The string quintet, like the trio for violin, viola and violoncello, was not a popular medium in Vienna in the middle decades of the 18th Century. The origin of Ignaz Pleyel’s interest in the quintet is unclear and it seems more likely that Pleyel’s interest in the quintet was spurred by his experiences elsewhere. The present work is one of fifteen quintets composed by Pleyel between the years 1785 and 1789.
Ignaz Pleyel revels in juxtaposing strongly-contrasting melodic ideas and interpolating new themes for his sets of quintets. It also applies to Pleyel’s second set of quintets (Benton 274–276) which were published in various formats in 1786–1787. One of the striking features of the quintets is that the violins and violas are frequently deployed in pairs which creates interesting possibilities for antiphonal effects along with a denser texture in the middle of the ensemble. Another feature is that the violoncello is generally employed either in its traditional bass-line role or as a solo instrument: it is rarely coupled with another instrument in its extended solos. This set of quintets shows that Ignaz Pleyel’s works tend to be thematically dense rather than motivically dense.