1782-1785: Mozart: The Haydn Quartets: age 26 to 29

Mr. Peabody Says:

I would not suggest listening to all of them in one sitting. You want to try each one, or even listen to one movement at a time. It would take something like three hours. You’d have to be a hard core lover of strings to make it through in one sitting: But here they are, with The Quatuor Mosaïques

These are links for all of the six quartets:

  1. String Quartet No. 14 in G major, (“Spring”), K. 387, Op. 10, No. 1 (31 December 1782)
  2. String Quartet No. 15 in D minor, K. 421/417b, Op. 10, No. 2 (17 June 1783)
  3. String Quartet No. 16 in E-flat major, K. 428/421b, Op. 10, No. 4 (June–July 1783)
  4. String Quartet No. 17 in B-flat major (“Hunt”), K. 458, Op. 10, No. 3 (9 November 1784)
  5. String Quartet No. 18 in A major, K. 464, Op. 10, No. 5 (10 January 1785)
  6. String Quartet No. 19 in C major (“Dissonance”), K. 465, Op. 10, No. 6 (14 January 1785)

Mozart’s order:

Mozart arranged the six quartets in the order of composition, except for reversing the order of K. 428 and K. 458.

23 quartets:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed 23 string quartets. The six “Haydn” Quartets were written in Vienna during the years 1782 to 1785. They are dedicated to Haydn.

The creator of the modern string quartet:

It was Haydn, and he recently completed his influential “Opus 33” set of quartets in 1781, the year that Mozart arrived in Vienna.

The young master studied the older master:

Mozart studied Haydn’s string quartets and began composing his set of six, which were published in 1785 but started in 1782, and the 1st was completed that year.


In Vienna Haydn and Mozart became friends, and they sometimes played quartets together in Mozart’s apartment, with Mozart playing the viola, and Haydn playing violin. In those days using “Du” was considered the intimate mode, used for pets, older family members and children – and servants or people of a “lower class”. You just did not address older people that way, or even people you did not know well. Without their express permission it was considered highly rude. And yet Mozart addressed Haydn in this intimate way, because they were so close. It was one of the most amazing friendships in the history of music.

Mozart presented them to Haydn:

Haydn first heard the quartets at two gatherings at Mozart’s home in January and February of 1785. It is assume that Haydn listened rather than playing them himself.

Haydn’s reaction to Mozart’s father Leopold:

“Before God, and as an honest man, I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name. He has taste, and, what is more, the most profound knowledge of composition.”

Mozart’s published dedication – (1 September 1785):

To my dear friend Haydn,

A father who had resolved to send his children out into the great world took it to be his duty to confide them to the protection and guidance of a very celebrated Man, especially when the latter by good fortune was at the same time his best Friend. Here they are then, O great Man and dearest Friend, these six children of mine. They are, it is true, the fruit of a long and laborious endeavor, yet the hope inspired in me by several Friends that it may be at least partly compensated encourages me, and I flatter myself that this offspring will serve to afford me solace one day. You, yourself, dearest friend, told me of your satisfaction with them during your last Visit to this Capital. It is this indulgence above all which urges me to commend them to you and encourages me to hope that they will not seem to you altogether unworthy of your favour. May it therefore please you to receive them kindly and to be their Father, Guide and Friend! From this moment I resign to you all my rights in them, begging you however to look indulgently upon the defects which the partiality of a Father’s eye may have concealed from me, and in spite of them to continue in your generous Friendship for him who so greatly values it, in expectation of which I am, with all of my Heart, my dearest Friend, your most Sincere Friend,

W. A. Mozart

Early reception:

They were received both enthusiastically and with hostility.

Always a horribly ignorant critic:

Giuseppe Sarti later published an attack against the “Dissonance” quartet, describing sections as “barbarous”, “execrable”, and “miserable” in its use of whole-tone clusters and chromatic extremes.

Someone corrected Mozart’s “mistakes”:

François-Joseph Fétis was a Belgian musicologist, composer, teacher, and one of the most influential music critics of the 19th century. He printed a revision of the opening of the “Dissonance” quartet, implying that Mozart had made errors.

When the publishers, Artaria, sent the quartets to Italy for publication, they were returned with the report “the engraving is full of mistakes”.

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