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.
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