String Quartet no 19 in C major, K465 (“Dissonance”) – Mozart


                    “Queen Marie Antoinette of France (1783)  

                              Louise Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun


if Mozart’s 19th String Quartetthe last of 
his Haydn Quartets, the six he indeed 
dedicated  to Haydn, sounds less 
deferential than one would have thought 
for the period, it should be remembered 
that the American Revolution had just
taken place, in 1776, the French one was 
about to, in 1789, and even the more 
aristocratic houses in Europe would not
have been unaffected, Mozart was young,
29, and astir with confidence and bravura,
it was 1785

Haydn had had his moment earlier, his
Opus 20, which went on to revolutionize 
music if not countries, but had retreated 
to a less emboldened political stance 
as he grew older, while concentrating 
rather on his more important muse, and 
refining his ear for precise, pure music,
which is to say devoid of any but polite
sentiments, delight and lyrical 
melancholy only

in Mozart’s 19th String Quartet, even the 
minuet is peremptory, not something 
you’d especially want to dance to,
however musically accomplished

he starts the first movement with, of all 
things, an adagio, however briefly, which 
could’ve been disastrous, you need to 
know what you’re doing when you open
with a lament

incidentally, all the instruments in the
opening adagio are playing in different 
keys, resolved when the allegro kicks 
in, this is why it’s called “Dissonance”,
something in and of itself of a 
rebellious act 

the 19th is also twice the length of 
Haydn’s nearest earlier one, his Opus 42,
expansive rather than terse, for whatever
that might mean, the point is to keep us
throughout interested, which he does, 
they do

Mozart is prefiguring hereincidentally,
Beethoven, with his audacity, his 
sense of an ideological mission, and  
he’s mightily impressive


R ! chard