I enjoyed Mozart’s 14th yesterday very much, so let’s jump into his 15th. Yesterday, I was very much taken by his musical growth over the ten years that passed between his 2nd and 14th, so today I just want to see how he pushed this genre forward.
I’m listening to the Hagen Quartet again.
Mozart String Quartet no. 15 in D Minor, K. 421
1. Allegro moderato
- Dramatic sounding at first.
- Heavy accents.
- Some imitation.
- First violin taking a real lead role when it shifts to major.
- Lots of trills and oscillating between two pitches.
- Melodies are begun often with interval leap.
- Interesting piece.
- Upward arpeggio figure permeates piece.
- A dotted rhythm also appears often.
- Players are very much together. The group moves as one very often here.
- Wikipedia claims that the harsh intervals are representative of Constanze Mozart’s cries of labor pain.
- Listening to it, the movement does seem like a mix of ease and sudden screams.
3. Menuetto (Allegretto)
- Funny. The way the first violin is written makes it hard to feel the downbeats. Very disorienting.
- Big contrast in the trio. In major and fairly light and bouncy compared to harsh minuet.
- Pizzicato lower voices as well. Ethereal effect.
- Nice back and forth between cello and viola during minuet.
4. Allegro ma non troppo
- Steady dance-like quality.
- Nice contrast between legato and staccato.
- Ah, this is a series of variations.
- Really cool effects. Hard to describe though.
- Very harsh writing after the switch to Più allegro
- And then a Picardy third to end it immediately after the harshest music in the piece.
This is an intense piece of music. That partially has to do with the minor key, but it mostly comes from the bursts of intense harshness that appear and recede. This is a piece that more than anything is an exploration in contrast. There’s the contrast in intervals (big leaps next to trills and rolling back and forth on a second and chromaticism). The contrast of dynamics. The key contrasts. The contrast of staccato and legato.
Obviously, every piece has this to some measure, but this feels like Mozart deliberately wanted to explore some extreme version of this idea. I mean, even the Picardy third at the end was almost flippantly tossed off, after the players just attacked their instruments. This quartet is quite the journey.
Until next time.