Mozart, String Quintet K. 516, performed by the Amadeus Quartet

1 st movement: Allegro | 2nd: Menuetto, Allegretto | 3rd: Adagio ma non troppo | 4th: Adagio – Allegro

The first and fourth movements are rather vigorous (for the fourth movement, you have to wait until about the 2:50 mark for the pace to pick up). I’ve only listened to this piece once or twice in its entirety, so I don’t have much to say at the moment. The Amadeus Quartet is precise, attuned almost exactly to each other’s movements. They play with a tremendous energy that never seemingly goes slack. This is probably the first Mozart string quintet to which I’ve attempted to pay close attention, and what strikes me is how much “heft” it has. Usually when I describe rococo’s lightness (as opposed to baroque: I’m no expert on either), I point to Mozart, and emphasize the flightiness, the simplicity one might think trivial. Here, the third movement underscores a tension Mozart develops. It oscillates between the meditative and something more freely melodic. We are forced to attend to how various instruments sing fully in very different ways.

A note on the Amadeus Quartet, courtesy

Because of their Jewish origin, violinists Norbert Brainin, Siegmund Nissel and violist Peter Schidlof were driven out of Vienna after Hitler’s Anschluss of 1938. Brainin and Schidlof met in a British internment camp; many Jewish refugees had the misfortune of being confined by the British as “enemy aliens” upon seeking refuge in the U.K. Brainin was released after a few months, but Schidlof remained in the camp, where he met Nissel. Finally Schidlof and Nissel were released, and the three of them were able to study with violin pedagogue Max Rostal, who taught them free of charge. It was through Rostal that they met cellist Martin Lovett, and in 1947 they formed the Brainin Quartet, which was renamed the Amadeus Quartet in 1948. The Amadeus was one of the most celebrated quartets of the 20th Century, and its members were awarded numerous honors, including:

The Order of the British Empire, presented by the Queen.
Doctorates from the Universities of London, York, and Caracas.
The highest of all German awards, the Grand Cross of merit.
The Austrian Cross of Honour for Arts and Sciences.
The quartet disbanded in 1987 upon the death of the violist Peter Schidlof, who was regarded as irreplaceable by the surviving members.

Hope you enjoy.

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