Strength and expression marks of String Quartets by Mozart

As a good player, everyone should know what kind of expression marks the composed used. I made a list of the strength and expression marks of String Quartets by Mozart. His notation is quite common for the early 13 quartets, but they became very complicated from K.387 "Spring" quartet in view of the common standard of his time. In General, Mozart's interests are focused on the area of the expression in middle volume tones rather than extending the total volume to fff or ppp .Especially marks like sf, fp mfp acting on one single note are frequently and carefully used after "Spring" quartet K.387, To interpret these marks finely will be the clue to understanding what Mozart requested in his music.

The below data is based on Baerenreiter's Urtext version (TP318 and TP140)
I have attached some pictures to show how Mozart used strength marks

Composer Title   Strength Marks Expression Marks 
Mozart String Quartet  K.80 f, p, fp  
Mozart String Quartet  K.155 f, p,   
Mozart String Quartet  K.156 f, p,  cresc.
Mozart String Quartet  K.157 f, p,  cresc.
Mozart String Quartet  K.158 f, p, fp,   
Mozart String Quartet  K.159 f, p, fp,  fermata(mark)
Mozart String Quartet  K.160 f, p, fp,  cresc.
Mozart String Quartet  K,168 f, p, fp,  con sordino, cresc, 
Mozart String Quartet  K.169 f, p,   
Mozart String Quartet  K.170 f, sf, fp, p, pp fermata(mark)
Mozart String Quartet  K.171 f, fp,  p, sempre p,  con sordino, 
Mozart String Quartet  K.172 f, p,   
Mozart String Quartet  K.173 f, p,  decresc.
Mozart String Quartet  K.387 f, p, sf, fp, pp, sfp , cresc, > calando, decresc.
Mozart String Quartet  K.421 f, mf, fp, p,  pp,  sfp, sf, fp sotto voce, sempre p, 
Mozart String Quartet  K.458 f, p, pp, sf, fp, sfp,  cresc. sempre p, staccato
Mozart String Quartet  k.428 ff, f, p, sfp, fp,  cresc. decresc. ten.  
Mozart String Quartet  K.464 f, mf, p, sf,  cresc. decresc. ten.  calando, sotto voce,
Mozart String Quartet  K.465 f, mf,  p, pp, sf, sfp, fp,  cresc. 
Mozart String Quartet  K.499 f, p, pp, sf,  calando, fermata(mark), 
Mozart String Quartet  K.575 f, mf, p, sf, sf,  fp, mfp sotto voce, dolce
Mozart String Quartet  K.589 f, mf, p, sf, sfp, mfp sotto voce, cresc. 
Mozart String Quartet  K.590 f, p, sf, mfp, cresc. fermata(mark)

Here is Mozart's only one decrescendo mark in his string quartets, it is in the first movement of K387 "Spring".  Mozart first used decresc. in K428, and he did not use "dim."

The below is ff that he used only once. It is written in the Menuetto of K.428 Es-dur. I feel like that he has no way to go to ff here.


Next example is the last part of Adagio in the 1st movement of K.465 "Dissonance”. I would like you to check your score that sf in measure 18,then, sfp and last measure with fermata is fp. This part is one of the difficult parts to play together. So don't be relieved for just passing here safely,please develop your image and interpret the meaning of these marks. I think it important to discuss with your quartet members.

MozartK4651movHere is one more.


This is the last movement of d-moll K.421, Strength marks of measure 90 are complicated; sfp for Vn1, sf for Vn2, fp for Va and sf for Vc.You may feel what Mozart is trying to do, but you have to decide only one interpretation when you play. Therein lies the beauty of the musical interpretation.

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