Philips - 1 LP - 6500 644 - (p) 1973
Philips - 8 CDs - 416 419-2 - (c) 1990

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

String Quartet No. 9 in A major, KV 169
15' 20"
- Molto allegro
3' 22"

- Andante 7' 16"

- Menuetto 3' 06"

- Rondeaux (Allegro) 1' 36"

String Quartet No. 10 in C major, KV 170
15' 38"
- Andante
4' 48"

- Menuetto 3' 05"

- Un poco adagio 5' 12"

- Rondeaux (Allegro) 2' 33"

String Quartet No. 11 in E flat major, KV 171
16' 29"
- Adagio - Allegro assai
5' 56"

- Menuetto 2' 52"

- Andante 4' 48"

- Allegro assai 2' 53"

String Quartet No. 12 in F flat major, KV 172
15' 43"
- Allegro spiritoso
4' 01"

- Adagio 5' 03"

- Menuetto 3' 03"

- Allegro assai
3' 36"

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


Luogo e data di registrazione
La Tour-de-Peilz (Svizzera) - 23 luglio / 3 agosto 1972

Registrazione: live / studio

Producer / Engineer
Vittorio Negri | Joost Hummeling

Prima Edizione LP
Philips | 6500 644 | 1 LP | (p) 1973

Prima Edizione CD
Philips | 416 419-2 | 8 CDs - (2°, 11-14; 3°, 1-4, 5-8, 9-12) | (c) 1990 | ADD


Mozart composed these four quartets in the late summer of 1773 in Vienna, where he and his father had followed their master, the Archbishop of Salzburg. Mozart Was then a lad of 17, but he was already a highly accomplished composer, with many astonishingly mature works to his credit. These string Quartets, although still only the work of a teenager, are more than comparable with similar works by contemporaries of twice and thrice his years. In a way they are still stepstones on the way to greater things, yet nevertheless, being by Mozart, they are still well worth our careful attention. Formally they are highly accomplished and display a surprising diversity of structure, non two being alike, even in the overall pattern of their movements.
The amazing thing about the youthful Mozart is how very up-to-date he was formally, from the beginning of his creative career. There is never nything old-fashioned in his music; he seems to have known from the beginning exactly what the new "sonata form" was, and how to use it. And melodically, of course, he was always in the very forefront of taste; probably his various journeys to Italy did this for him. Where many of his older contemporaries just managed to get to Italy once in their lives or even not at all. Mozart went there several themes and was continually hearing new Italian operas, an a result he was always aware of every little shift in melodic patterns. Yet he was still master of the old learnead counterpoint and could use it effortlessly, when the opportunity arose. With all this in mind, left us look ak these four string quartets, composed in the city which in his time was rapidly becoming the musical capital of the world, although still paying much lip service to the music of Italy.

This is the most "regular" in form of the four quartets on this record. It opens with a brisk Allegro in sonata form - but even here Mozart springs a surprise on us, for his middle section is more discursion than development and is based on a completely new subject, although his main subject does return in F sharp minor, in a sort of false recapitulation, before the real recapitulation begins in the tonic.
The slow movement is largely a solo for the first violin, accompanied by the lower strings; to us it seems to breathe an elegiac beauty, but it was probably already too chromatic for some of the older music-lovers of Mozart's time. "So gifted is this young man," wrote one of his contemporaries, "that his music is almost too difficult and must be heard many times before it can be fully understood" - and this in an age when music was rarely heard twice. But all is tonic-and-dominant light in the following Menuetto and trio; even the most die-hard old music-lover must have enjoyed these straightforward tunes and crisp rhythms. And then the rondeau finale! Such gaiety! Such vitality! Such clarity of Rococo formal grace! Even J.C. Bach, the Prince of the Galant, could not outdo such enchantment as this, from this most sincere of his young admires...
Here, in the second quartet, Mozart immediately surprises us by beginning, not with a sonata-form Allegro, but with an Andante con variazioni. The theme is four-square - eight bars first and then,  oddly, nine bars. Who sald that the Galant and Classical composers were always forming fours? Here is immediate contradiction, Mozart handles the ensuing variations very cleverly, giving most of the fun yo his fist fiddle, but keeping up the interest throughout, until he suddenly repeats his theme, in toto, at the end - always a satisfactory touch.
Then comes the minuet, starting very formally, but taking on a strange chromatic quality in the second strain; the trio almost preechoes Beethoven. Mozart then surprises us again, with a deeplyfelt Adagio; once again, the first fiddle has most of the melody, although strangely enough the viola becomes quite prominent, after the double-bar. Another gay rondo finale follows; it is still very much of the French "rondeau" pattern, with the main theme returning each time in the tonic.
Again a slow opening (Adagio). But this time Mozart is playing a very clever trick, for he has really written a sonata-form first movement, enclosed between two short slow movements. The result is a pattern of great fascination. Perhaps the answer lies in the opening of the Allegro assai which is deceptively fugal - for eight bars, after which it becomes rather more sonata-like, although even so it is formally very odd. Had Mozart an "Ancient-style" French overture in mind in opening thus?
The minuet and trio are very straightforward and tuneful. Then comes an Andante of great charm - and later of learned counterpoint, with first and second violins imitating each other amid deft touches from the lower strings; here is some exquisite string-quartet writing. And then an almost symphonic finale, which would come off almost as well on a full string band as on a string quartet.
Mozart's musical thought seems to have been growing increasingly symphonic, as he wrote these quartets - symphonic, that is, with operatic connections. The first movement of K. 172 is very like that of an Italian sinfonia avanti l'opera - the same bold opening coup d'archet; the gracious, feminine second subject; the lyrical discursion after the double bar, rather than a true development, and lastly the neat, regular recapitulation. With the slow movement we really are in the opera house, for its main subject is very closely related thematically to the Countess's song "Porgi amor" in "Figaro." The minuet is more intimate and unusual in that it begins on that often despised instrument, the viola, and has a trio in G minor. And then comes the liveliest of 2/4 finales, full of jolly tunes and sprightly rhythms Mozart's invention runs high and he tosses the ideas away with the same careless bounty thet he does in his pure entertainment music. The work as a whole is a masterpiece more than worthy to hold an honoured place with the more familiar string divertimenti, K. 136-138
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.
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.