Mozart: Flute Quartets (complete)

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Flute Quartets (complete)
PERFORMER: Sharon Bezaly (flute); Salzburg Soloists
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1044
Mozart’s four flute quartets date from the 1770s and 1780s. In each, the flute takes the place of the first violin of a string quartet. Those in D (K285) and G (K285a) are probably products of a Mannheim commission, while the C major (K285b) and A major (K298) Quartets belong to the early to mid-1780s when Mozart was in Vienna.

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When Alfred Einstein suggested, over half a century ago, that these charming pieces were a parody of the insipidity and stylistic performances which characterised the music of so many of Mozart’s contemporaries, he did them an injustice. While none of the flute quartets has the subtlety or expressive range of the Oboe Quartet, for instance, there are nonetheless plentiful delights contained in all of them.

This is above all true of the spirited D major work, and the A major Quartet which has always struck my ears as being quite special for its warmth and intimate allure. Its themes derive from Italian melodies, popular at the time, and to which Mozart can hardly be said to have been indifferent, since he inscribed above the concluding Rondeau that it should be played with great charm and expression.

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Israeli-born flautist Sharon Bezaly, who plays a modern flute, does just that, both in this captivating work and in the three companion quartets. I should have liked even more delicacy in the Andante theme of its opening movement, such as we find in Wilbert Hazelzet’s recording (DHM), or that by Barthold Kuijken (Accent), but the four variations upon it are persuasive; and the violin, viola and cello of the Salzburg Soloists provide a lively partnership and accompaniment throughout. An appealing disc and one of the best around on modern instruments. Nicholas Anderson