Movement 1: Allegro
Movement 2: Andante grazioso
Movement 3: Menuetto
Movement 4: Adagio
Movement 5: Menuetto
Movement 6: Andante – Allegro assai
The following Andante grazioso shares its key (C major), mood, and instrumental textures (though not its rhythmical character) with the Andante of Eine kleine Nachtmusik. The simple binary form is extended with a coda, where, after a short episodic excursion, the opening idea is beautifully enriched and elaborated. The first of the two minuets is formed from alternating short phrases, forte and piano. To begin with, the alternations are quite formal, the dynamic contrasts pointed by having the full ensemble interspersed with the strings alone. But after a while Mozart disrupts the pattern he has set up, getting the horns to contribute to a quiet phrase, having the two violins on their own, and extending some of the loud phrases to double their expected length. A short solo for the horns introduces the minor-key trio; a feature that might seem like a purely functional transition until we hear the unexpected and witty way it is used later on.
The B flat major Adagio is, like the slow movements of many of Haydn’s earlier quartets, designed as a violin solo. The dominating triplet movement creates a gentle, dreamy, serenade-like atmosphere, not dissimilar to the mood of the Adagio of the G major Violin Concerto, K216, composed the previous year. These pervasive triplets take different forms; they appear sometimes as part of the melody, or as a repeated chordal accompaniment, or with a variety of subsidiary ideas in the inner parts. At several points the second violin and viola combine in octaves, creating a striking, memorable sonority. And the places where the triplets cease, at the end of each main section of the movement, serve to make the form clear at the same time as providing touching, intimate points of concentration. The second minuet is full of colour and surprise, its bright, quirky mood enhanced by the prominent horn parts. The melody at the start features a folk-like sharpened fourth degree of the scale. Unexpected cross-rhythms alternate with suave, courtly phrases, and each section is rounded off by a sequence of four plucked chords. The trio, in the key of B flat and without horns, harks back, with its expressive violin solo, to the preceding Adagio.
The finale has a short Andante introduction whose solemnity makes one, for a moment, think forward to Sarastro in The Magic Flute. The main part of the movement is a lively, compact rondo, whose episodes revisit in turn the main key centres of the work: C major, D minor, B flat major. The rondo theme makes use of an F major arpeggio, allowing the natural horns in F to play a prominent thematic role. One of the most beautiful touches comes in the final bars, when this figure, always heard before in unison, is now given a soft, undulating accompaniment, and is presented in imitation, with the bass answering the horns and first violin.
from notes by Duncan Druce © 2003