Mozart: Piano Quartet in E flat, K493; Piano Quartet in G minor, K478

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WORKS: Piano Quartet in E flat, K493; Piano Quartet in G minor, K478
PERFORMER: Emanuel Ax (piano), Isaac Stern (violin), Jaime Laredo (viola), Yo-Yo Ma (cello)
The G minor Quartet is one of the most fervently passionate of all Mozart’s chamber masterpieces – so much so that the publisher who commissioned a set of three piano quartets was utterly taken aback by the uncompromising style of this first work in the series, and Mozart agreed to release him from the remainder of his contract. By that time he had already composed the more genial E flat major Quartet, but he never completed the set.


What is immediately striking about these new performances is how stylish they are, with Emanuel Ax providing discreet ornamentation for the repeats, as well as a tasteful cadenza leading into the return of the rondo theme in the finale of K478. But they are much more than that: what they reflect above all is a real joy in music-making and a willingness to allow the music its full expressive range.


At first, I regretted the lack of the long second repeat in the opening movement of the G minor quartet – one of Mozart’s great second-half repeats – but the playing generates such intensity that a further hearing would have been emotionally draining. No Mozart lover should miss this. Misha Donat