String Quartet No. 15 (Mozart)

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Mozart c. 1781

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's String Quartet No. 15 in D minor, K. 421/417b is the second of the Quartets dedicated to Haydn and the only one of the set in a minor key. Though undated in the autograph,[1] it is believed to have been completed in 1783, while his wife Constanze Mozart was in labour with her first child Raimund.[a] Constanze stated that the rising string figures in the second movement corresponded to her cries from the other room.[3]


Average performances of the whole string quartet vary in length from 23 to 33 minutes. It is in four movements:

  1. Allegro moderato
  2. Andante (F major)
  3. Menuetto and Trio (the latter in D major). Allegretto
  4. Allegretto ma non troppo

The first movement is characterized by a sharp contrast between the aperiodicity of the first subject group, characterized by Arnold Schoenberg as "prose-like," and the "wholly periodic" second subject group.[4] In the Andante and the Minuet, "normal expectations of phraseology are confounded."[5] The main part of the Minuet is in minuet sonata form,[6] while "the contrasting major-mode Trio ... is ... almost embarrassingly lightweight on its own ... [but] makes a wonderful foil to the darker character of the Minuet."[7] The last movement is a set of variations. The movement ends in a picardy third.


  1. ^ "There is an anecdote, reported by Constanze to Vincent and Mary Novello in 1829, that Mozart wrote the D minor quartet while she was in labour with their first child, Raimund, and therefore around 17 June 1783."[2]


  1. ^ Finscher 2007, p. X.
  2. ^ Irving 1998, p. 13
  3. ^ Wolfgang Hildesheimer, Mozart [de]. Oxford: Oxford University Press (1977, 1985): "...we are probably right in assuming that it was the sudden forte of the two octave leaps and the following minor tenth (bars 31–32 of the andante), a brief uproar that quiets down, in a syncopated passage, to piano. These are figures that otherwise do not occur in Mozart."
  4. ^ Irving 1998, p. 33
  5. ^ Irving 1998, p. 35
  6. ^ Rosen 1988, pp. 112–114
  7. ^ Irving 1998, p. 36


  • Irving, John (1998). Mozart: The 'Haydn' Quartets. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-58475-2.
  • Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus (2007). Ludwig Finscher (ed.). The Ten Celebrated String Quartets. Translated by Anderson, Kinloch. Kassel: Bärenreiter. ISMN 9790006201181.
  • Wilks, Alexa Vivien (2015). The Biography of a String Quartet: Mozart's String Quartet in D minor, K. 421 (417b) (PDF) (D.M.A). University of Toronto. Retrieved 2018-01-14.
  • Rosen, Charles (1988). Sonata Forms. New York: W. W. Norton. ISBN 9780393302196.

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