Haydn, Mozart & the string quartet

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Mozart: String Quartets (DG Collectors Edition), Hagen Quartet

In 1781 Haydn turned his attention once more to one of his favourite ensembles, the string quartet. The resultant six quartets  op. 33 – Haydn (nearly) always produced them in books of six – were described by their composer as being written in a ‘new and special manner’. Mozart, most impressed by these, determined to compose a group of ‘new’ style quartets of his own and, over the next four years, laboured mightily to produce the series of six works now considered to be amongst the finest examples of quartet writing; as an act of friendship, hommage and acknowledgement he dedicated the quartets to Haydn.

The main focus of this course will be on these six quartets written for Haydn.

The ‘Haydn’ Quartets

String Quartet No. 14 in G major, (Spring), K. 387 (1782)
String Quartet No. 15 in D minor, K. 421 (1783)
String Quartet No. 16 in E-flat major, K. 428 (1783)
String Quartet No. 17 in B flat major (Hunt), K. 458 (1784)
String Quartet No. 18 in A major, K. 464 (1785)
String Quartet No. 19 in C major (Dissonance), K. 465 (1785)

The quartets were published in a set in Vienna, 1785.

Mozart’s dedication

To my dear friend Haydn,

A father who had resolved to send his children out into the great world took it to be his duty to confide them to the protection and guidance of a very celebrated Man, especially when the latter by good fortune was at the same time his best Friend. Here they are then, O great Man and my dearest Friend, these six children of mine. They are, it is true, the fruit of a long and laborious endeavour, yet the hope inspired in me by several Friends that it may be at least partly compensated encourages me, and I flatter myself that this offspring will serve to afford me some solace one day. You yourself, dearest friend, told me of your satisfaction with them during your last Visit to this Capital. It is this indulgence above all which urges me to commend them to you and encourages me to hope that they will not seem to you altogether unworthy of your favour. May it therefore please you to receive them kindly and to be their Father, Guide and Friend! From this moment I resign to you all my rights in them, begging you however to look indulgently upon the defects which the partiality of a Father’s eye may have concealed from me, and in spite of them to continue in your generous Friendship for him who so greatly values it, in expectation of which I am, with all my Heart, my dearest Friend,

your most Sincere Friend

W.A. Mozart
[Translation from Deutsch, Doc. Biog., 250.]

Course materials:

A list of all 23 Mozart quartets plus some other usual useful bits and pieces:

Quartet List

Cycle of 5ths

Keyboard graphic 2 octaves

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