Philips - 1 LP - 6500 172 - (p) 1972
Philips - 8 CDs - 416 419-2 - (c) 1990

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

String Quartet No. 5 in F major, KV 158
11' 32"
- Allegro 3' 28"

- Andante un poco allegretto
5' 45"

- Tempo di menuetto 6' 19"

String Quartet No. 6 in B flat major, KV 159
13' 13"
- Andante
5' 27"

- Allegro 5' 14"

- Rondo (Allegro grazioso) 2' 32"

String Quartet No. 7 in E flat major, KV 160
11' 04"
- Allegro 3' 11"

- Un poco adagio
5' 13"

- Presto 2' 40"

String Quartet No. 8 in F major, KV 168
14' 35"
- Allegro 4' 21"

- Andante 5' 34"

- Menuetto 2' 34"

- Allegro 2' 06"

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


Luogo e data di registrazione
La-Tour-de-Peilz (Svizzera) - 31 agosto / 2 settembre 1971

Registrazione: live / studio

Producer / Engineer
Vittorio Negri

Prima Edizione LP
Philips | 6500 172 | 1 LP | (p) 1972

Prima Edizione CD
Philips | 416 419-2 | 8 CDs - (1°, 15-17; 2°, 1-3, 4-6, 7-10) | (c) 1990 | ADD


When Haydn and Mozart first began to write string quartets, the form and patterns of such works were by no means settled - indeed, many of theyr early quartets sound at least as well on a full string orchestra as they do when played by a small chamber group. The number of movements, too was fluid, ranging from a mere two to five or six, including perhaps a couple of minuets with their attendant trios. Haydn did a great deal to settle the ultimate four-movement form of the classical string quartet, and his young friend Mozart trod closely in his footsteps; but, being on  the whole a more cosmopolitan, "travelled" person, young Mozart was subjected to many more external influences than was Haydn, more or less shut off from the world in the smaller cosmos of the Esterházys.
Mozart, coming into the musical fray a little later than Haydn or his beloved J. C. Bach, immediately adopted what we call "sonata form" - a term quite unknown to the composers of the time, and not even described in textbook terms until after Mozart's death. But he was a very impressionable youngster, too trying hard to be worldly-wise, and so in Italy his quartets took on an Italianate quality, and in Austria they followed Germanic patterns. So three of the four quartets recorded here are in the Italianate, three-movement form, and one follows the Germanic, four-movement pattern. And he himself, of course, was developing very rapidly all the time as a composer. It is fascinating to observe hus marvellous young musical mind expanding, within the space of a few months, as revealed in these four charming quartets. Yet even so, each work is perfection within itself and within its own terms - one would not wish to alter a single note.

Written in the winter of 1772-73, in Milan, where the youthful Mozart had gone to compose and direct his opera seria, "Lucio Silla," this is the earliest of these four quartets. But what in extraordinary young man (and composer) Mozart was; to us, his music seems all clarity and light, but to his contemporaries it often proved very difficult and hard to understand. We can perhaps comprehend their dilemma a little in this very quartet. In less than two bars in the first movement Mozart has sharpened his tonic note of F and gone into G minor - the most extreme of transitions to an  eighteenth-century music-lover. And so he goes on, no doubt causing his contemporary hearers extreme aural tribulation - they weren't used to composers "crashing their gears" in this unusual fashion. Yet Mozart disguises such freakishness to some extent with his outstanding melodic facility. This movement is in 3/4 time, familiar in so many operatic sinfonie, from Hasse oawards, yet the opening motif is so seductively original, with its elegant triplets that the listener forgets the outre harmonies and is won over immediately; melody succeds melody, with the triplet rhythm continually asserting itself. after the double bar (and optional repeat) there is a development section of nearly 30 bars - quite long for Mozart, who unlike Haydn loved tunes more than their, development. Then comes the recapitulation and, at the end, a brief coda based on the main subject.
The slow movement in A minor, starts as a "canon at the octave," that is to say the various instrumental voices enter one after the other an octave apart. Then having shown his "scence," Mozart seduces our ears with some of his inimitable melodies on the first violin, with the other instruments murmuring an accompaniment. After a brief development, the canonic subject reappears, and so we move to the end - what is so remarkable is the way in which the young composer combines "learnèd" counterpoint with galant melody, and brings off the two so superbly.
For his finale, Mozart writes a minuet and trio. But what a minuet - all chromatic inflection, plus a very bold unison passage in its second strain, just after the double bar, and with several of those Scotch-snap rhythms, wich were to become so characteristic and essentially Mozartian, within the minuet framework. The trio section is in F minor, but again much inflected until some bright runs on the first violin bring us back to F minor and the repeat of the minuet.

This charming work was written in Milan in the early months of 1773. Like many Italian works of the period, it opens with a serene slow movement, full of characteristic Mozartian turns of melody. This opening movement is based on "sonata" form, with double bars and repeat signs for each of its two sections. As usual with Mozart, the development section is comparatively brief - a mere 15 bars.
The second movement is one of the earliest examples of Mozart's use of the agitated key of G minor - his "key of fate" which was to mean so much to him in later years. His first well-known use ot it is in his first G minor symphony, K. 183, dating from just a little later than this quartet but, already, there is no lack of fire and passion in this intense quartet movement in 3/4 time. It is also one of the longest of his early chamber-music movements - 195 bars in all, without repeats. After the fire and passion the finale is a gracious quick gavotte, the main theme being announced in the first eight bars.

Begun in Milan in 1773, and probably finished back home in Salzburg a little later, this is one of the gayest, happiest, and most Italianate of Mozart's early works, rather like a little sinfonia for strings - the mystery is that it has never become as well-known as, say the divertimenti K. 136-138. The first movement is packed with sparkling tunes, as "Mozartian" as any one could wish, and brilliantly instrumented. It is in full sonata form, with a brief development section of only 14 bars, but, with so many gorgeous tunes, who cares about their development? The slow movement is in a terser kind of sonata form, based on some very eloquent, sighing subjects. Then comes a lively 2/4 Presto, which begins as a march and turns into a jig, and is most exhilarating. What a superb little work this quartet is - one wonders if those eighteenth-century amateurs appreciated it for what it was wearth.

From Milan, we turn to Vienna, in the August of that same busy year of 1773. Mozart began a group of six string quartets, obviously with a view to their publication as a set, but the music-sellers asvertised them only as being "fairly and clearly written" - not printed or engraved; Mozart had much less success with publishers than many lesser men.
The two male Mozarts, Papa Leopold and son Wolfgang, had gone to Vienna in the trail of their unbeloved patron, the Archbishop of Salzburg, no doubt in the hope of finding at least the promise of some position for young Wolfgang and the chance of deliverance from slavery of father Leopold. Alas, their journey was in  vain; apart from joyful meetings with various old friends and the performance of some of Wolfgang's works, they gained little from their request, and Papa Mozart even grumbled at being out of pocket over the jaunt. Vienna was in a turmoil over the proposed suspension of the order of the Jesuits and the confiscation of their rich properties - the resultant unsettled atmosphere was hardly conducive to joyful music-making, for these same Jesuits bad been ready supporters of music. Writing home to Frau Mozart, in Salzburg, Papa Leopold had said: "Things must and will mend; take courage, God will hel us." So he and young Wolfgang soldiered on, the Latter with this first of a proposed set of half-a-dozen string quartets.
The work is very much in the Austrian style, with more emphasis placed on development than in the carefree Italianate quartets of a few months earlier. In addition the texture is also more contrapuntal, in true chamber-music style. The sonata-form first movement has a development section of 21 bars, while the music itself is very chromatic in texture. The slow movement (in F minor and marked to be played with muted strings) is in canonic form, an ancient contrapuntal style of writing at which Mozart liked to try his hand every now and then; this example opens fairly strictly, as in the slow movement of K. 158, with a canon at the octave - but it abandons strict canon after a while, although the counterpoint itself is beautifully maintained. A particularly gay minuet follows, with a gracious trio (which still gives a deferential nod to strict counterpoint and canon). In the finale, canon turns into fugue - and a very lively fugue at that - in the gayest 2/4 time; a tremendous unison passage brings this fascinating quartet to a hilarious conclusion
Charles Cudworth