allows a re-appearance of the first subject, forgotten for a moment in the closing section of the exposition, which is repeated. Triplet runs, that had earlier been introduced by the first violin, have a part to play in the central development, while the final recapitulation allows changes in lay-out. Here a running accompaniment figure that had earlier been entrusted to the cello is now given to the first violin, with other comparable changes. The movement ends with a return to the music of the slow introduction, punctuated again by the cello arpeggio figure, before the cheerful first subject returns very briefly to bring the movement to an abrupt end. The G major Adagio offers unexpected changes of key, as the material is developed, after its first appearance, with subtle contrasts between upper and lower instruments. Here and elsewhere in the quintet there are motivic connections with what has passed. The third movement, a Menuetto, introduces an element of imitative counterpoint that has never been far away. The Trio, in its original version, took the cello to unusual heights in the ascending arpeggios that are a feature of the second half. A revision brought the cello a sixth lower, into a more hospitable region. There are revisions in another hand to the opening theme of the final Allegro, adapting the descending chromatic scale into a diatonic form. The scale as Mozart wrote it, with its subsequent diatonic variant, is a recurrent feature of the movement. Here too there is a place for counterpoint in more than one episode, as the music takes its rapid and energetic course.
The String Quintet in E flat major, K.614, the last of Mozart's major chamber works, is opened by the two violas, answered by the violins. There is a more lyrical second subject entrusted to the first violin, echoed by the cello, and the exposition, which is repeated, ends with a reference to the opening. The same figure is of importance in the central development and returns in its original, fuller form to introduce the recapitulation, where it continues to have importance, not least in the final coda. The Andante, in B flat major, lent itself to subsequent keyboard adaptation by others. The repeated theme is the subject of variations in which the possibilities of the material are explored, as instrument after instrument adds its own embellished accompaniment to the theme The original key is restored for the third movement Menuetto, with its descending theme. In the Trio the first violin weaves a theme, in which the first viola joins, underpinned by the rustic repetition by the cello of the tonic, a bagpipe drone. In the last movement a pert little opening melody is answered by a more sinister phrase and once again a place is found for contrapuntal writing in music that has, in its thematic material and in the surprises that occur, more than a touch of Haydn.
The present members of the Éder Quartet are the violinist János Selmeczi and Péter Szüts, Sándor Papp, viola and György Éder, cello. The quartet was formed in 1973 by students of the Liszt Academy in Budapest and won first prize in the 1976 Evian International String Quartet Competition where the jury included members of the Amadeus Quartet, taking second prize in the ARD International String Quartet Competition in Munich in 1977, when no first prized was awarded. Since their success in Munich, they have performed in almost every European country, captivating audiences and critics alike at the international festivals of Bordeaux, West Berlin, Evian, Istanbul and Bath. The quartet has also toured extensively in the United States of America, Australia and New Zealand and is recording all the Mozart and Shostakovich string quartets for Naxos.
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MOZART: String Quintets, K. 593 and K. 614