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String Quintet in G Minor K.516

Wolfgang Mozart (b. 1756 - d. 1791)

Composer
Wolfgang Mozart (b. 1756 - d. 1791)
Composition Year
1787
Work Movements
1.Allegro
2.Menuetto – Allegretto
3.Adagio ma non troppo
4.Adagio – Allegro
Artists
Silvia Simionescu [viola], RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet (Gregory Ellis, Keith Pascoe [violins], Simon Aspell [viola], Christopher Marwood [cello])

Programme Note Writer:
©

The myth of Mozart's poverty in his last years has been accepted as gospel for so long that it is difficult to dispel. How else to explain the legend of the pauper's grave, the frantic begging letters to Michael Puchberg, the total failure of his last series of subscription concerts and the many other signs of financial insecurity. The answer is that Mozart would not have been out of sympathy with many people of today, mortgaged to the hilt with maxed out overdraft and credit cards, facilities he would have grasped with both hands. Like any self-employed businessman, Mozart's income was irregular, apart from his small salary as Imperial Court Composer (and even that was usually in arrears), while his costs were painfully consistent so he was forced to bridge the gap by borrowing. Mozart's income came from commissions, most especially his operas, his concert performances, publications and teaching and these sources were more than adequate for his family's needs, but demanded consistent application and planning over and above his real work of composing and performing.

The two string quintets, K.515 in C major and K.516 in G minor, date from April and May 1787. It was a difficult time in his life, he was quite seriously ill with a streptococcal infection that damaged his kidneys, he was moving house out to the suburbs and his father was mortally ill and died at the end of May. Coincidentally in the middle of this the sixteen-year-old Beethoven arrived in Vienna looking to study under Mozart, but was forced to return home as his mother was dying. The quintets were composed without a commission, but Mozart hoped to sell the manuscripts by subscription, a vain hope as it turned out for no one subscribed. In such a way did he come to write two works, whose absolute perfection has inspired all who heard them.

The Allegro opens with a wonderfully elegant theme with just a hint of the passion hidden beneath the surface.  The second subject has a yearning quality, a reaching out, but still in the forbidding G minor.  After the exposition repeat, we are launched into developmental passages of emotional turmoil and complexity, which perhaps justify the seeming exhaustion of the coda.  Not even the famous G minor Symphony can approach the passion of this movement.

The tension is turned up by placing the Menuetto second and staying in G minor, where even the Trio's move to G major fails to provide more than a few moments of tranquillity. The Adagio is almost overwhelmed by a sense of irredeemable loss but this is coupled with music of such tender beauty that the sadness is almost washed away by its own tears.  The thin line between pathos and sentimentality is trod with Mozart’s quicksilver assurance – he is no tragedian seeking to batter our emotions into a response. The nearest he comes to that is the extraordinary Adagio introduction to the last movement, where time suddenly stops. The mournful but soaring theme is haunted by the relentless pizzicatos of the five-note figure on the cello.  Whether everything is resolved by the lilting 6/8 dance of the Allegro is far from clear, for we keep hearing a persistent echo of the second subject from the first movement. 

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String Quintet in G Minor K.516

Composer: Wolfgang Mozart (b. 1756 - d. 1791)
Performance date: Tuesday 2nd July 2013
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Wolfgang Mozart (b. 1756 - d. 1791)
Work Title String Quintet in G Minor K.516
Composition Year 1787
Work Movements 1.Allegro
2.Menuetto – Allegretto
3.Adagio ma non troppo
4.Adagio – Allegro
Artist(s) Silvia Simionescu [viola], RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet (Gregory Ellis, Keith Pascoe [violins], Simon Aspell [viola], Christopher Marwood [cello])
Performance Date Tuesday 2nd July 2013
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Main Evening Concert
Duration 00:34:36
Recording Engineer Damian Chennells, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Quintet
Instrumentation 2vn, 2va, vc

The myth of Mozart's poverty in his last years has been accepted as gospel for so long that it is difficult to dispel. How else to explain the legend of the pauper's grave, the frantic begging letters to Michael Puchberg, the total failure of his last series of subscription concerts and the many other signs of financial insecurity. The answer is that Mozart would not have been out of sympathy with many people of today, mortgaged to the hilt with maxed out overdraft and credit cards, facilities he would have grasped with both hands. Like any self-employed businessman, Mozart's income was irregular, apart from his small salary as Imperial Court Composer (and even that was usually in arrears), while his costs were painfully consistent so he was forced to bridge the gap by borrowing. Mozart's income came from commissions, most especially his operas, his concert performances, publications and teaching and these sources were more than adequate for his family's needs, but demanded consistent application and planning over and above his real work of composing and performing.

The two string quintets, K.515 in C major and K.516 in G minor, date from April and May 1787. It was a difficult time in his life, he was quite seriously ill with a streptococcal infection that damaged his kidneys, he was moving house out to the suburbs and his father was mortally ill and died at the end of May. Coincidentally in the middle of this the sixteen-year-old Beethoven arrived in Vienna looking to study under Mozart, but was forced to return home as his mother was dying. The quintets were composed without a commission, but Mozart hoped to sell the manuscripts by subscription, a vain hope as it turned out for no one subscribed. In such a way did he come to write two works, whose absolute perfection has inspired all who heard them.

The Allegro opens with a wonderfully elegant theme with just a hint of the passion hidden beneath the surface.  The second subject has a yearning quality, a reaching out, but still in the forbidding G minor.  After the exposition repeat, we are launched into developmental passages of emotional turmoil and complexity, which perhaps justify the seeming exhaustion of the coda.  Not even the famous G minor Symphony can approach the passion of this movement.

The tension is turned up by placing the Menuetto second and staying in G minor, where even the Trio's move to G major fails to provide more than a few moments of tranquillity. The Adagio is almost overwhelmed by a sense of irredeemable loss but this is coupled with music of such tender beauty that the sadness is almost washed away by its own tears.  The thin line between pathos and sentimentality is trod with Mozart’s quicksilver assurance – he is no tragedian seeking to batter our emotions into a response. The nearest he comes to that is the extraordinary Adagio introduction to the last movement, where time suddenly stops. The mournful but soaring theme is haunted by the relentless pizzicatos of the five-note figure on the cello.  Whether everything is resolved by the lilting 6/8 dance of the Allegro is far from clear, for we keep hearing a persistent echo of the second subject from the first movement.