On Sunday afternoon, four members of the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra — Timothy Hester (fortepiano), Oleg Sulyga (violin), Rene Salazar (viola), and Barrett Sills (cello) — perform Mozart’s Piano Quartets in Rienzi’s Gallery.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is probably one of the most well-known classical music composers. Born in 1856 to Leopold and Anna Maria Pertl Mozart, young Wolfgang was taught violin and keyboard by his father, a composer and music teacher. An Austrian child prodigy, Mozart — along with his sister Nannerl — performed for audiences beginning at the age of 5.
In 1785 Franz Anton Hoffmeister, a publisher, commissioned Mozart to compose three quartets. The first, Piano Quartet, No. 1 in G Minor, K. 478, has three movements. Hoffmeister felt that the public would not purchase this quartet; because it was in the key of G minor, a particularly difficult key, it had potential to be perceived as too intricate for the amateur pianist. Subsequently, Hoffmeister released Mozart from the three-quartet contract. However, Mozart completed a second, Piano Quartet, No. 2 in E-flat major, K. 493, nine months later.
These two piano quartets are considered to be exemplary of what a piano quartet should be; they are balanced, with each of the four instruments being highlighted at some point in the pieces. Prior to the completion of these two pieces, piano quartets did not exist; their precursor is considered to be the piano sonata. Sonatas use a keyboard and stringed instruments. Piano quartets add a bass instrument, in this case the cello, to the sonata’s ensemble. Mozart used three movements in both composition types; an Allegro, Middle, and Finale.