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My back is messed up today.  I almost skipped today's diary.  But then I realized I haven't skipped one since we started this a year ago, so I'll grin and bear it and just pull something out of my rear orifice that will astound and delight without requiring massive work on my part.

The Mozart String Quintet in G minor K. 516 fits that bill perfectly.  I don't need to research anything because I know it by heart, having heard it so many times.  And I suspect most of the regular readers here have never heard it.

Now, I know, some people hate chamber music, some love it.  For the haters, give this a try.  You might surprise yourself.

I'm going to skip the excellent first movement and go to the second movement, one I love to play for people who think Mozart's too simple for their own more sophisticated tastes.  But if you're hardcore, you can hear the first movement here(part 1) and here(part 2) before we begin.  

But I'd rather start with the more complicated second movement!  

Mozart String Quintet #5 in G minor K. 516, second movement Menuetto Allegretto.  Artists unknown Performed by Hausmusik London.

(I'm going to hazard a guess that that's the Takacs Quartet.  If you know better, tell us.  Agrenadier informs me that it's actually Hausmusik London.)

This whole quintet is one of Mozart's most emotional, certainly for me.  But this second movement is a deluxe head trip.  The string parts are often out of phase and collide creating weird, addictive rhythmic effects.  I've listened to this I don't know how many times, but I still find myself sometimes lost and trying to find my place in it.  Usually, Mozart's melodies are very easy to pluck out on an instrument like a guitar or recorder.  Not this one!

A quick observation for anybody new to Mozart's chamber music:  Mozart composed complicated music for BAD PLAYERS.  At a time when most work for great musicians involved sucking up to nobility or higher clergy, selling written chamber music scores to publishers was a good way of making extra cash.  There was a substantial market for music compositions for the family to play at home.  And since it was designed to be played by families, it couldn't be difficult virtuoso music, as Beethoven composed for his quartets, works that would be too hard for mama, papa, and the two baby bears to play with their student violins.  The music itself may be hard, but the playing of it was meant to be easy.

Now on to the third movement, when you're ready.  The third movement is one of the most sentimental pieces of music that Mozart ever composed.  The intellectual Mozart of the second movement gives way to the emotional Mozart of this movement.

Mozart String Quintet #5 in G minor K. 516, third movement: Adagio ma non troppo.

I'm going to give in to temptation and analyze this one a little bit, something I told myself I wouldn't do.  It's in an abbreviated Sonata-allegro form.

The first theme, very sentimental and in a major key, is from 0:00 to 1:17.  There is a somewhat tense bridge passage then as it changes key and prepares for the second theme, which begins at 1:43.  This second theme in a minor key is tragic with some dramatic moments.  Then it moves on to the codetta at 2;35, brazenly optimistic after the previous part.  There is no development section.

The recapitulation (repeat of everything) starts at 3:36.  Everything is repeated almost verbatim, with little surprises in the connecting material between the different parts.

And now for the final movement:

Mozart String Quintet #5 in G minor K. 516, fourth/final movement: Adagio--Allegro.

This movement is deceptive at first.  It begins with a VERY tragic introduction for the first two and a half minutes, a small movement in its own right.  (This is not common in Mozart, although, later, Beethoven did this quite a bit.)  This whole quintet in G minor has been very dark until now, and darkest now, at the beginning of the fourth movement.  And then, as this slow introduction part ends, we enter new more positive territory.

Mozart hated sad serious endings to his music.  I can point, for instance, to the ending of his Piano Concerto #20 in D minor.  With the end of the Adagio section of this movement, it launches straight at 2:45 into a very joyous Rondo in G major.  The contrast to all that has gone before is the more stark for it.  

Notice, too, how simple the main theme of this rondo is, at 2:45 to 3:04.  Too simple, eh?  Boring, all by itself, maybe.  But Mozart prefers to begin complicated movements with VERY simple material and then elaborate from there.  

As I mentioned a couple of diaries back, the format of a Rondo movement is ABACADA...  alternating the A section with new material. Often the new material (B,C,D...) are variations on A. The simple little dumpling of a theme at 2:45 is our A theme.  That's as far as I'll break that down.

Originally posted to Dumbo on Thu Jul 14, 2011 at 06:05 PM PDT.

Also republished by An Ear for Music, DKOMA, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

    •  One of my favorite pieces (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dumbo, docmidwest, confitesprit

      Mozart almost never wrote in the minor keys, and the things he did write are all exceptionally beautiful and emotional.  (Think 40th Symphony.)

      This is one of those things violists love to play and often do in informal chamber music get-togethers, which does not do it justice, but is so beautiful anyway.

      When shit happens, you get fertilized.

      by ramara on Fri Jul 15, 2011 at 05:07:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm working on a diary about the evloution of (11+ / 0-)

    the classical orchestra.

    Hopefully I'll have it soon.

    But I'm a procrastinator.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

    by zenbassoon on Thu Jul 14, 2011 at 06:18:32 PM PDT

  •  Wonderful choice (8+ / 0-)

    I haven't listened to this magnificent piece for a few years, so I thank you for bringing it back around for me.

    It reminds me of how much more orchestral Mozart's quintets have always sounded to me than his quartets.  There are moments where the string quintet hints at, without quite reaching, the sound of a chamber orchestra.  I don't remember any of his quartets having that particular sound.  Funny how that one extra voice changes the music so much.  Oddly, I don't find the conversations in his quintets more complicated or intricate than in his quartets --  often the opposite.  Maybe that's another reason they sound vaguely orchestral to me.

    DC politicians don't realize they're corrupt for the same reason fish don't realize they're wet.

    by Dallasdoc on Thu Jul 14, 2011 at 07:09:29 PM PDT

  •  My sister's Facebook post from earlier today: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dumbo, confitesprit

    Fantastic day in Vienna - sightseeing & Schonbrunn Palace, Mozart Requiem in glorious church, beer and apfelstrudel.

    Lucky her.

  •  I love classical music. (4+ / 0-)

    This is a wonderful alternative to read and listen to on a Friday.

    I can just about forgive the Brits for starting our revolutionary war and burning DC to the ground during the war of 1812 for giving us Led Zeppelin.

    by Pager on Fri Jul 15, 2011 at 10:38:38 AM PDT

  •  a splendid diary! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dumbo, confitesprit

    The ensemble is Hausmusik London; fine, but a bit less subtle than the Takács Quartet, whose recording is sublime. I have the one by the Amadeus, and it's really beautiful.
    This is very typical of Mozart's minor works, which, interestingly, were composed alongside some of his greatest works in a major key, like the 40th and 41st symphonies.
    I hope your back is better soon! Thanks for not skipping the diary! I love reading about music, and it's a joy to share this great passion with others.

    Life is a shipwreck. But we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats. — Voltaire

    by agrenadier on Fri Jul 15, 2011 at 11:27:07 AM PDT

  •  I can't stream anything now, but will very much (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ozsea1, Dumbo

    look forward to checking this out from home this evening.

    I have a some recordings of both Mozart's String Quartets and Quintets, I believe by Quatuor Mosaïques, but will also have to be home to verify.  I need to be out of contact for several hours now, but will definitely be checking back in later.

    Thanks for posting, and I hope your back feels better soon!

    •  Finally home, and can say that my version of the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dumbo

      quintets, which does include K-516, is by Simon Whistler and the Salomon String Quartet.

      I'm listening to the posted versions now, and will compare to mine after.  Thanks!

  •  not so about the viola! (5+ / 0-)

    I beg to differ, politely. The viola can be the soul of the chamber ensemble; listen to old recordings of Pinchas Zuckerman, especially the legendary one of the "Trout." The DVD isn't the best quality, since it's an old production, but you can really hear the brilliance. The viola was Mozart's favorite instrument, and he makes the viola more than a partner with the violin in the Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat major (the K. 364).

    Life is a shipwreck. But we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats. — Voltaire

    by agrenadier on Fri Jul 15, 2011 at 11:34:16 AM PDT

  •  Such a fantastic piece (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ozsea1, ivorybill, Dumbo, confitesprit

    A teacher of mine once said something like "even when Mozart is melancholy, he is smiling with a tear in his eye."

    I think the 3rd movement of this puts the lie to that comment.

    ... I also enjoy Mozart's piano quartet in G minor a lot. Thanks for the diary.

  •  Thanks for this, DUmbo, and for your (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dumbo, confitesprit

    commitment to the series.  BUt do take care of your back. If you need to skip a week, we'll certainly understand that, and we'll still be here when you get back.

  •  Okay, the Mozart's great but (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ozsea1, Amber6541, confitesprit

    what's the deal deal with the flamingo???

    •  That's a good question... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      confitesprit

      The Youtube uploader must have really liked flamingos.  

      If you click through the embedded clip to the Youtube site, (just click on the white link at the very top of the video), you can 1) Click the Like button on Youtube so he gets some friendly mojo there and 2) Leave him a comment asking why!

  •  I'll admit it! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dumbo, confitesprit

      My knowledge and appreciation of classical music is in the slim to none range.   That being said, this week was extremely stressful for me and finding this respite on this website - fantastic.
       Now why I never clicked on these before, can I get away with saying I am a dunderhead!

        So mark me as a newby and even if I can't make a meaningful contribution to this discussion, I'll add to the tip jar!

  •  I love this piece (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shari, Dumbo, agrenadier, confitesprit

    I'm with you, Dumbo, on this - Mozart may seem simple but rarely is.  I often get something new out of a piece, even if I have heard it dozens of times.

    And emotionally, he's more complex than is immediately apparent.  He doesn't always end things upbeat - more often, like a good novel, he sets you down in a different place altogether. In the fourth movement you refer to above, when he transitions from despair to that lively minuet, I don't hear that end state as unadulterated joy.  There's something a little frenetic about it, a little dark, a little bit of forced gaiety that's kind of interesting.  When I first heard this I thought of the "tarantella", which is supposed to be an ecstatic Italian dance that you get when bit by a spider.  It ends badly, but you are ecstatic for a while.  Mozart lived in a time when half of children died... you can put a bandaid on pain, but sometimes a little blood seeps through.  That's what I get out of this piece - which like most of Mozart is both more simple and more complicated the more you hear it.  

    "Sedimentary people stay in one place. They only interact with other sedimentary people."

    by ivorybill on Fri Jul 15, 2011 at 04:17:53 PM PDT

  •  Ah man I love Mozart. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dumbo, confitesprit

  •  that is one of the strangest things ever! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dumbo, confitesprit

    Holy cats. "Non son piu" is one of the glories of the "Le Nozze di Figaro," but this is a truly hilarious disaster! And amusingly, in the wrong key!

    Life is a shipwreck. But we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats. — Voltaire

    by agrenadier on Fri Jul 15, 2011 at 09:25:28 PM PDT

  •  Einstein and Mozart (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dumbo, confitesprit

    Einstein was said to be a middling violinist, but loved to play. He especially loved Mozart, and in a brilliant piece written in the 70s by Henry Allen, he writes, "Einstein played Mozart slowly, because he could not bear the thought that the music would ever end."

    Life is a shipwreck. But we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats. — Voltaire

    by agrenadier on Fri Jul 15, 2011 at 09:30:15 PM PDT

  •  That flip last movement (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dumbo

    has always pissed me off, and you know I've got plenty of company. All I can say is he wrote it right after his father died and he wasn't firing on all his cylinders.  But who cares? It's the G Minor Quintet and we can't live without it. Or we could, but well, we wouldn't have the G Minor Quintet.

    Do you love the Quintet in E-flat, K.614? I think he got to the last movement of that piece and thought oh, yeah, I owe myself one.

    •  Yup, I like the E-flat. (0+ / 0-)

      I even like the first quintet, K. 174, which would usually be too early in his output for me.

      K. 174 is pretty darn good.  Lots of sly little rhythmic tricks.

      I LIKE the ending of the G-minor quintet, but I sort of came to that after a journey.  I think I felt like you did at first.  But "flip" is a good word to describe Mozart even in his best works.  Mozart is rarely "serious" serious. His conception of music just doesn't relate to the world in the way Beethoven's does.  There are advantages and disadvantages to that, the disadvantages being rather obvious.  The advantage though, I think, is that when music is just taken as it is without the burden of expectation of carrying a dramatic meaning of some kind, it becomes more interesting as JUST MUSIC, because that's all that's left.  It focuses you.

      I started searching for other examples of the same thing, serious minor key works where he just couldn't keep a straight face all the way to the end.  The Piano Concerto #20 was the one that came to mind first.  I just thought of an even better spot-on example.  The end of the C minor String Quintet #4, K. 406.

      Skip forward to some time before 5:47, but not at 5:47, so you can hear how serious it is.  Then at 5:47, he makes a mockery of the movement with this sun-shiney major key ending.  I guess there are lot of different ways to try to take it.  I just take it that that's the real Mozart.

      •  I always thought (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dumbo

        the best "hey, man, it's just a show" ending belongs to Don Giovanni.

        And now for my fave Mozart quote!  Yeah, yeah, don't quote, it pisses people off.  But what the hell, it's George Bernard Shaw.  Sue me.

        In the ardent regions where all the rest are excited and vehement, Mozart alone is completely self-possessed; where they are clutching their bars with a grip of iron and forging them with Cyclopean blows, his gentleness of touch never deserts him; his is considerate, economical, practical under the same pressure of inspiration that throws your Titan into convulsions.
        •  "HE" is considerate, not "his" (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dumbo

          Messing up a GBS quote? Guantanamo.

          •  I can give you another example, from opera. (0+ / 0-)

            The Queen of the Night's Aria from The Magic Flute.

            Now this is supposed to be a TERRIFYING MOMENT!  So terrifying, she's LAUGHING at her victim!  But it's hard for me to watch it without wanting to laugh with her.  Great music, not as sober as the drama of the situation would seem to require, though.

            •  That's entertainment (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Dumbo

              Well, that's him--he was explicit about it, said his first duty was to entertain, i.e., make money, and that aria is one hell of a crowd pleaser.  I think Mozart always had his eye on the receipts when he wrote, mostly because he never got over his father's telling him he was an impractical idiot who could never make it on his own and shouldn't even try.  The one minor-key piece I can think of that Mozart wrote just for himself and not for money is the G minor symphony, K.440, which ends in a pretty nasty rant.  

              Did you read Alex Ross's piece on Mozart in Listen to This? I'm a Ross fan; he is very smart.

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