String Quartet No.1

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

String Quartet No.1 in G major

K73f, K80

About this work

It was in a tavern somewhere in the northern Italian town of Lodi at seven in the evening on March 15, 1770, that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart undertook to compose his first string quartet. This unusually detailed annotation was left in the score by Leopold Mozart, who was accompanying his son on their first tour of Italy at the time. While certainly important for its historical significance as Mozart's first work in a central genre, the so-called "Lodi" quartet is little known as a musical work in and of itself, having been dismissed by many as a piece of juvenilia composed under Leopold's close supervision (and, apparently, at a single sitting!). Nonetheless, the manuscript is in Wolfgang's own hand, with very minor revisions from Leopold, and contains music of high enough quality that some seven years later, Wolfgang had it copied for a patron in Paris. While certainly not as compositionally involved as his later quartets, K. 80 exhibits an impressively graceful and self-assured character and an early mastery of chamber music sensibility. Having absorbed the forms and sonorities of Italian chamber music during his tour, the young Mozart initially rendered the quartet somewhat after the fashion of the Italian trio sonata; two years later, he added to the quartet's three original "Italian" movements a French rondeau. The first movement, a soft-spoken Adagio in binary form, relies on a clarity of texture to bring out nuances of gesture and articulation, as in the shifts from duplet- to triplet-beat divisions on downward leaping runs, or the delicate ascending lines reiterated at the same pitch level by different instruments to add a subtle urgency to important cadences. The Allegro second movement, also in binary form, offers a brash change of character, alternating between flashy exhibitionism and feigned fugal piety. The third movement is a graceful Menuetto in G major with a Trio in C. Though composed later, the Rondeau finale conveys a character compatible to the rest of the work, its Allegro tempo as well as its initial melodic contours recalling the lively second movement. The clever attitude of its refrain relies on a build up of rhythmic energy that is interrupted by a coy pause and a perfunctory chordal resolution. This sets up the coda, which extends the quickly ascending lines, exaggerates the pause, and, with a wink, ends with a hushed and unhurried cadence.