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Mozart in more insouciant vein, elegantly played
on 18 August 2016
A few previous reviewers have complained that the Beaux Arts Trio fail to find the drama and operatic sweep supposedly inherent in this music whereas most are delighted by the poise and elegance of the playing here. I have to say that I, too, am wholly satisfied by the serendipity of the music-making on this bargain Philips Duo. This is not necessarily Mozart at either his most profound and you will search in vain for the emotional trenchancy encountered in the late string quartets, but that is not to say this music is without its moments of introspection and shadow; if anything, Mozart often foreshadows Schubert's gift for smiling through tears. The concluding Allegro of K.542 is a case in point, where in the development section the music veers off into darker paths. Fellow-reviewer Bernard O'Hanlon is quite right to cite the slow movement of K.496 as proof of how brightly the flame of Mozart's genius burns at certain points in these works.
For me, the star of the trio remains Menahem Pressler, whose feather-light fingering and sublime phrasing enhance every bar for the piano. I understand those who find violinist Daniel Guilet's tone a little thin and acidic but the music hardly demands a lush, Romantic sound. Bernard Greenhouse is his usual, musical, wholly dependable self on the cello.
Some prefer the Beaux Arts' second recording from 1987 which offers digital sound, a richer-toned violinist in Isidor Cohen and the inclusion of K.442 completed by Stader. On the other hand, this Philips Duo issue offers as a bonus the genial Trio for piano, clarinet and viola played by the starry trio of Stephen Kovacevich, Jack Brymer and Patrick Ireland respectively; you surely cannot go wrong with either option.