St Petersburg, Concert Hall

Mozart's Piano Quartets

Alexei Goribol (piano)
Alexander Trostyansky (violin)
Ilya Gofman (viola)
Rustam Komachkov (cello)

Sonata for Violin and Piano in G Major, KV 301
Piano Quartet No 1 in G Minor, KV 478
Sonata for Violin and Piano in E Minor (arrangement for cello and piano), KV 304
Piano Quartet No 2 in E Flat Major, KV 493

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s piano quartets do not make any reference to any tradition; Mozart was among the first to explore the genre. Judging by the fact that both works have three movements, Mozart did not see the piano quartet in the same light as a string quartet with one instrument being replaced, but rather as a kind of sonata enriched with additional voices.
The Quartet in G Minor (K. 478) was completed in Vienna on 16 October 1785. The first movement stands apart for the dominance of the minor key, which returns with new force in the reprise and the powerful coda. The delightful first movement, on the other hand, is not darkened by anything at all. In the final rondo one can hear songful themes that bring to mind Die Zauberflöte which was written later but at times there are echoes of the stormy first movement.
The Quartet in E Flat Major (K. 493, completed on 3 June 1786) was written with another idea in mind. Haydn possibly recalled the triumphant principal theme when – ten years later – he was working on his own final piano sonata. Apropos, this gracious theme plays a minor role in the first movement: in both the development and the coda the secondary theme prevails. The second movement is notable for the refined harmony and the capricious ornamental figurations of the piano. The finale opens with a deceptively simple theme taken by Mozart from his Paris ballet Les Petits riens. But the subsequent development is so intense that the piece grows like the finale of a piano concerto.
The complex nature of Mozart’s piano concertos discouraged critics. In 1788 an anonymous observer wrote in the Journal des Luxus und der Moden that “Any work speaks for itself when you hear it performed directly before you; this piece by Mozart, if in the hands of a dilettante and performed without due care, could truly not be listened to. That happened last winter on countless occasions... Some young lady, or a confident bourgeois girl, or a dilettante upstart zealously attacked the Quadro at a noisy gathering, claiming that she liked it. I can hardly describe to you the obstinacy with which people have tried to achieve this everywhere.”
And so the quartet remained in the repertoires of a small circle of true maestri and music-lovers, while the publisher Franz Anton Hoffmeister confirmed the lack of interest in having the sheet music printed, and so Mozart limited himself to just two works in this – for the time – experimental genre.
The Violin Sonatas in G Major (K. 301) and E Minor (K. 304) are two of a collection of six sonatas published in 1778 in Paris and dedicated to Princess Elisabeth Augusta von der Pfalz of Bavaria. They were written in February 1778 in Mannheim and in early summer in Paris without having been commissioned by anyone at all. Quite the reverse – because of these sonatas Mozart delayed work on urgent commissions for flute quartets and concerti which he really needed financially. In a letter to his father he justified himself: “As you know, I become dumb if I have to compose for just the one instrument (which I cannot stand) all the time; as a result, from time to time for a change I have composed something different – keyboard and violin duets.”
Both sonatas have two movements in the style of a sonatina. They both have broad and songful themes and a dreamy lyricism that draws them closer to Mozart’s most romantic works. The Sonata in E Minor is performed particularly often, and its dramatic and passionate first theme is the spirit of “Sturm und Drang”. Many of Mozart’s violin sonatas have frequently been rearranged for other instruments ranging from the flute to the saxophone, and it is highly probable that new adaptations will continue to appear.
Anna Bulycheva

Age category 6+

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