on 27 August 2004
To me, the main work in this set is the Trio in E flat, K 563. It is in the form of a (very serious) divertimento: a sequence of varied movements, including a really ingenious set of variations. The inventiveness, seriousness and wit on display put it on a par with Mozart's greatest chamber works. The string quartets are part of a long and famous series of works which draw attention to each other, but the trio is out on its own and for that reason it's been passed over unnoticed. Do yourself a favour and notice it: join the elite group who know it exists and have experienced its magnificence.
With these players it's in the safest of hands. The great Belgian violinist and Mozartian Arthur Grumiaux and his associates are responsible for some great gems of chamber music playing (the Mozart string quintets, Faure violin sonatas...) and this is a rare diamond! Buy two and make yourself and a friend very happy (you're going to want to share this discovery)!
This is the kind of package which represents the best of the Philips Classics Duo series. Slightly older recordings, but in beautiful, clear, warm analogue sound; artists of the old school and the first rank; a compilation of potentially neglected music made available absurdly cheaply in attractive packaging with high production values and intelligent notes; what's not to like?
Grumiaux is everybody's favourite Mozart violinist: poised, sweet of tone; impeccable intonation - and always accompanied by equally sensitive and accomplished musicians who play as an ensemble without any grandstanding.
The major work here is of course the Divertimento K. 563, which is far from being as lightweight as its title suggests; indeed this typical late Mozart in that there is a poignancy in his superficially insouciant melodies which is never far from tears. This is a work still overshadowed by the late quartets and the quintets, but deserves to be considered alongside them. I also find the incomplete Trio K. 266 to be a lovely work, especially as it allows us to hear that gifted artist Kenneth Sillito.
The notes tell an amusing story about the two Duos which is very much to Mozart's credit and says little for the powers of discriminaton of their dedicatee, the archbishop who had commissioned them. The biggest surprise on these discs, however, is the Six Preludes and Fugues, transcribed in homage to Bach mostly from Bach's own music, in that they represent a kind of fusion of Mozart and Bach which is not always entirely convincing but nonetheless allows us to enjoy much lovely, and sometimes incongruous, music. Sometimes Bach and sometimes Mozart pops his head over the parapet, but rarely do both appear simultaneously. The Adagio which opens no. 3, for example, is pure lyrical Mozart and the succeeding Fuga clearly wholly Bachian.
Buy this double CD to explore some of the more recondite byways of Mozart's output; it's a rewarding trip.
This double CD is simply fantastic. String trios and duos don't sound as though they have the glamour or excitement of larger scale works, but this is often Mozart at his absolute best and the music here provides everything you would expect from far larger forces.
All the works here are excellent and worth hearing over and over again, but the true masterpiece is the Divertimento K563. The title "Divertimento" is a little misleading in that it makes the work sound light and rather inconsequential, but it is a mature piece of consummate genius. Around 40 minutes long with six movements, it is more substantial than many of the symphonies both in structure and, to me anyway, in musical content. It is crammed with singable melodies and charm but also has near-miraculous musical inventiveness, moments of true pathos and genuine depth. I think is one of Mozart's finest works. I have heard it said that in his string quartets Mozart was rather over-awed and inhibited by the greatness of Haydn and that his greatest musical expressiveness came in the string quintets and this trio. On this evidence it is hard to argue with that.
The Grumiaux Trio are magnificent throughout. Grumiaux himself was one of the very finest interpreters of Mozart of the last century and the understanding between the trio and their obvious love of the music makes this something really special, and the other musicians are very, very good too. The recording quality is excellent and Philips have made a very good job of the digital transfer. As with all these Duo sets, the packaging looks a little cheap and the notes are rather sketchy, but the music's the thing and it is magnificent. Very warmly recommended.
One piece here, the Divertimento/Trio K. 563, is late Mozart of high quality, a 40 minute, six movement work, with two minuet movements and two slower movements flanked by two allegros. It was composed after Mozart's final symphonies, and you shouldn't let the fact that it's "only" a string trio lead you to believe that it's slight. The slow movements are graceful and eloquent, the minuets full of lively charm, and the final allegro particularly is absolutely winning. Arthur Grumiaux and his sidekicks in the Trio (Georges Janzer and Eva Szabo, both splendid) create a richness of texture and play with a purity of line that is the hallmark of everything Grumiaux does. But there's more: the disc contains two duos for violin and viola (Kk.423 and 424) that Mozart wrote to help an ailing Michael Haydn complete a commission. Played here by Grumiaux and Arrigo Pelliccia, they are splendid -- richly textured, with short elegant slow movements and lively allegros. The final movement of K. 424, a theme and variations, is particularly engaging. But the big surprise for me were the arrangements for string trio of six fugues (five by J. S. Bach, and one by W. F. Bach) for which Mozart also composed adagio preludes in four cases. They are absolutely stunning: to my ears, the adagios , while having canon-like features, seem to be pointing towards an almost romantic expressiveness. They are gorgeously played here, and they nonetheless "fit" their fugues very well. Each runs in the 7-8 minute range and are like like little classical pseudo-tone poems. One thing to note: these recordings belong to three sessions, from 1967, 1968, and 1973. The sound from the last of these is lovely and full (the adagios and fugues). The sound of the duos needs a little taming -- cut the volume three or four points. K.563 is fine, but not quite as refined as the 1973 sound. All in all, though, this is great stuff, played by great musicians.
on 24 January 2016
The smaller scale Mozart works are always charming and inventive and these string trios and duos are no exception. Indeed, it is often commented that Mozart was at his best with the small scale works for wind instruments and strings. There is an intimacy that rewards attentive listening. This double disc set provides a wonderful introduction to these works. It is beautifully recorded and played in a way which simply provides an insight into the works themselves, without drawing unnecessary attention to playing technique. These discs may be listened to over and over again, whereupon one always hears something new and interesting. A bargain at this price.