Sunday, 2 April 2017

Mozart's "Haydn" Quartets

Even with my thinking cap on hard, I can think of only one example of a great composer dedicating a major work to another great composer. The one example is Mozart's dedication of a set of six string quartets, to Joseph Haydn. What a gift! Mozart was seemingly incapable of writing purely routine music, but the six “Haydn” quartets go as far from the routine as possible, and one senses Mozart applying his very greatest skills in composing music in order to impress his revered colleague. This is "Grade A" Mozart.

I have the six quartets played by the Quartetto Italiano, by the Alban Berg Quartett, and by the Hagen Quartett. I have just finished listening to the Hagens in all six. Wonderful playing, but the extreme pianissimo dynamics become irritating as one constantly has to notch the volume level up or down. I feel that, particularly in the first of the six quartets – K 387 – the changes in volume level almost bar by bar, grate on the nerves. Back to the Italiani of over 50 years ago.

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