Q. When is a string quartet not a string quartet?

A. When it’s a song cycle(??) Schönberg’s second quartet breaks boundaries. It starts respectably enough in its home key of f-sharp, and then (within the freedoms of late romantic form and chromatic harmony) proceeds in a fairly orderly quartetish manner until the end of the second movement, the scherzo; it’s then that the real revolution […]

and finally…

Any listing of Mendelssohn’s most popular works, would have his violin concerto somewhere near the top. His rethinking of the concerto form – started with his two piano concertos – here reaches its apogee; and the success of this remodelling can be measured by the plethora of famous near-imitations that followed it — the violin […]


The last of the ‘Haydn’ Quartets [K.465 in C] has a nickname: Dissonance. Why? Well, look at and listen to the introduction to the first movement, below. Mozart: String Quartets (DG Collectors Edition), Hagen Quartet The eye is bewildered by all those accidentals – flats, sharps, naturals everywhere – and the ear! The poor ear, for the […]

Skittles, anyone?

The Mozart trio for clarinet, viola and piano K. 498 has a nickname — it’s called the Kegelstatt Trio. Kegelstatt? Who or what is a Kegelstatt? The answer’s rather surprising, I suppose: it’s a skittle alley. And what has the skittle alley have to do with the trio? The answer’s simple and, again, I suppose, rather surprising: nothing. […]


The opening of Mozart’s quartet in E-flat, K.428 gives us really good opportunity to examine the composer’s use of chromaticism. What’s chromaticism? Well, an ordinary (diatonic) scale — as in Ex. 2 below (of C major) — uses only 7 of the available 12 notes between one octave and the next, whereas the chromatic scale […]

A significant development…

Mozart: String Quartets (DG Collectors Edition), Hagen Quartet We’ve spent some time over the last fortnight talking about, listening to, and comparing expositions and recapitulations; now it’s the turn of that crucial middle bit, the development section, to go under the spotlight. Course materials: A list of all 23 Mozart quartets plus some other useful bits […]

Brush up your fugue-speak – K.387, Finale

Do you remember our study of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier — subjects, counter subjects, answers, strettos, etc? Well, here’s a golden opportunity to dust down your fugue jargon and give it a good airing because in the Finale of his quartet K. 387 Mozart shows off his far from inconsiderable contrapuntal skills  in an astonishing mixture of […]