Movement 1: Larghetto – Allegro – Larghetto
Movement 2: Adagio
Movement 3: Menuetto: Allegretto – Trio
Movement 4: Allegro
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