Philips - 1 LP - 6500 142 - (p) 1971
Philips - 8 CDs - 416 419-2 - (c) 1990

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

String Quartet No. 1 in G major, KV 80
15' 11"
- Adagio 6' 42"

- Allegro 3' 11"

- Menuetto 3' 05"

- Rondo 2' 13"

String Quartet No. 2 in D major, KV 155
9' 39"
- Allegro
3' 34"

- Andante 4' 40"

- Molto Allegro 1' 25"

String Quartet No. 3 in G major, KV 156
13' 37"
- Presto 3' 03"

- Adagio 6' 43"

- Tempo di Menuetto 3' 51"

Adagio (Original Adagio from Quartet No. 3 in G major, KV 156)
2' 44"

String Quartet No. 4 in D major, KV 157
12' 18"
- Allegro 5' 22"

- Andante 5' 01"

- Presto 1' 55"

- Paolo Borciani, Elisa Pegreffi, violino
- Piero Farulli, viola
- Franco Rossi, violoncello


Luogo e data di registrazione
La-Chaux-de-Fonds (Svizzera) - 11-14 novembre 1970

Registrazione: live / studio

Producer / Engineer
Vittorio Negri

Prima Edizione LP
Philips | 6500 142 | 1 LP | (p) 1971

Prima Edizione CD
Philips | 416 419-2 | 8 CDs - (1°, 1-4, 5-7, 8-10, 11, 12-14) | (c) 1990 | ADD


Mozart's first efforts in the difficult art of composing sreing quartets are not very well known, havinf been much overshadowed by his later masterpieces in the same medium. But they contain much delightful music, as well as displaying the never-failing fascination of showing a great composer's first attempts in a medium in which he was later to become one of the greatest masters.
The apparent ease of Mozart's later quartet-writing would have been so much less obvious were it not for his first essays in the new medium. And it was a new medium, in Mozart's youth. The great Haydn had begun to develop it, certainly, from earlier Italian and Austrian models, but even he had reached only his Op. 9 by the year 1770, when Mozart wrote his own first string quartet.
Mozart's own early quartets, written mostly with an Italian public in mind, and usually as he was on his way to Italy itself or actually in the country, seem to hover between serious chamber music and orchestral entertainment music of the divertimento kind. There is still considerable emphasis on the first violin, and less evidence of the kind of intimate instrumental conversation which became such a marked feature of the mature string quartets of later years. But the rapidity of Mozart's evolution as a quartet composer is very apparent, even within these earliest examples; one has only to compare the alternative versions of the E minor Adagio, composed within a few months of each other, for the third Quartet (K. 156) to realise the extraordinary advance in depth and seriousness which the composer achieved in a very short period. The earlier version has a certain melodic grace (how indeed could it have been otherwise, with Mozart as its composer?) but the slightly later version has not only melodic beauty but also a profundity and technical mastery which can compare very favourably with some of Mozart's finest later slow movements.
As unknown correspondent of Dr. Burney, writing from Salzburg in November 1772, reported that in his opinion, young Mozart was "one further instance of early fruit being more extraordinary than excellent." It was just as well that Burney concealed this critic's name, or it would long since have been covered in opprobrium; he seems, in any case, to have based his conclusions on some rather hastily-gathered evidence. Perhaps if he had heard or played these string quartets, he would have changed his opinion; no one, surely, could hear that wonderful E minor Adagio without being much impressed.

Quartet No. 1 in G, K. 80
Mozart's first string quartet was written or at least begun, "at seven in the evening" on March 15, 1770, in the North Italkian city of Lodi, rendered famous a quartet of a century or so later by Napoleon's exploit at its bridge. It seems to have been peaceful enough on that March evening in 1770, when Mozart and his father halted there on their first journey to Italy.
The quartet opens, like an Italian notturno, with a slow movement based on one of Mozart's favourite melodic clichés, which many will associate with his later use of it for the Countess's aria "Porgi amor" in "Figaro." The movement as a whole is in binary form, with two balancing halves or "strains" of music, each of which can be repeated. As in some of Domenico Scarlatti's sonatas, the main theme does not return in the second half. A jolly, bustling sonata-form Allegro follows, also in two strains, with a short, slightly contrapuntal development section. The subsequent Menuetto and trio are quite regular in construction, the Menuetto being repeated, to form the original finale. Later Mozart added the Gavotte-en-rondeau which now serves as a finale; besides being a lively, country-dance kind of gavotte, it is interesting as an illustration of Mozart's technical evolution as a quartet composer.
Quartet No. 2 in D, K. 155
The second quartet was written about 1772, probably in northern Italy. It is extremely Italianate, being rather like a three-movement sinfonia for strings. But some elaborate passages for the viola, in the first movement, reveal that this was really meant as a true string quartet and not an orchestral piece. That first movement is in full (and very neat) sonata form, but with a wealth of melodic subjects far beyond the two or three advocated in the textbooks. The Andante is a lyrycal movement in binary form, with repeats ad lib. For a finale, Mozart gives us a gay and lively rondo, with three episodes between the repeats of the main tune.
Quartet No. 3 in G, K. 156
There is a serenade-like quality about the joyous opening movement of the third quartet. Its artless melodies are as full of Mediterranean charm as those of Mendelssohn's "Italian" Symphony. Officially it is in sonata form, with theusual exposition, development, and recapitulation, plus double bars and repeat signs, for this apparently easygoing piece is constructed with all Mozart's usual formal mastery; the development section is quite long for Mozart - some 37 bars, in fact, but who cares about sober figures when Mozart's youthful genius pours out such enchantment in this initial Presto?
As mentioned already, Mozart composed two slow movements for this quartet, one at the end of 1772, and the other early the following year. The first is competent enough, but the second version is of quite unexpected beauty and power. It is this second slow movement which is played here, but the original Adagio is also included, for interest's sake, after the finale.
The final movement itself is a stately minuet and trio, the latter being in the minor key. Lovers of Mozart's comic opera "Così fan tutte" may hear some resemblances to one of its arias in the codetta of this minuet.
Quartet No. 4 in C, K. 157
This quartet, composed c. 1772-73 in Milan, is a true string quartet, with much close interolay between the four instruments. The first movement is in sonata form, with easily remembered themes, and with repeat marks outlining the two "strains." A simple Andante follows, with a short codetta to round off its melodious phrases and rich harmonies. The finale is a light-hearted rondo, with a little surprise codetta al the very end
Charles Cudworth