Philips - 1 LP - 6500 225 - (p) 1972
Philips - 8 CDs - 416 419-2 - (c) 1990

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

String Quartet No. 22 in B flat major, KV 589
23' 20"
- Allegro 6' 14"

- Larghetto 6' 34"

- Menuetto (Moderato)
6' 54"

- Allegro assai
3' 38"

String Quartet No. 23 in F major, KV 590
27' 22"
- Allegro moderato
8' 46"

- Allegretto 7' 29"

- Menuetto (Allegretto) 4' 03"

- Allegro 7' 04"

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


Luogo e data di registrazione
La-Tour-de-Peilz (Svizzera) - 14-17 gennaio 1972

Registrazione: live / studio

Producer / Engineer
Vittorio Negri

Prima Edizione LP
Philips | 6500 225 | 1 LP | (p) 1972

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


Mozart composed these, his last string quartets, in the late spring of 1790, in Vienna. A year or so before, he had received a commission from Frederick William, King of Prussia (not Frederick the Great, but his successor) for half-a-dozen quartets. Nizart was pleased enough to get the commission, for, as usual, he was hard pressed for money. He composed the first quartet (K. 575) in June 1789, but it was nearly a year before he resumed the task of trying to finish off the whole set. He wrote the second (K. 589) in May 1790 and managed to get the third (K. 590) finished that year, but that was the last quartet he was to write. Worn out by work and worry, he does not seem to have been able to summon again the high concentration needed to write in the string-quartet medium.
In writing these quartets, Mozart was constantly in mind of his royal customer's predilection for the cello, which was the king's own instrument - a point which has to be remembered by us in listening as much as it was by Mozart while composing. The overall result of the king's liking for the cello is a curious displacement of interest from the first violin to the cello iteself, which has an unusual preponderance of good tunes.

The first movement (in triple time) opens with a bold first subject, which merges into a strangely chromatic bridge passage and so into the second subject, which is of a Ländler-like chacter, akin to the waltzes which were just beginning to establish themselves as the typical Viennese dance-form. The cello has the second half of this subject and then the exposition ends with scale passages in triplet figures. The development is quite long, for Mozart: it makes use of all the main subjects before it brings us back to the recapitulation of the main theme in the home key. It is perfectly in order with the origin of this quartet that the main theme of the slow movement should be given to the cello, with a murmuring accompaniment, until the first violin takes yp the tune. The order of events is then reversed: the first violin has the subsidiary theme, the cello repeats it, and the two then exchange ideas for the rest of the movement, with the second violin and the viola occasionally putting in an idea; however, the melodic ideas un themselves are so eloquent that one is inclined to overlook the actual instrumentation and listen to the sheer beauty of the musical thoughts. The minuet is bold and the trio all enchantment. The eloquent tunes are tossed from one instrument to another - but all with the neatest expertise. Mozart's first idea for the finale was a set of variations, but he changed his mind, and so wrote the present delightful movement, a sort of galante huntig jig; formally, it is a rondo of the most ingenious kind, as full of counterpoint as a Bach fugue.
The opening theme, in unison, is not perhaps remarkable in itself, except that it comes to an abrupt stop in the third bar. But Mozart then inflects it, changes it subtly and then uses it as a quite melodious bridge passage to a cadence which allows the cello to give us his version of the tune. This in its turn leads to the second subject, which is also given out by the cello, and which turns out to be closely related to the first group of subjects. Indeed, this movement is far more like Haydn than Mozart, in its economic use of thematic material. The development section makes considerable use of scale passages and leads directly back into the recapitulation, wherein most of the subjects we have already heard are brought back to our attention and are concluded with a brief and tense coda. Mozart left two directions for the slow movement - Andante or Allegretto - and the latter has been adopted here. The shape of the movement is a kind of sonata form, with quite a long development section for a slow movement. The thematic material is of great beauty and is fairly equally shared between the four participants. Again, there is a brief coda. The minuet and trio show the usual contrast with the minuet bold and masterful and the trio delicate rather than forceful. Then come one of the gayest finales one can imagine, a sort of Hungarian gipsy rondo, which is yet in sonata form at the same time. Everything is in the highest possible good humour, and one can scarcely believe that Mozart composed this at a time when he was filled with anxiety and care over financial matters. It is indeed a remarkable triumph of mind over circumstances
Charles Cudworth

The Quartetto Italiano is deservedly one of the most renowned quartets of our time. It was as long ago as 1945, soon after completing their studies, that Paolo Borciani, Elisa Pegreffi, Piero Farulli, and Franco Rossi, resisting the tempting promise of individual careers as soloists, decided to pool their youthful enthusiasm and musical talent and devote themselves to the difficult but satisfying art of playing chamber music really well. By 1947 the group had established a firm reputation in  the musical press and begun giving concerts outside Italy. In 1951 they visited the United States for the first time, and it was soon apparent that their devotion to their music and the impeccable standards of performances they had set for themselves were earning them fame as well as satisfaction. Over the years since 1945 they have remained together, a rare example of teamwork in music and something unique as far as quartets are concerned. Teamwork in performance, too has contributed greatly to their success. Their principle of thoroughly memorising their music and playing wherever possible without scores has enabled them to perform with astonishing unanimity and a precision which is unequalled in their field.
To list the group’s wide-ranging activities in more than 25 years is pointless: they have done everything one might expect of one of the world’s finest quartets. They have given hundreds of concerts all over Europe and in the United States; they are regular partecipants in the chamber-music concours of many countries; and they have played and are in constant demand at the world’s great music festivals. Outside the concert circuit the members of the quartet teach chamber music at both the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm and the Conservatoire in Vienna.
In addition to the many words of praise bestowed on them – after their first concert in New York, Virgil Thomson, the distinguished critic of the “New York Herald Tribune,” called them “the finest quartet, unquestionably, that our century has known” – they have been publicy honoured by the President of Italy as a more tangible recognition of their outstanding artistic services over the years to  Italy in particular and the world of music in general.