An everyday drama unfolds: The bus is five minutes late when it arrives at the bus stop. It is nine minutes late by the time it reaches the station where I have to jump on the train. 60 seconds to run down the stairs to the platform, yelling like a madman – too late! The moment I arrive at train’s door, the train gently glides away, almost silently, seemingly undisturbed by my distress. Dammit! I’m furious. What now? The app gives me no good alternatives except to wait for the next train an hour later.
Breathe, Charles, breathe! What is the semi-professional music blogger to do with unexpected free time? Precisely. Since I don’t go anywhere without my smart phone, I sit down on a cold bench and starts typing. Today’s subject: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s String Quartet in B flat major (K. 172).
Wolfgang! Haven’t you saved me recently when a flu had knocked me out of action for a few days? So it seems to me. Mozart is good at saving me in all kind of dire straits. It’s good to have him and his music always at my side. The String Quartet in B flat major is one of a series of six quartets Mozart composed in the late summer and early fall of 1773, probably in Vienna, a few months after returning from a tour of Italy. These works are known as the “Viennese Quartets”.
While the set of quartets composed near the end of his travels (K. 155-160) clearly show how the young composer had absorbed the musical styles and forms encountered during his Italian tour, the “Viennese” Quartets” betray the influence of Haydn’s early quartets. K. 172 quartet exemplifies Mozart’s “transition from a calculatedly impressionable early phase to a mature and distinctive voice”, as an anonymous contemporary music writer put it. Mozart may have hoped to have them published at the time, but they were only published posthumously in 1801.
By now the battery of my phone is running low and my fingers are pretty cold, but the quartet keeps me warm and looking at the picture above makes me feel good. Last Saturday was lovely, sunny, warm, golden leaves in the vineyard. And one my thoughts at the time was: Bach, Haydn or Mozart? Mozart! He did put up with quite a few mishaps himself when he was travelling, so I don’t complain too much about today’s inconveniences. As long as I stay in the range of the WiFi hotspot, everything is fine. Technology in the service of art…
Mozart’s quartet is joyful, friendly, comforting, teasing – what do you want more? It has been recorded by the – surprise! – Amadeus Quartet.
© Charles Thibo