Piano vs. String Quartet for Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca

by Roopa Shankar

Mozart: Rondo Alla Turca (Turkish Rondo) arrangement for String Quartet      

This is definitely one of my favorite pieces of music, though before this class I only had familiarity with the string quartet version of the movement. The reason is simple: as a violin player, it was my favorite piece to play with my chamber orchestra group in high school. There is such incredible strength and power that comes in this rondo movement of Mozart’s piece, created by the dynamics interplay between forte and piano and the solid repetitions of key phrases.  While playing this piece, I always loved the constant repetitions; they gave me time to admire the notes chosen, the kinds of musical patterns they were creating, and the kind of emotions they were evoking. However, I especially remember reveling in the beauty of the convergence that occurs in the last minute or so (2:38 onwards in the clip/link above) of the movement, with the first violins and second violins coming together to create a quick-paced and dramatic “finale” feel. For me, I guess I especially loved the musical journey of disparate loud and soft elements that seemed to victoriously unite into an all-around assertion of strength and power.

I wanted you all to listen to the string quartet version of the Rondo alla Turca and comment below on your thoughts, especially on this version versus the piano version that we listened to in class. For me, the power of the notes (though perhaps I am biased because I am a string instrument player) only have the ability to really come alive when they can be expressed as an interplay between two different violin parts. As I mentioned earlier, I believe that one of the key elements of this piece is the incredible execution of the dynamics (piano and forte interactions with key repeating phrases). This reminds me of conversational interaction. And to me, this conversational element can only be fully realized and appreciated through two violin parts as opposed to a piano sonata version. As an added bonus with the string quartet version, crescendos on the violins also help create more momentum to build up to the lavish concluding moments of the piece.

Let me know what your thoughts are on the piano sonata version versus the string quartet version. I’d be curious to hear what you all think, as well as to hear about others who have had experiences playing this exact piece!

Piano Sonata