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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDD22005
Recording details: December 1990
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: June 1991
Total duration: 28 minutes 13 seconds

'Can be commended to all but the most implacable opponents of authentic instruments … revelatory performances of this inexhaustible music' (The Good CD Guide)

'These deeply committed performances are a credit to Hyperion's distinguished list … this is Mozart at its best, contrasted, careful and passionate' (The Strad)

'Gorgeous performances of some of Mozart's chamber masterworks. Highly recommended' (Classic CD)

String Quintet in D major, K593
December 1790; published by Artaria in 1793 with the inscription Composto per un Amatore Ongharesa, possibly Johann Tost

Adagio  [7'49]
Allegro  [5'18]

Other recordings available for download
The Nash Ensemble, Philip Dukes (viola)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Mozart composed his last two quintets in the winter and early spring of 1790–91, at the end of a creatively lean period when his finances and, so far as we can infer from his correspondence, his spirits were often at a low ebb. When Artaria published K593 and K614 in 1793, their title pages carried the dedication ‘Composto per un Amatore Ongharesa’. The identity of the ‘Hungarian amateur’ who apparently commissioned the quintets remains unknown, though one possible clue is a later statement by Mozart’s widow that the composer had ‘done some work’ for Johann Tost, the second-violinist-turned-entrepreneur of Haydn’s Esterházy orchestra. Perhaps Mozart had been introduced to Tost (a wealthy man following his recent marriage) by Haydn on one of the older composer’s intermittent visits to Vienna. If we can trust the recollections of the elderly Abbé Stadler, as reported by Vincent Novello in 1829, Tost, Haydn and Mozart played K515, 516 and the newly composed K593 together in December 1790, with Haydn and Mozart alternating on first viola.

The two late quintets have always been overshadowed by the more overtly ‘expressive’ C major and G minor quintets, with their greater melodic abundance and richness of texture. Both share with other late Mozart works an almost austere thematic economy. Sonorities tend to be sparer and more astringent, the tone (except in the Adagio of K593) more nonchalant and abstracted. The String Quintet in D major K593, of December 1790, is also characteristic of late Mozart (compare the Piano Sonata K576, and the finales of the three ‘Prussian’ quartets, K575, 589 and 590) in its wiry, faintly abrasive contrapuntal textures. Indeed, in its first and last movements this is one of the most consistently polyphonic of all Mozart’s works. Unique in Mozart, and a probable model for Haydn’s ‘Drum Roll’ Symphony, No 103, is the symbiotic link between the Larghetto introduction and the main Allegro. Not only does the theme of the latter evolve from the former, but the Larghetto makes a surprise return in the coda, just before the movement ends with a blunt repetition of the Allegro’s opening eight bars—the kind of beginning-as-end pun Haydn enjoyed. Haydnesque, too, is the way the second subject turns out to be a variation and elaboration of the rather whimsical opening, now enriched by canonic imitations from second violin and second viola.

The G major Adagio, in full sonata form, is one of Mozart’s most exalted slow movements, a more private, esoteric counterpart to the Andante of the ‘Jupiter’ Symphony. In the development Mozart takes a sighing descending phrase from the main theme through remote tonal regions, and then ushers in the recapitulation with an unearthly, floating sequence that seems to suspend time and motion.

For all its bright D major sonorities, the minuet moves with an absorbed grace. Befitting the contrapuntal inclinations of the whole quintet, Mozart works the guileless nursery tune, formed from daisy chains of descending thirds, in close canonic imitation, initially between first violin and first viola, and then involving the whole ensemble. The trio sounds like a yodelling Ländler refined (with some elegant dialoguing) for the salon. Based on a quicksilver tarantella tune that slides chromatically down the scale (bowdlerized into a more conventional zigzag pattern in the earliest printed editions), the finale is a contrapuntal tour de force, achieved with that insouciant lightness of touch typical of the composer’s late style. In the recapitulation Mozart enriches the second subject—a tiptoeing fugato that suggests an opera buffa conspiracy—with snatches of the slithering opening theme, creating an intricate web of five-part counterpoint worthy of the ‘Jupiter’ Symphony.

from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2010

Other albums featuring this work
'Mozart: String Quintets' (CDA67861/3)
Mozart: String Quintets

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