Mozart's four flute quartets form a heterogenous collection which come from
different years and locations during the late 1770's and 1780's when his
city of residence and fortunes changed with bewildering frequency. The first
two quartets were written towards the end of his period in Mannheim in partial
fulfilment of a commission for the Dutch flautist, whom he refers to as "De
Jean", but who was perhaps correctly W van B Dejong. The first quartet in
D major is unquestionably the most inventive and satisfying to listen to.
The first and third movements (Allegro and Rondeau) are sparkling and vivacious,
whilst the central movement (Adagio) is a poignant flute solo in B minor
supported by pizzicato strings. The whole work has all the tonal and structual
integrety of Mozart at his best and thorougly deserves a more prominent place
in the regular chamber music repetory; it rates alongside, for instance,
the Clarinet Quintet.
The second quartet in D major has only two movements (Andante and Minuet)
and may be the unfinished fragments of a projected 4-movement work.
The third quartet in C major has been stitched together by modern musicologists
from disparate historical sources (thus being jointly numbered K.171 and
K.285b). It is unclear whether its two movements truely belong together.
It has a fully developed Allegro first movement followed a Theme & Variations
which is a transcription of the sixth movement of Serenade for Wind in B
flat. If the transcription is not by Mozart himself (and this is disputed),
then the anonymous arranger displayed a skill equal to Mozart's own. To this
listener, this flute and strings arrangement is actually preferable with
the solo work generously shared by the flute, violin and cello in the different
Quartet No. 4 in A major is either Mozart on a bad hair day or else a deliberate
joke resembling (albeit much more subtly) "Ein musikalischer Spass". The
term used in Roger Hellyer's accompanying notes is "perfunctory". It is not
great music but it's fun. Enough said.
What makes this disc such a delight is the faultless brilliance of the Swiss
prodigy Emmanuel Pahud; he brings to his playing all the characteristics
that earned him the position of Principal Flautist with the Berlin Philharmonic
Orchestra at the age of twenty two. The string playing of Christoph Poppen,
Hariolf Schlichtig and Jean-Guiben Queyras is equally noteworthy. In all
these quartets the honours are equally shared by all four instrumentalists.
This is a splendid disc and deserves a place in anyone's Mozart collection.