Piano Quartet No. 1 (Mozart)

Piano Quartet No. 1 (Mozart)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, K. 478, is considered the first major piece composed for piano quartet in the chamber music repertoire.

The work is in three movements:
*I. Allegro, in G minor
*II. Andante, in B-flat major
*III. Rondo (Allegro), in G major

Composition and reception

Mozart received a commission for three quartets in 1785 from the publisher Franz Anton Hoffmeister. Hoffmeister thought this quartet was too difficult and that the public would not buy it, so he released Mozart from the obligation of completing the set. (Nine months later, Mozart composed a second quartet in E-flat major, the K. 493, anyway). [Melvin Berger, "Guide to Chamber Music", 2001, Dover. p. 300] .

Hofmeister's fear that the work was too difficult for amateurs was borne out by an article in the "Journal des Luxus und der Moden" published in Weimar in June 1788. The article highly praised Mozart and his work, but expressed dismay over attempts by amateurs to perform it:

:" [as performed by amateurs] it "could" not please: everybody yawned with boredom over the incomprehensible "tintamarre" of 4 instruments which did not keep together for four bars on end, and whose senseless "concentus" never allowed any unity of feeling; but it "had to" please, it "had" to be praised! ... what a difference when this much-advertised work of art is performed with the highest degree of accuracy by four skilled musicians who have studied it carefully." [Quoted in Deutsch 1965, 317–318. Deutsch suggests the reviewer may have been referring to the later E-flat quartet, K. 493. ]

The assessment accords with a widely held of Mozart in his own lifetime, that of a greatly talented composer who wrote very difficult music. [Solomon 1995]

In 1785, the 14-year-old Ludwig van Beethoven wrote three Piano Quartets, WoO 36, but these are not played anywhere near as often as Mozart's.

Editions and versions

The C. F. Peters Edition set of parts has rehearsal letters throughout the whole work; the Eulenburg Edition study score has measure numbers but no rehearsal letters, the same goes for Bärenreiter.

The Quartet is also available in an arrangement for string quintet. [Wilhelm Merian, preface to Eulenburg Edition of Mozart's Quartet in G minor. London: Eulenburg (year?): II]


Before CDs, almost all repeats were ignored to bring the whole piece at about 22 minutes in duration, thus allowing it to fit on one side of a phonograph record; the other side could then have the K. 493 at about 24 minutes (with repeats also ignored). Now with CDs, obeying all repeats brings the piece to about 30 minutes.

Leonard Bernstein has recorded this work with members of the Juilliard String Quartet (without second violinist Isidore Cohen); the disc includes Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic in two of Mozart's concerti for multiple pianos (K. 316a and K. 242) with other pianists at the keyboards and Bernstein on the podium.

However, it is far more common to pair this Quartet with the K. 493 Quartet; to give two examples: the Hyperion CD with Paul Lewis and the Leopold String Trio, and the Naxos recording by the Menuhin Festival Piano Quartet. The CBS Masterworks recording with Yo-Yo Ma, Jaime Laredo, Isaac Stern and Emanuel Ax, in addition to the two Quartets, also includes the Kegelstatt Trio, K. 498.



*cite book|last=Deutsch|first=Otto Erich|date=1965|title=Mozart: A Documentary Biography|location=Stanford|publisher=Stanford University Press|oclc =8991008
*cite book|last=Solomon|first=Maynard|date=1995|location=New York|publisher=Harper Collins Publishers|title=Mozart: a life|isbn=0-06-019046-9|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=OR3eCAX8BikC&printsec=frontcover&dq=solomon+maynard+mozart&ei=zJQ4R4z_DoTqiQGR8oiBAg&sig=RSEiFAZY2nNxaocRIVCaHv3o1QQ

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