Movement 1: Adagio – Allegro
Movement 2: Andante cantabile
Movement 3: Menuetto: Allegretto – Trio
Movement 4: Allegro molto
The slow movement is marvellously eloquent and contains some of Mozart’s most effective ‘conversational’ writing. A passage in the second thematic group has caused some controversy amongst musicologists: did Mozart really intend the violins and viola to be silent in bars 26 and 75? Some performers have chosen to ‘correct’ this passage; It is played here as it appears in the manuscript and first edition—it certainly throws a completely different light on the ‘filled-out’ version in bar 85.
Haydn’s influence is strongly in evidence in the amusingly abrupt forte-piano contrasts of the Minuet; in the Trio, however, the humour is entirely Mozartian. As in the equivalent section of K421 the mood is ironic, but here the face behind the mask is comic, not tragic: the first violin’s C minor declamations are surely too melodramatic to be taken seriously.
The long-term harmonic adventures of the Finale (Allegro molto) are hardly less daring than those of the first movement’s Adagio introduction, but here the effect is thoroughly exhilarating. This so-called ‘Dissonance’ Quartet is, in fact, one of Mozart’s most brilliant and high-spirited works.
from notes by Stephen Johnson © 1991