Musée du Louvre: Henri Loyette, president director; Monique Devaux, artistic director for the concerts.
Third in a series of quartets called "Milanese," the quartet in C Major K 157 was written during Mozart and his father's second trip to Italy in the winter of 1772-1773. Burdened by a very heavy schedule, the sixteen year old composer found in the composition of these works much more than a hobby, it is instead became a refuge from the pestering demands of opera singers always waiting for new arias. Prompted only by interest and no exterior constraints, the work done on these quartets enabled Mozart to hone his skills: the mastering of instrumental music forms and the assertion of his personal style. Witness to this evolution is the quartet's initial Allegro whose simple joy of the first theme is darkened by the frequent Minor modulations and preludes to Mozart's later typical combination of felicity and grief. The Andante in C Minor carries a somewhat artificial gravity whereas the final Presto, with its syncopated rhythm, irresistibly conveys an atmosphere of opera-buffa.
In 1980, Brahms announced that he will give up composition after the completion of the Quintet for strings in G Major opus 111. However in 1891, he revoked his decision after meeting the clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld. Dazzled by the beauty of the instrument's tone and by the player's formidable technique, the composer found his inspiration once again and worked on two new compositions during in summer to Bad Ischl: a trio for clarinet, cello and piano and a quintet for clarinet and a string quartet. Written in the sober B Minor tonality, they bring in a nostalgic atmosphere which is typical of the late Brahms. In this work that takes advantage of the clarinet's full possibilities, rarely had the composer focused so much on patterns. It opens with a tranquil Allegretto exposing the leitmotiv which serves the unity of the work. Progressively asserting itself next to the string quartet during this first movement, the clarinet acquires a true persona in this melancholic Cantilene that introduces the Adagio in B Major, in particular in the central section of the movement whose quick melodies are suggestive of gypsy music. The Scherzo, properly called Preston non assai, ma con sentiment, starts only after a long introduction by the clarinet on a falsely nonchalant theme which is developed all along the receding and uncertain movement. Paying homage to Mozart's quintet for clarinet, the finale resumes the form and variation before peacefully shutting down with the initial leitmotive.
© Auditorium du Louvre 2011