Mozart: Piano Trio in G, K496; Piano Trio in B flat, K502; Divertimento in B flat, K254

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Piano Trio in G, K496; Piano Trio in B flat, K502; Divertimento in B flat, K254
PERFORMER: Maria João Pires (piano), Augustin Dumay (violin), Jian Wang (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 449 208-2
The Piano Trios K496 and K502 are the earliest masterpieces in the history of the genre. The second of the pair is reasonably well-known, but its less familiar G major companion is, if anything, even more original. It begins with one of Mozart’s boldest flights of fantasy: a rhapsodic piano theme which gives the initial impression of five beats to the bar; and in the intensely argued central development the same theme finds the cello for the first time contributing on equal terms with its partners. The finale consists of variations on a theme in the style of a gavotte. Its minor-mode variation is a shadowy passacaglia which Mozart, in an astonishing stroke, brings back, transfigured into the major, in the movement’s coda.

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Maria João Pires’s limpid style is ideally suited to this music, and if Augustin Dumay is rather more Romantically inclined, these remain deeply satisfying performances. It’s a pity, though, that Dumay misreads one or two rhythmic details, and that the minor variation in K496 is taken at such a slow speed as to detract from the following Adagio variation, and to make nonsense of the inevitably much faster reprise in the coda. The disc comes with a bonus CD featuring extracts from other recordings by these artists. Misha Donat