Mozart String Quartet no. 5 in F major, K. 158

performed by the Amadeus Quartet, or below by the Festetics Quartet

Mozart’s fifth string quartet was written in 1773, the fourth of the Milanese quartets, as they are called, for where they were composed. Like all of the Milanese quartets, it is in three movements, and this one ends with a final minuet, in keeping with Milanese form.

The Amadeus Quartet’s recording is under fifteen minutes. As I’ve said in all previous articles about Mozart’s quartets so far, we’re some distance away from the quartets generally regarded as his masterpieces, but even here we

The first movement presents a recurring triplet figure that gives the work a buoyant liveliness. It’s nothing raucous, of course, and we have our short exposition and development. Listen for that downward triplet figure to signify the beginning of the recapitulation. This is typical first-movement stuff here, but well crafted by our teenage composer still on his vacation with Daddy.

The A minor second movement is longer than the first movement, and begins with a bit of melancholy, but brightens up to give us the kind of supple, textured string writing that you’d expect from something from this era, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Was Mozart possibly bored writing this stuff? He churned out half a dozen of these quartets pretty quickly, and while I’m sure he gained experience in their composition, I wonder if he didn’t want to move on to other more exciting things. That’s not to say this music is itself boring; it’s excellently written, for sure, and we have it to thank for the mastery of the later works.

The finale is an F major minuet with a minor-key trio. Does its opening figure not sound like a kind of distant echo of the beginning of the first movement? It might seem odd that there’s no fourth-movement finale here, but again, this was in keeping with the style of the day in Milan, that the piece ends with a minuet, and our more melancholy minor key trio leads back to the major-key minuet to round out this little quartet.

What polish this little youngster has. I’ll be perfectly honest: I’ve listened to very little of the late quartets, or concertos (of any instrument), or sonatas (of any instrument). The only real familiarity I have with late(r) Mozart is with the symphonies (and the clarinet quintet), so we’re pretty much working through his works together. Despite my feeling that I’ve only begun to scratch the surface with Mozart, he is by far the most written-about composer on the blog in terms of the number of articles written about his works, already more than 30, with Beethoven and Haydn not far behind, the latter for a few chunks of articles about his earliest symphonies and quartets, much like with Mozart.

There’s not a lot to say here… again, we hear a composer with talent and ingenuity, who at a young age already has a mastery of musical form and melody, and who we all know is going to grow up to do great(er) things. Stay tuned for some more of those things in the next two weeks, as we have six more Mozart pieces coming up, half of them in a new series we will start shortly. Thank you for reading.


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