Mozart’s “Haydn” String Quartets

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. Quartet, strings, K. 387, G major. (London: L. Lavenu, circa 1797). Part for first violin, beginning of first movement

The Jasper String Quartet will perform Mozart’s String Quartet K. 387 and Beethoven’s String Quartet op. 59, no. 3 on Tuesday, October 12, 2010, 5:15 PM, at the Beinecke Library.  The  concert and reception will celebrate the opening of the exhibition “God Save the King: Music from the British Royal Court, 1770-1837.”

This early edition of Mozart’s string quartet K. 387, shown above, was published in London circa 1797, as part of a set of three  quartets: K. 387, 421, and 458 (“Hunt”).   Together with K. 428, 464, and 465 (“Dissonance”), these quartets are known as the “Haydn Quartets,” a set of six works composed by Mozart in Vienna during 1782-1785 and first published by Artaria in 1785, with a dedication to Joseph Haydn.  A generation older than Mozart, Haydn is considered the father of the string quartet as a modern form of composition, and his works in this genre exerted a strong influence on Mozart.  Haydn and Mozart were friends as well as colleagues, and are said to have performed quartets together in Mozart’s home in Vienna, with Haydn on first violin and Mozart on viola.

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. Quartets, strings, K. 387, 421, 458 (London: L. Lavenu, circa 1797). Part for first violin, cover.

The Hanover Royal Music Archive’s edition of Mozart’s first three Haydn quartets was published by Lewis Lavenu (died 1818).  Lavenu founded his London music publishing business at no. 23 Duke Street by 1796; the quartets appear to have been published soon after, as the paper is watermarked 1797.  Manuscript annotations identify each part and indicate that these parts are the “1st”  of two books, each of which contained three of the six quartets.  Lavenu formed a partnership with Charles Mitchell in 1802 and continued his business under the name Lavenu & Mitchell.  Mozart’s Haydn quartets were evidently popular with English musicians, as they were reissued by Lavenu & Mitchell circa 1805.

A label affixed to each part indicates that the music was sold at the premises of William Milhouse:

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. Quartets, strings, K. 387, 421, 458. (London: L. Lavenu, circa 1797). Part for first violin, label on cover.

The Milhouse family (sometimes spelled Millhouse) were prominent makers of woodwind instruments in Newark and London.  William Milhouse (1761-1834) had opened his London shop by 1787 and moved to 337 Oxford Street by end of 1797.  Milhouse continued as a highly successful woodwind maker through the 1830s, claiming association with the royal family as manufacturer to the Dukes of Kent and Cumberland.  While primarily an instrument maker, he also published and sold music, as is indicated by the label on the quartets.

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. Quartets, strings, K. 387, 421, 458. (London: L. Lavenu, circa 1797). Original folder, from music of the Duke of Cumberland’s band.

Originally housed in this folder headed “H. R. H. E. D. C.” (His Royal Highness, Ernest Duke of Cumberland), the quartets are part of music performed by the private band of Ernest Augustus (1771-1851), Duke of Cumberland and later King of Hanover.  Though most music of the Duke’s band is for wind band or orchestra, some chamber music is present, indicating both a flexible range of musicians employed by the Duke, and his interest in hearing these particular works.

Below are example pages from second violin, viola, and cello parts for Mozart’s string quartet K. 387:

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. Quartet, strings, K. 387 (London: L. Lavenu, circa 1797). Part for second violin, third movement and beginning of fourth movement

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. Quartet, strings, K. 387 (London: L. Lavenu, circa 1797). Part for viola, third movement and beginning of fourth movement

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. Quartet, strings, K. 387 (London: L. Lavenu, circa 1797). Part for cello, end of first movement and beginning of second movement

2 responses to “Mozart’s “Haydn” String Quartets

  1. This is a really good read for me, Must admit that you are one of the best bloggers I ever saw.Thanks for posting this informative article.

  2. Thanks very much appreciated

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