Wednesday Music: Mozart’s Horn Quintet in E-Flat Major

I really wanted to feature a lovely string quintet by Boccherini today, but it was impossible to find a recording of it. The whole point of Wednesday Music is for readers to actually be able to listen to the music I write about, so it would defeat the purpose if I talked about a piece and then had nothing to listen to. Therefore, I ended up choosing a piece by Mozart. Finding recordings of his work is never difficult. Today’s piece is his Horn Quintet in E-flat major, K. 407/386c. Here’s a bit about it.

  • Quintet means a piece for five instruments, so one could reasonably think that a horn quintet is five horns playing together. Alas, that is not correct. A horn quintet is written for a horn (I think what is often called a French horn, but I don’t know much about brass instruments, so don’t quote me on that) and a string quartet, which is normally two violins, a viola, and a cello.
  • However, Mozart decided to shake things up a bit (as he was wont to) when scoring his horn quintet. He wrote it for one horn, one violin, two violas, and a cello. Having two violas in a string quarter is quite nonstandard. Nevertheless, Mozart did it. And it works beautifully.
  • Mozart wrote this piece in 1782, shortly after getting married. He wrote it for a friend named Joseph Leutgeub who was a superb horn player. Apparently only valveless horns existed back in this time, making the piece even more difficult. (I know next to nothing about brass instruments, so that statement doesn’t actually mean much to me. If any brass players read this blog, feel free to chime in.)


Or click here to watch on YouTube.