Cooperation with G. Henle Verlag

In 2016 the young musicians launched a special cooperation project with the renowned G. Henle music publishing house: they not only serve as consultants for the new Henle Urtext edition of the complete Mozart string quartets, but they also make their own fingerings and bowings available for the associated Henle Library App. Thus, the Armida Quartet is not only placing itself at the forefront of technical musical development, but is strongly advocating for a closer collaboration between performing artists and musicologists in the future. With its complete recording of the Mozart string quartets foreseen to appear in installments up to 2021, the Armida Quartet will thus be able to present these new accomplishments to a wider audience.



Interview with Dr. Wolf-Dieter Seiffert (c Michael Struck-Schloen)

Since the year 2000, musicologist Wolf-Dieter Seiffert has been Managing Director of G. Henle Publisher‘s in Munich. In working with the Armida Quartet he has once more returned to his true passion, Mozart, on whom he has written a number of articles and whose music he has edited for publication in Henle‘s Urtext editions. We spoke about the collaboration between science and practical experience.

What leads a publishing man like you not only to go back to the original sources, but to reassure himself by consulting an ensemble such as the Armida Quartet?

This is a recent development at G. Henle Publisher‘s. It always helps us “scientists” to show our editions to musicians before the music is sent off to the printer: our experience in this domain has been encouraging. Is this passage a good place to turn the page? Are the notes large enough? Should parallel passages have similar layouts? Where exactly should we mark the dynamics? Is this a good place to change bowing?

Musicologists used to be much more snobbish toward musicians...

And musicians used to turn up their noses at “scientists”. But we have to acknowledge that both sides have something to gain from working together. Musicians should not put up blindfolds to shield themselves from scientific method, and scientists should not close their minds to practical arguments. It also helps that today’s string quartets are much more historically informed and play in a quite different manner than forty years ago.

Joseph Haydn has always been regarded as the true pioneer of the string quartet genre. But you nevertheless returned again and again to Mozart, who, reportedly, did not find string quartets easy to write.

At least it was good promotion when he said so in his dedication of the mature Viennese quartets to
Haydn, his older colleague. But we must differentiate between Mozart’s early and late quartets. Astoundingly enough, the young Mozart did not come in contact with the genre as long as he was in Salzburg; he only composed string quartets when he was travelling. Once he moved to Vienna, he started to take in that city’s budding string quartet scene, and he yearned to prove that he could compose such works at the highest quality level. The quartets he dedicated to Haydn were a result of friendly competition: they were his attempt to achieve something on a par with the master – albeit in his own style.

How does your new Urtext edition differ from the earlier ones?

For our new edition I have mainly consulted the first edition of the quartets published by Artaria in 1785 alongside Mozart’s autograph manuscripts in the British Library. I then compared the result note by note with the Neue Mozart-Ausgabe (which contains some mistakes) and with Alfred Einstein’s 1945 edition for Novello. A composer’s manuscript obviously represents the most important stage of composition, the first valid formulation of a work. But in this case the discrepancies in the first edition are so striking that we must assume that Mozart made the changes himself, thus transcending the manuscript stage. For example, at the beginning of the development section in the first movement of the “Hoffmeister” Quartet K. 499, all previous editions indicated forte. The new Henle edition omits it, since it was added later. The Armida Quartet plays the passage pianissimo, and I find this thoroughly convincing.

Are there similar problems in Mozart’s early, pre-Viennese quartets?

Not at all: the source situation is much easier to deal with, since the original manuscripts are preserved, and those works were not published in Mozart’s lifetime; in a letter, Leopold Mozart once referred to them as “finger exercises” that he would deliberately not hand over to the publishers.