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Name of Work

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus (1756-1791)
String Quintet in C Major, K. 515

Movements:
Allegro
Menuetto: Allegretto
Andante
Allegro

Performances:


Feb 08, 2009



Joseph Genualdi, Viola
Jasmine Lin, Violin
Rami Solomonow, Viola
Robert Swan, Viola
Clancy Newman, Cello


Feb 09, 2009



Joseph Genualdi, Viola
Jasmine Lin, Violin
Rami Solomonow, Viola
Robert Swan, Viola
Clancy Newman, Cello

MOZART-String Quintet in C Major, K. 515

Composed in 1787

BACKGROUND
In the year 1787, Mozart was coming to the end of his brief period of prominence in the fickle musical world of Vienna. The success of his opera The Abduction from the Seraglio and of the string of public concerts at which he performed his own piano concertos, gave way to a lukewarm reception for The Marriage of Figaro in 1786 -- though Prague, unlike Vienna, showed its enthusiasm for "Figaro" early in 1787. Mozart's visit to the Czech capital to witness the triumphant performances led to the composition of the Symphony in D, K. 504, known appropriately by the nickname of "Prague." Back in Vienna, he learned of the death of a good friend, Count Hatzfeld, and bid farewell to another friend and artistic colleague, the English soprano Nancy Storace, who had created the role of Susanna in "Figaro." Then he received the shattering news of his father's serious illness (Leopold Mozart would die in May of 1787). It was during this emotionally unsettled and financially precarious springtime that he began work on Don Giovanni, commissioned for Prague, and also on a virtually unprecedented chamber-music genre, that of the string quintet.

Mozart had composed one quintet for two violins, two violas, and cello during his teenage years in Salzburg, inspired probably by a similar work of his Salzburg colleague Michael Haydn. The late 18th-century champion of string quintets was not, however, Josef's younger brother but rather Luigi Boccherini, who scored them for two violins, one viola, and two cellos, with the challenging first-cello parts presumably intended for himself. In 1787, Boccherini was appointed as court composer to King Frederick William of Prussia -- a position Mozart may have hoped to land for himself. His own favorite stringed instrument was the viola, and the quintets he wrote in 1787 and 1790-91 give special attention to the first-viola part. Moreover, since the King of Prussia was an amateur cellist, Mozart may have seen an opportunity, as Alfred Einstein and other scholars have suggested, to create for the royal music-lover a group of works that gave him his own part with no competition from another cellist.

Of course the composer's intent may have been very different, a more inward motivation: to expand the horizons he'd already approached in the realm of the string quartet, by enriching the inner voices of the ensemble, and by opening up possibilities for more instrumental groupings. Whatever the situation with the King of Prussia, the three quintets created in 1787 were not, in fact, dedicated to the monarch, but were offered for sale by public subscription in the spring of 1788. They are the works we know as K. 515 in C, K. 516 in G Minor, and K. 406 in C Minor, an arrangement of the wind serenade K. 388.

MUSIC
The C Major quintet is one of Mozart's longest instrumental compositions and one that reflects his ongoing interest in counterpoint, plus his love for lyrical melodic writing. Parallels have often been drawn between the K. 515-516 quintets and his final two symphonies, which are also cast in C Major and G Minor. The latter key seems to have had special emotional overtunes for Mozart, whereas in K. 515 and Symphony No. 41, the "Jupiter," he seems to celebrate birghtness and majesty of the simplest and most open of all the keys. The opening Allegro of the quintet, for example, while adhering to the standard modulation scheme of sonata form, places notable emphasis upon the home key.

The first theme is simply a C Major arpeggio given to the cello. While the inner voices play an accompanying figure, the first violin answers the cello with an echoing motive more melodic than the cello's relatively stark C-E-G-C. The cello reiterates its theme twice, starting on a different note of the arpeggio each time; Violin One answers appropriately. As we drift briefly into C Minor, the roles are reversed: the violin gets the arpeggio and the cello answers. C Major and Minor transform to the dominant key, G Major, for the introduction of the second theme in the first-violin part. This theme is not an arpeggio but more of a scale, a singing one that goes up and down to cover the instrument's full range. Toward the end of the exposition we begin to hear another motive, almost a new theme in itself: a repeated semi-tone pattern (like middle C to B natural on a piano keyboard). It instantly recalls the opening of the Marriage of Figaro Overture. The development section, while exploring and expanding all of the earlier material, concentrates mainly on the arpeggio theme and the "Figaro" motive. This section is also where the inner voices of the ensemble are liberated from their previous role as accompanists. Now they begin to interact as full ensemble participants. This proceeding continues in the recapitulation, which uses some ingenious excursions into minor-mode keys to bring the second theme back, as expected, in the home key of C Major. An expansive coda once again emphasizes the "Figaro" motive, which gradually slows down before the quiet concluding C Major chord.

The Andante is in F Major, with a substantial modulation back to C, partway in. This movement is like an operatic duet transferred to instruments: it's principally a loving dialogue between the first violin and the first viola. The lyrical theme and its expansions are laid out between these two voices, with the viola gradually becoming more assertive, adding a warm alto tone to the soaring heights of the soprano violin. The second half of the movement, firmly settled now in the key of F, continues the pattern of dialogue with the main theme continually elaborated.

Various sources show different placings of the inner movements of this quintet; an early version placed the minuet-and-trio before the Andante. Our performance follows the tradition of playing the Andante first, so we come now to the Minuet with its amiable, moderate tempo marking of Allegretto: lively but not super-fast. We begin in the home key of C with a plaintive theme for the violins. The Trio is in F (C Major's subdominant key) and proceeds through a number of chromatic passages before C is re-established. For the lively and very upbeat Finale, Mozart evolves a sonata-rondo pattern. The cheerful, virtuosic main theme is stated by the first violin and recurs steadily, with some variants, after being contrasted with separate episodes that capitalize on subsidiary fragments and ideas. A vigorous Coda forms the conclusion.

Program Notes by Andrea Lamoreaux

Performance dates: February 8 & 9, 2009

CCM first performed this work at the February 2, 2008 First Monday concert at the Chicago Cultural Center.



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