Mozart: ‘Kegelstatt’ Trio K498; Adagio & Rondo K617; Sonata for Bassoon & Cello K292; Divertimento K251

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: DG
WORKS: ‘Kegelstatt’ Trio K498; Adagio & Rondo K617; Sonata for Bassoon & Cello K292; Divertimento K251
PERFORMER: Ensemble Wien-Berlin with James Levine (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 431 782-2 DDD
Legend has it that Mozart wrote the Trio K498 during a game of skittles – hence its nickname of Kegelstatt, or ‘bowling alley’. Be that as it may, it is one of his most original and profound chamber works, both in form and sonority (the scoring is for the dark combination of clarinet and viola with piano). This is a good recording, but James Levine’s self-indulgently expressive playing leaves one longing for a phrase to be performed with natural simplicity.

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Another masterpiece is the late Adagio and Rondo K617 which Mozart wrote for the glass armonica player Marianne Kirchgässner. The original instrument is here replaced by a harp – an adequate substitute, though it cannot convey the curiously disembodied, ethereal sound.

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The Sonata for Bassoon and Cello is very ordinary stuff, and its opening movement sounds interminable with both repeats observed – a serious lack of musical judgement on the part of pedantic Deutsche Grammophon. The Divertimento K251 was written as a gift for Mozart’s sister. It is framed by the same French-style march; this recording has it approaching from afar at the start, and receding into the distance again at the close – a neat conceit that suggests the manner in which these divertimenti were often played on the move. The performance itself is rather sedate and cosy. Misha Donat