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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDS44001/3
Recording details: February 1985
St Barnabas's Church, North Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Thomas Daye
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: February 1987
Total duration: 31 minutes 3 seconds

'Admirers of the Salomon Quartet's 'authentic' approach to Mozart will be glad to learn that their versions of the 'Haydn' Quartets … are now available in a 3-CD boxed set at a slightly reduced price' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)

'They strike me as the musical equivalent of a breath of fresh spring air' (The Records and Recording)

String Quartet in D minor, K421
composer
'Haydn' Quartet No 2

Allegro  [11'11]
Andante  [7'31]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
If the D minor Quartet, K421, sounds more troubled than any of its companions, the expression still has an objective quality: we are a long way from the ‘confessional’ out­pourings of some of the later romantics. The opening theme of the first movement is certainly highly expressive, but the music’s elegance and concision make any attempt at personal-dramatic interpretation sound faintly ludicrous. The closely imitative writing in the development reflects Mozart’s growing interest in counterpoint: he had recently been introduced to the music of the Baroque contrapuntalists by his patron, the Baron van Swieten.

The F major Andante is more pithy, less melodically generous than many of Mozart’s other slow movements. The short, broken phrases of the first theme suggest that here Mozart was consciously imitating Haydn, as does the inclusion of a dramatic middle section in the tonic minor.

According to Constanze Mozart, the Minuet (Allegretto) expresses Mozart’s reaction to the rather painful birth of their first son, Raimund (Mozart was composing in an adjacent room at the time). Up to a point the mood of the music appears to confirm this story, but then what are we to make of the ghostly D major Trio? After the intense chromaticism of the Minuet this strangely fragile, almost mechanically pretty music has a distinctly ironic flavour.

The Finale (Allegretto ma non troppo) is cast in variation form, with a short coda in a faster tempo. The theme itself is curiously ambiguous: conflicting emotions of gaiety and melancholy are aroused by the jaunty 6/8 rhythm and the chromatic D minor-oriented harmonies. The fourth variation, in D major, brings a respite before the unequivocally anguished outbursts of the coda. The final tierce de picardie comes too late to provide any sense of consolation.

from notes by Stephen Johnson © 1991

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