Mozart is one of the most well-known classical composers. Most everyone recognizes his name at least and everyone has probably heard a Mozart composition, even if they didn’t realize it. Mozart was born on January 27, 1756 and died on December 5, 1791. Like many composers of the time, Mozart was often commissioned to write pieces. One of his brief patrons later in his life was King Friedrich Wilhelm II.
Friedrich Wilhelm II (Frederick William II) was the nephew of Frederick the Great and ascended to the throne in 1786. Frederick the Great had no children and his brother, Augustus William (Frederick William II’s father), had died in 1758. In 1786 the crown became his. Unfortunately Friedrich Wilhelm II was not an effective ruler. He handed over his authority in several areas to his trusted court officials. He did reform the tax collection and, while this made him loved by the masses, it led to a substantial debt load for the country.
He was, however, a great patron of the arts in general. With music specifically, he had his own orchestra and he himself played the cello. He collected music for the cello specifically. He commissioned works by Haydn, Beethoven, and others. In May 1789, Mozart was introduced to the King of Prussia. King Friedrich Wilhelm II commissioned 6 string quartets for himself and 6 piano sonatas for his daughter.
On October 3rd, we will have the pleasure of hearing the Jerusalem Quartet play Quartet in B-flat Major, K589, composed by Mozart. This is one of the three pieces that he composed for the King of Prussia. In fact they were the final quartets that Mozart ever wrote. Mozart never finished the remaining 3 quartets. Nor did he compose any of the 6 piano sonatas. Mozart struggled financially and personally and died just 2 years after receiving the initial commission. The three Prussian quartets were not even published until after his death and at that point no mention was made of the original intention of them being written for King Friedrich Wilhelm II.
It does make you wonder if the King ever did get a chance to play the cello parts that were written for him or to even hear the wonderful quartets that were written because of him.