Philips - 1 LP - 839 605 - (p) 1967
Philips - 1 CD - 422 832-2 - (c) 1989

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

The six "Haydn" Quartets - 2

String Quartet (3.) No. 16 in E flat major, KV 428
28' 13"
- Allegro ma non troppo 7' 21"

- Andante con moto
9' 05"

- Allegretto 6' 21"

- Allegro vivace 5' 26"

String Quartet (4.) No. 17 in B flat major, KV 458 "The Hunt"
27' 24"
- Allegro vivace assai
8' 47"

- Moderato 4' 23"

- Adagio 7' 43"

- Allegro assai 6' 31"

- 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

Producer / Engineer
Vittorio Negri

Prima Edizione LP
Philips | 839 605 | 1 LP | (p) 1967

Prima Edizione CD
Philips | 422 832-2 | 1 CD - 55' 37" | (c) 1989 | ADD


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 In his 13 quartets before the "Haydn" set we can see the early influence of the Italian style being superseded by the influence of Haydn's experiments; we see the emancipation of the viola and cello, which become increasingly independent voices instead of stiff and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 E flat, K. 428
This quartet composed in 1783 is full of sudden and surprising flashes of trepitation, and we get one almost as soon an the work has begun. The cromatic main theme of the first movement is immediately stated in bold uniso, giving a feeling of tonal ambiguity after an initial united emphasis on the tonic E flat. But when the theme reappears a few bars later it is suddenly richly harmonised with bold use of a diminished seventh chord. A long trill on the first violin announces the arrival of the second theme which is more comfortingly melodic. The development is dominated by a soaring passage of triplets and is followed by one of Mozart's cleverly reworked recapitulations.
Chromaticism is one of the main features of the second movement - so much so that it has often been compared with Wagner's chromaticism in "Tristan und Isolde". Here we see the master harmonist at work with the tension of the harmony contrasting perfectly with the smooth legato phrasing of the theme and providing overall an exquisite bittersweet quality.
The minuet (in E flat) is delightfully fresh and stimulating and has a distinct folk flavour in its closing section. This is intensified in a mysterious way in the trio, which begins strangely in C minor before wending its way to its proper key of B flat major.
The robust, vigorous finale is Haydnesque in style but constructed in a typical Mozartian manner which combines characteristics of rondo and sonata form. For simplicity's sake it is probably casier to regard it as a sonata-form movement without a development.
There are two main themes and a number of episodes related to the business-like first subject which returns in rondo fashion until the second subject appears in the dominant with its enchanting little triplet and emphatic accents. The "recapitulation" begins after an appropriate pause and presents all the material in cleverly edited form. The work ends with the first theme reappearing in a coda.

String quartet in B flat major, K. 458 ("The Hunt")
This quartet, completed on November 9, 1784, has some coincidental links with its predecessor - the persistence in places of the folk lavour of K. 421's minuet and the Haydnesque nature of its finale. The B flat major is probably the most popular of the six "Haydn" quartets and has been given the nickname "The hunt" because of the theme of the Haydnesque first movement, which suggest a hunting song with its galloping 6/8 rhythm, its horn-like phrasing, and the soft echoing of its inner parts. As usual Mozart starts with sonata form, but this time it is not at all regular: there is no proper subject and instead the development begins with what seems to be a new theme (it is, in fact, a melodie development) in the dominant key of F major - the key which a normal second subject would have had. Another surprise is the long coda which mischievously begins almost like a new development when one is prepared for the end of the work at the codetta in the recapitulation.
The second movement is a straighrforward minuet and trio, presumably to separate the boisterous good humour of the first from the profundity of the third - the minuet's easy grace is, in fact, the perfect emotional bridge.
The adagio (in E flat) is the real heart of the work. Its tender eloquence is combined with latent power in the harmony and it has many movements of supreme beauty, particularly in the second theme. Here the first violin subtly evades the key of B flat on which the cello insists when the theme first appears and then the cello takes over itself, playing the theme on its golden upper register. There is no development section the working-out being continuous and "unofficial".
The finale in sonata form takes us right back to the Haydnesque humour of the first movement. Again the main theme is folk-like and has a "family" resemblance to the initial hunting song. The second subject is more reflective. The development concentrates mainly on a fugato treatment of the main theme's second phrase but halfway through we come on a sudden hunhead passage which seems to mimic the entry of the adagio's second theme. Unlike the first movement there is no coda, a few additional phrases sufficing to bring the work to an enphatic close