The 'Dissonance' String Quartet K465 for Woodwind Quintet
Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1765-1791)
Arranged by Geoffrey Emerson
Published by Emerson Wind Editions
Flute, Oboe, Bb Clarinet, Horn in F, and Bassoon
About the piece:
This string quartet, completed in Vienna on January 14th 1785, was the last of the set of six which Mozart dedicated to his friend Haydn. He described them (surprisingly) as “the fruits of long and arduous toil” adding that it had been from Haydn that he had first learned how to compose a quartet. The older man's response was as typically generous as it was undoubtedly true. To Mozart's father Leopold he said, “I declare to you before God as a man of honour that your son is the greatest composer that I know, either personally or by reputation…”
The first play-through took place on Feburary 12th, 1785 at a quartet party which Mozart organised at his apartment in the Domgasse to celebrate Haydn's initiation into Freemasonry the previous night. All the players, who included Mozart and Haydn, were masons as was Artaria the publisher who printed the six quartets the following September. The present cover incoporates a copy by Jane Robinson of the original cover border design together with a cherub by Richard Butterworth.
The so-called dissonances which gave rise to the nick-name occur in the opening adagio introduction, and even today they can raise eyebrows. In the late eighteenth century there were stronger reactions. The set of six quartets was described by one critic as “too highly spiced”, and one prince tore up the parts in a rage on finding that they really contained the “hideous stuff” that was being played to him. In reality Mozart's 'Haydn' quartets contain some of the finest and most affecting music ever penned, and it is a matter of regret that those he wrote afterwards were musically 'safer'.
Wind players, who have hitherto had to put up with the mediocrities of Reicha and Danzi (if they hadn't written wind quintets would we have heard much of them?) may now enjoy the very finest music, hitherto available only to those peculiar string players. Nothing has been added or taken away; only a few bars of 'scrubbing' have been smoothed out. The 'Hunt' quartet K458 arranged for wind quintet is also published by Emerson Edition, as are two quartets by Haydn and a scherzo by Cesar Franck, and others will follow eventually.