The C major Quartet is the last of the
series of the six quartets that Mozart dedicated to his great friend and mentor
Joseph Haydn, a series of quartets that Mozart himself described as these six children of mine, the fruit of
long and laborious endeavour.
Dissonance Quartet is so named on
account of the slow introduction to the opening Allegro. The harmonic structure
of the texture of the opening bars - a chromatically descending bass - is not
extraordinary even in the context of the eighteenth century, but Mozart uses a
series of false relations in the first eight bars to blur the tonality and to
generate tension about how he will untangle the deliberately tangled skein.
Like Wagner's Tristan chord, these few notes have been the cause of much
erudite and impassioned debate - indeed many early performers even corrected
what they thought were Mozart's mistakes. The Allegro when it arrives is of
crystalline beauty, clear in structure and shining with joy. The only darkness
amidst this light-filled music comes in the development when the cello seems to
be dragging us back to the tensions of the opening introduction.
Andante cantabile is one of Mozart's most intensely beautiful creations.
Perhaps its most affecting inspiration is a sighing figure that is passed
magically amongst the four instruments. As the movement progresses the music is
transformed from gentle beauty into a profundity that no words can reflect.
the minuet must bring us back to ground level with a combination of earthiness
and spirited energy. The Trio is led even more energetically by the first
violin with some neat interjections by the cello near the end. The finale is
clearly written in homage to Haydn as it uses several techniques pioneered by
him, such as the sudden rests in the main theme used to build up tension. The
second theme has a tendency to burst out into a cascade of brilliant semiquaver
runs followed by an uneasy dream-like episode. Another trick of Papa Haydn's
was the false entry of the recapitulation, which Mozart tries three times
before eventually finding the correct key. So does the youthful master make
obeisance to his mentor, while we listen transfixed.