QUARTETTO ITALIANO


Philips - 1 LP - 839 604 - (p) 1967
Philips - 8 CDs - 416 419-2 - (c) 1990

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)






The six "Haydn" Quartets - 1







String Quartet (1.) No. 14 in G major, KV 387
29' 02"
- Allegro vivace assai 7' 28"

- Allegretto 8' 16"

- Andante cantabile 7' 15"

- Molto allegro 6' 03"





String Quartet (2.) No. 15 in D minor, KV 421
27' 06"
- Allegro moderato
7' 18"

- Andante 6' 04"

- Allegretto 4' 07"

- Allegretto ma non troppo 9' 37"





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

 






Luogo e data di registrazione
Thtre Vevey, Vevey (Svizzera) - 14 agosto / 1 settembre 1966

Registrazione: live / studio
studio

Producer / Engineer
Vittorio Negri

Prima Edizione LP
Philips | 839 604 | 1 LP | (p) 1967

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


Note
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The two quartets on this record belong to a set of six which Mozart dedicated to Joseph Haydn in 1785, and which must be included among his finest work. "They are, in fact, the fruit of long and laborious toil," says the composer in his letter of dedication which is couched in terms of warm personal friendship and high professional regard.
As far as the string quartet was concerned any veneration Mozart felt for Haydn was quite understandable. At the time the letter was written Haydn had composed more than 40 quartets which represented most of the significant growth of the form from simple divertimenti for a fortultous combination of instruments without continuo to the highly demanding medium of musical expression we hear here and which not much later was to be the channel of Beethoven's inspiration.
Alongside this musical evolution Mozart himself developed. In his 13 quartets before the "Haydn" set we can see the early influence of the Italian style being superseded by the influence of Haydn's experiments; we see the emancipation of the viola and cello, which become increasingly independent voices instead of stiff and servile accompanying instruments.
But before his quartets reached full maturity, Mozart himself had to win artistic emancipation. The last quartet before the "Haydn" set was written in 1773, when he was in the service of the tyrannical Archbishop of Salzburg. But by the time he began the set in 1782 he had broken free of the court's shackles, had married the woman he loved (against his father's wishes), and had set up home in Vienna, facing the world with little money but with a brave new spirit of independence which helped to make the boy a man and the precocious composer a master of his art.
Strangely, and perhaps significantly, Mozart's inactivity in the field of the string quartet between 1773 and 1782 matches a similar pause in Haydn's quartet output which stopped in 1772 and began again in 1781. In that year he published his famous "Russian" quartets which, he announced, were written "in an entirely new and special way". They did, in fact, display a much greater degree of artistic unity, particularly in close inter-relationship of their thematic material. There is no doubt that Mozart was considerably impressed and influenced by this new step forward in Haydn's work and this was probably the decisive factor in encouraging him to  take up the form again in 1782 with the G major quartet K. 387. In the six quartets of the "Haydn" set we see a new Mozart - a Mozart who looks forward to Beethoven rather than backward to the Baroque. We see him striving for and achieving the unity that Haydn sought in the "Russian" quartets, but in a completely individual way. In the set we often find Haydnesque movements but within their contexts they coulf have been written only by Mozart. Exactly when Mozart conceived the idea of the dedication to haydn is not clear but it seems likely that it was not until the personal acquaintance of the two composers (they first met in 1781) became a close friendship in 1784 when Haydn, then Prince Nicholas Esterhazy's musical director, paid an extended visit to Vienna with the court. On several occasions Mozart was invited to play at the Esterhzy musical evenings and soon both Haydn and he were taking delight in playing chamber music privately together with mutual friends - Haydn playing first violin and Mozart the viola in quartets. By the time this friendship had fully flowered three of the quartets in the "Haydn" set had been written. In spite of this the set as a whole displays a wonderful integration of style, technique and mood and when it was finally presented to Haydn in  1785 he at once recognised the true genius behind it - something to his credit, for he could have had little opportunity before then to assess the real stature of the younger composer. After a performance of three of the works at Mozart's home Haydn drew aside Leopold Mozart, the composer's father who was on a visit from Salzburg at the time, and told him confidentially: "I declare to you before God as an honest man that your son is the greatest composer I know either personally or by hearsay; he has taste and, moreover, complete mastery of the art of composition."
The quartets not only impressed him as a listener and performer; henceforward they were to exert a noticeable influence on his own work - as they were to influence Beethoven when he came to carry the quartet to its spiritual zenith.
The care that the Quartetto Italiano have taken in these recordings in going back wherever possible to the original tempo indications is important. The tendency at the time the quartets were written was towards an increase in pace in the minuet, particularly in the works of Haydn. There is reason to believe, however, that Mozart was concerned about this tendency and that this was reflected in his original tempo indications. Believing that clarity of detail and care in the expression of mood and character rare of first importance in these works the Quartetto Italiano have adhered, for instance, to the "allegretto" markings of the first edition rather than the "allegro" of later editions in general use. It was not a lightly taken step. All the bowings, tempi, and dynamic indications used in these performances have, in fact, been decided on only after the most careful research by the members of the quartet themselves
based on the autograph and first editions and other important contemporary documents. These have been studied and carefully compared with later sources, particularly the Einstein and Brenreiter editions. The result on these records is not so much a performance as a dedicated reappraisal of Mozart and his work.
In many respects these six masterpieces defy analysis. The following notes are intended only to provide ssimple pointers to the artistic profundity and technical complexity of these works and to encourage the listener to give them the close attention they deserve and can so amply repay
.
A. David Hogarth

String quartet in G major, K. 387
Completed on New Year's Eve 1783, this work immediately marks the new maturity of style and mastery of construction which characterises the significance of every note on every instrument. It has the kind of unity one metts in the later Beethoven piano sonatas where all the material has a general "family" resemblance, and it has the same strength of character.
The main theme of the first movement (in sonata form) is announced immediately by the first violin and provides the basis for the work as a whole. In fact, the theme iteself is a melodic development of its first two phrases. The important elements are the interval of a fourth which rises to the tonic at the start of the theme (this dominantes the work, usually being filled in with notes which either rise or fall in scale sequances) and the drooping chromatic shape of the second phrase. The second subject, distinguished by an important oscillating phrase, appears first on the second violin and although structurally related to the first theme is very different in character. The minuet and trio borrow these features fron the first movement, the trio being a simplified version of the second subject. In the restful Andate (in C) which follows there is an almost continuous development of the main theme and no "official" development section; instead a simple functional modulation takes us back to a cleverly varied recapitulation. The finale is a superbly constructed fugal movement in sonata form later to have its symphonic counterpart in the "Jupiter" symphony. The ubiquitous fourth is at the heart of the initial subject and after the taut complexity of its fugal treatment the tuneful almost jocular second subject comes as a surprise, although it has the "family" resemblance. Again there is no formal development and a chromatic sequence passing from one instrument to another leads us surreptitiously into the recapitulation. The work ends with a calm simple restatement of the initial fugue subject.

String quartet in D minor, K. 421
Structural unity is the hallmark of K. 387 and emotional unity that of K. 421, which was written by Mozart in June 1783, part ot it while his wife was giving birth to their first child. There is an inescapable air of melancholy pervading the whole work and while we cannot usually trust Mozart's music as a reflection of his circumstances or personal character, one cannot help feeling that here he has exposed a little more of his soul than he normally allows us to se. There is, however, still the same precision in construction and the same sense of basic unity in the work.
The main theme of the passionate first movement again reveals some unifying elements - a sobbing dotted quaver (with a trill in this case) and reiterated notes in clutches of three in the accompaniment. Reiterated notes also accompany the second theme which is in F major. In the development which opens with a bold modulation to E flat, a prominent part is played by a sextuplet wich makes its first appearance in the codetta. While the fourth was predominant in K. 387, the bird is the important interval in K. 421, particularly in the Andante. The tender, reflective theme, in which the rests play an almost melodic part, centres round a third in its first phrase. The dotted note from the previous movement forms the tailpiece and other recurring elements which soon emerge are the reiterated notes and the sextuplet, which now fits normally into the 6/8 rhythm. Instead of providing relief the minuet takes us back in key, mood, and structure to the restless main theme of the first movement. The emphasis on the dotted note and the third are pronounced in the trio. The final movement is a set if variations on a Siciliano theme, As 6/8 rhythm, a minor key, and the dotted quaver are all characteristic features of the Siciliano, the theme fits the general structure of the work perfectly. Again its basis rests on thirds and reiterated notes. The last variation moves to D major and is more restful but the theme returns to end the work with all the intensity with which it began
.