Have Mozart Will Travel

Have Mozart Will Travel

My new string quartet has been looking for something to perform in a recital on May 15, for our violist’s teacher. We’ve only played together twice, at least twice with me on violin 1. The others know each other better and have been to music camp together and had coaching and everything. I’m holding my own, though. I can finally say that I too have chamber music experience.

I really miss my buddies from the Mystic String Quartet and the Arlington Philharmonic Chamber Players. I owe a big debt of gratitude to Sandy, the cellist in that quartet: not only did she first recruit me to play chamber music  when I was pretty new to the orchestra, and then keep the group going through the interchanging of a handful of other violinists and violists, she also showed up at my door one evening with a big laundry basket full of sheet music.

At the time I was sort of like, yeah, whatever, I’ll take it off your hands if you have duplicates and don’t want it anymore. I put it on the bookcase with the rest of my music and mostly forgot about it. But when I moved to CA, I brought it along, and recently, tired of IMSLP and the associated downloading and printing, I finally looked carefully at what I already had: two volumes of Mozart, some Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Schubert.

The original owner of this music lived and played before my time; his name was Leonard Kaplan and he lived in Cambridge MA. I never met him. By the time his music reached me, he had passed on. Some of his music parts are in better shape than others, but I think the music should be played before it completely disintegrates and becomes unusable. Like the solo violin music I inherited from Phyllis Spence, the former concertmaster and oldest member of my former orchestra, it’s a treasure trove of quartet parts, many of which haven’t seen the light of day for a long time.

My new quartet tried a few things this morning: Ashokan Farewell (nice, but too mournful, too much of a violin I solo), Mozart K499 (also nice, but long), Beethoven Op. 18 No. 4 (in our dreams), some Celtic arrangements (pretty and easy), and finally, Mozart K155, which is what we settled on.

I already know this piece and have played it before. It’s a little bittersweet: the Mystic Quartet  played it for Phyllis near the end of her life 3 years ago, and then again at her memorial service, at her request. It is, however, a happy and vigorous piece of music, and has a new life, and new meaning, out here in California.

Uploaded by Shaul Abergil, Performed by the Sonare Quartet.


We rehearsed it this morning in Palo Alto, and so I’m submitting this piece, Mozart’s string quartet K155 in D major, to the Monday Morning Medicine Show as my theme for today.

14 thoughts on “Have Mozart Will Travel”

  1. I know very little about music. I listen, now and then to a classical station, and I listen as long as I like what they choose to play. Sorry, that doesn’t sound right as I read it, but… Anyway, I like this piece. Good luck when you guys perform in May. I have a friend who plays French Horn. He is in a quartet and we have seen them perform a few times. It’s fun. Performing seems like a lot of work, so I hope it’s fun for you too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ironically, performing is not my favorite thing. I like it more to just be messing around with friends or even playing by myself in my room. I had pretty severe performance anxiety as a child, which led me to quit the instrument altogether for a long time.

      But it is also good to have a goal to motivate yourself, and performance can serve as that. Plus, as an adult I am coming to understand the pleasures of performing. I don’t have nearly the anxiety I used to have, and sometimes it’s a real high, especially when you feel like you’ve made a connection with the audience.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your “in our dreams” comment got me researching that Beethoven piece (found it on IMSLP!). I have to say it didn’t sound too bad to me, unless it was one of those pieces you have to play to realize what a royal mother it is. 😉 But I like the Mozart you guys chose. Have fun with your new quartet!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love everything Mozart. Especially his duets and quartets (perhaps there are trios). I am sure your quartet will do a fine job with this. Again, your post shows the power of music in friendships, grief, and joy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Experiences like this get you through the other stuff: the rehearsals where it’s almost 10 pm already, and the gym is cold, and the conductor is yelling at somebody, and the concertmaster changed the bowings again. It’s still worth it.


  4. Thank you for that. There’s nothing like Mozart to bring a sense of order to my mind.Two weeks and three days after my move, I still feel overwhelmed, so I listened meditatively and was buoyed by the sense of order and calm, as well as the joy. What is it about Mozart’s music that seems so orderly. Is it syncopation?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think syncopation is part of it. Beethoven uses the same type of syncopation at times, which I also find very satisfying. Mozart’s music is also often in bright shiny keys such as D major (like this quartet), that work well on stringed instruments and make the instruments ring and sparkle. And it’s very tonal, it uses chord progressions that are satisfying and, while sometimes unexpected or dissonant, aren’t weird.

      The Stamitz family (Johann, and his sons Carl and Anton, who were contemporaries of Mozart), also have this joyful buoyant quality, in my opinion. For example, here’s the well-known (at least by viola concerto standards) viola concerto in D, by Carl Stamitz: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDi0ZdhIfmc
      (It’s kind of jarring to have to listen to “My Sharona” before Stamitz but you can’t skip the ad entirely)

      and the concerto for 2 flutes by Anton:


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