The generous spirit of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Duo in G Major for Violin and Viola begins with its inception. Michael Haydn (brother of the esteemed Joseph Haydn) had been commissioned to write a set of six duos for an archbishop, but fell ill and risked losing payment for the set. Mozart wrote two duos to complete the group, and all six duos were published under Michael Haydn’s name. Mozart wrote one work in G Major and one in B flat major — and Mr. Haydn’s day was saved.
The G Major Duo K. 423 is rather an incidental work for Mozart in his early prime — it doesn’t travel nearly as far as the nearby String Quartet in D Minor, K. 421, for example — but this seems only appropriate to the light instrumentation. There is a surprising equality to the violin and viola parts, which gives a completeness to the sense of dialogue between the two instruments. Even in a light work such as this, the operatic Mozart’s ability to flesh out whole characters in pure musical conversation shines very clearly.