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Mozart: The String Quartets / Quartetto Italiano

Mozart / Quartetto Italiano
Release Date: 10/22/2013 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 001925802  
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Franco RossiPiero FarulliPaolo BorcianiElisa Pegreffi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Number of Discs: 8 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The playing of the Quartetto Italiano has a freshness, range and subtlety that vividly realizes the music in all its variety, showing that the music making can be both spontaneous-sounding and thoughtful.

This series of performances dates from between 1966 (when the six quartets Nos. 14-19 dedicated to Haydn were recorded) to 1973 and was rightly saluted on its completion as a fine achievement. The playing of the Quartetto Italiano has a freshness, range and subtlety that vividly realizes the music in all its variety, while technical problems seem to have been solved so that the music making can be both spontaneous-sounding and thoughtful throughout.

As the son of a violinist and violin teacher, Mozart
Read more was himself a fine player of the violin and viola. Yet even so one is surprised by the assurance of his First Quartet, the G major, K80 (1770). 1 must confess that it was new to me and that I had expected a work showing clear immaturity: but I was wrong. This quartet opens with quite a songful and extended Adagio, twice the length of any of the following movements; these are an Allegro, Minuet and Rondo, and only in the last did Idetect a hint of student-like manufactured passagework as opposed to a real flow of ideas. Oddly enough, this finale was a later addition, as the accompanying booklet reminds us: it is a little dismissive of the work, finding it dominated by the first violin, but this does not especially strike me.

The Quartetto Italiano give the listener much to enjoy (and Mozart much to marvel at) in the 13 quartets up to K173, written over four teenage years. One could differ with this or that detail— for example the opening Presto of K156 is a bit leisurely and its E minor Adagio perhaps invested with a profundity more suited to the later quartets, while the Andante un poco allegretto of K158 could flow more—but it is more sensible to enjoy these performances on their own terms, which remain consistently within good Mozart style.

The players have still greater interpretative challenges and opportunities in the quartets of the 'second period', by which I mean the ten quartets of 1782-90. These followed a gap of nine years (1773-82) which roughly parallels a similar hiatus in Haydn's quartet series between his Opp.20 and 33; and as is widely known, Mozart's own six quartets from K387 to K465 were dedicated to the older composer and described by their creator as "the fruit of long and arduous work". Here, certainly, the individuality of the four instruments is fully realized, while the interplay of motif and melody between them is of a compositional order that makes the dull word 'counterpoint' seem inadequate and inappropriate. Sonata form still serves for the opening movements, but its most remarkable feature is its flexibility; similarly the fugal style of the finale of the G major Quartet that opens the series has sonata elements. Harmonically the language is daring too: one thinks of the stark modulations following the florid writing in the Andante cantabile of this quartet, of the tense chromaticism of K421 in D minor and, of course, of the famous Adagio introduction to the finale of the Dissonance Quartet in which the tonic chord is not heard till bar 14, and then only for half crotchet beat.

There is no doubt that the chief musical glories of this release, in music and playing alike, lie in this celebrated "Haydn" set together with the D major, K499 and the three "Prussian" Quartets K575, K589 and K590. But a longer discussion is impracticable here: suffice it to say that they are admirable (despite an occasional slowish tempo) and that the recording is fresh and faithful.

-- Gramophone [8/1987]
Reviewing original release of this recording Read less

Works on This Recording

1. Quartet for Strings no 1 in G major, K 80 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Franco Rossi (Cello), Piero Farulli (Viola), Paolo Borciani (Violin),
Elisa Pegreffi (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1770; Lodi, Italy 
Date of Recording: 11/1970 
Venue:  La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 
Length: 15 Minutes 11 Secs. 
2. Quartet for Strings no 2 in D major, K 155 (134a) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Franco Rossi (Cello), Piero Farulli (Viola), Elisa Pegreffi (Violin),
Paolo Borciani (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1772; Bolzano, Italy 
Date of Recording: 11/1970 
Venue:  La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 
Length: 9 Minutes 39 Secs. 
3. Quartet for Strings no 3 in G major, K 156 (134b) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Franco Rossi (Cello), Piero Farulli (Viola), Paolo Borciani (Violin),
Elisa Pegreffi (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1772; Milan, Italy 
Date of Recording: 11/1970 
Venue:  La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 
Length: 16 Minutes 21 Secs. 
4. Quartet for Strings no 4 in C major, K 157 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1772-1773; Milan, Italy 
Date of Recording: 11/1970 
Venue:  La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 
Length: 12 Minutes 18 Secs. 
5. Quartet for Strings no 5 in F major, K 158 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1772-1773; Milan, Italy 
Date of Recording: 08/1971 
Venue:  La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 
Length: 15 Minutes 32 Secs. 
6. Quartet for Strings no 6 in B flat major, K 159 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1773; Milan, Italy 
Date of Recording: 08/1971 
Venue:  La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 
Length: 13 Minutes 13 Secs. 
7. Quartet for Strings no 7 in E flat major, K 160 (159a) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1773; Milan, Italy 
Date of Recording: 08/1971 
Venue:  La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 
Length: 11 Minutes 40 Secs. 
8. Quartet for Strings no 8 in F major, K 168 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1773; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 08/1971 
Venue:  La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 
Length: 14 Minutes 35 Secs. 
9. Quartet for Strings no 9 in A major, K 169 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1773; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1972 
Venue:  La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 
Length: 15 Minutes 20 Secs. 
10. Quartet for Strings no 10 in C major, K 170 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1773; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1972 
Venue:  La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 
Length: 15 Minutes 38 Secs. 
11. Quartet for Strings no 11 in E flat major, K 171 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1773; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1972 
Venue:  La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 
Length: 16 Minutes 29 Secs. 
12. Quartet for Strings no 12 in B flat major, K 172 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1773; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1972 
Venue:  La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 
Length: 15 Minutes 43 Secs. 
13. Quartet for Strings no 13 in D minor, K 173 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1773; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 07/1973 
Venue:  La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 
Length: 16 Minutes 14 Secs. 
14. Quartet for Strings no 14 in G major, K 387 "Spring" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1782; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 08/1966 
Venue:  La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 
Length: 29 Minutes 2 Secs. 
15. Quartet for Strings no 15 in D minor, K 421 (417b) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1783; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 08/1966 
Venue:  La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 
Length: 27 Minutes 6 Secs. 
16. Quartet for Strings no 16 in E flat major, K 428 (421b) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1783; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 08/1966 
Venue:  La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 
Length: 28 Minutes 13 Secs. 
17. Quartet for Strings no 17 in B flat major, K 458 "Hunt" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1784; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 08/1966 
Venue:  La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 
Length: 27 Minutes 24 Secs. 
18. Quartet for Strings no 18 in A major, K 464 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1785; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 08/1966 
Venue:  La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 
Length: 33 Minutes 39 Secs. 
19. Quartet for Strings no 19 in C major, K 465 "Dissonance" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1785; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 08/1966 
Venue:  La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 
Length: 31 Minutes 45 Secs. 
20. Quartet for Strings no 20 in D major, K 499 "Hoffmeister" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1786; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 08/1971 
Venue:  La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 
Length: 29 Minutes 15 Secs. 
21. Quartet for Strings no 21 in D major, K 575 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1789; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 08/1971 
Venue:  La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 
Length: 24 Minutes 38 Secs. 
22. Quartet for Strings no 22 in B flat major, K 589 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1790; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1972 
Length: 23 Minutes 20 Secs. 
23. Quartet for Strings no 23 in F major, K 590 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quartetto Italiano
Period: Classical 
Written: 1790; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1972 
Length: 27 Minutes 22 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  4 Customer Reviews )
 A necessary purchase February 11, 2014 By T. Hanson (Lake Linden, MI) See All My Reviews "There are no better performances of these great works, and the sound quality is fine: full-bodied and clear. If you love Mozart (i.e., if you love music) you owe it to yourself to acquaint yourself with these performances." Report Abuse
 A DESERT ISLAND CLASSIC November 29, 2013 By David W. (Palm Springs, CA) See All My Reviews "THE QUARTETTO ITALIANO'S TRAVERSAL OF MOZART'S STRING QUARTETS HAS BEEN, LIKE THEIR BEETHOVEN QUARTETS CYCLE, ONE OF THE TRUE TREASURES OF RECORDED MUSIC...PERFORMANCES TO BE SAVORED OVER AND OVER AGAIN. THIS REISSUE, IN SENSATIONAL SOUND, IS ALSO ONE OF THE ALL-TIME BARGAINS AND IS, IN MY OPINION, AN ESSENTIAL PART OF ANY CLASSICAL MUSIC LOVER'S LIBRARY. GRAB IT WHILE YOU CAN." Report Abuse
 Lovely November 4, 2013 By E. Barnes (Dunn Loring, VA) See All My Reviews "The early quartets are played with a commitment it would be hard to match today in our cynical dismissive world (understandably perhaps, because not all of them are top-drawer Mozart, even though some are really good!). Those first three CDs are alone worth the price of the set – clearly unbeatable. Following them, the later quartets receive a performance that I find is occasionally too polite or restrained. I was frankly amazed at the final movement of the second Haydn Quartet, in D Minor, for example. I had always heard it so much more forcefully stated, the first violin telegraphing distress. With the Quartetto Italiano however it was quite delicate and tentative. Not altogether a bad thing, of course, and it’s very possible the score would bear out the QI approach. On the other hand, there were times I was startled by an unusual or unique interpretation. The main theme of the third movement of the third Haydn quartet is so boisterously bumpkin-ish, you can smell the manure in the fields. But by and large, the cultured, noble work of the Italiano, though it may not be to everyone’s taste, is certainly special, an island in a sea of performances that so often try too hard to call attention to themselves. A value for sure." Report Abuse
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