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

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Piano Quartet in G minor, K478; Piano Quartet in E flat, K493
PERFORMER: Mozart Piano Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 89166 2
The Mozart Piano Quartet, two-parts German and two-parts Australian, has already made its mark in the CD catalogue with impassioned performances of Brahms quartets. Here it turns to Mozart’s two works in what was then a novel medium – too novel for the composer’s contemporaries, who found both works, especially the G minor, unnervingly complex and ‘difficult’. The 18th century’s bewilderment is, of course, our delight. And the Mozart Piano Quartet responds to these pioneering masterpieces with style and spirit, whether in the darkly agitated first movement of the G minor (the mounting tension of the development powerfully controlled) or the genial, expansive outer movements of the E flat. While the pianist is properly primus inter pares, the string-playing has plenty of colour and character, with a strongly drawn cello line. Another plus is the observance of every marked repeat, throwing added structural emphasis on to the first-movement codas (that in the G minor is particularly momentous) and enabling the players to create new shadings and inflections the second time round. Occasionally their rubato seems ‘painted on’ rather than being motivated by the music’s line and harmony; and once or twice – say, at the opening of the G minor’s Andante or in the rondo theme of the E flat’s finale – the pianist’s phrasing can be a tad blunt and choppy. I wouldn’t quite put these performances in the class of the augmented Beaux Arts Trio (Philips) or Emanuel Ax, Isaac Stern and friends (Sony), not to mention the classic vintage recording from Clifford Curzon and the Amadeus (Decca), all of which have the edge

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in poise and finesse, especially in the slow movements. But if you like your Mozart on the robust side,

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you should find plenty to enjoy here, not least the price. Incidentally, don’t swallow everything in the dodgy English translation of the booklet note, which tells us, inter alia, that ‘During 1785 Mozart wrote more than 20 string quartets’. Richard Wigmore