Eric Blom, in his book on Mozart, allocates a single paragraph to this set of 1773 string quartets. These quartets were written in Vienna, and Blom writes that the set “shows very clearly that the boy of seventeen was anxious to impress his learning on the musicians of the capital.” Hans Keller, in his chapter on chamber music in Robbins Landon and Donald Mitchell’s The Mozart Companion, generally considers them juvenile derivations of Haydn.
There is probably truth and accuracy in both, and notwithstanding a certain vogue to dismiss great composers’ earlier work as the work of an intellectual apprentice, it remains that the earlier works of great artists will continue to fascinate, as they are, rather rightfully, compositions that inform an understanding and appreciation of the later, greater works. The interest is more one of curiosity than of aesthetic thrill. Yet, if one has the opportunity to hear these quartets live, and it is an absolute fact to me, pace Glenn Gould, that live performance brings alive music astoundingly more than any recording, and having had the good fortune to hear all these 1773 quartets played in Edmonton by the Enterprise String Quartet, twice over, there is certainty in my mind that there are things to be had that are worthwhile to know of in these early works of Mozart.
So, in the final quartet of the set, it is attentive fugal work in the finale that warrants one’s attention.