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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Trios
CD 1
Divertimento in B flat major, K254 (1776)
Piano Trio in G major, K496 (1786)
Piano Trio in B flat major, K502 (1786)
CD 2
Piano Trio in E major, K542 (1788)
Piano Trio in C major, K548 (1788)
Piano Trio in G major, K564 (1788)
Trio Fontenay: (Wolf Harden (piano); Michael MŁcke (violin); Niklas Schmidt (cello))
rec. Teldec Studios, Berlin, German Republic, January 1990. DDD
WARNER CLASSICS APEX 2564 62189-2 [70:35 + 58:31]

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Warner Classics on their Apex label have released from their back catalogue a collection of Mozartís piano trios recorded by the renowned Trio Fontenay back in 1990. These accounts have probably been released on several previous occasions. In my collection I have the same recordings on a poorly presented 2001 double set from Teldec Ultima.

Formed in 1980, this Trio named itself after the street near the Hamburg Conservatory, in the German Republic where the group first met to practise. Fontenay is old French word meaning source and fantasy. The Trio Fontenay studied with the eminent Amadeus Quartet and have been the recipient of several prestigious awards.

Compared with the Quartets, Quintets and indeed some of the Violin sonatas,††Mozartís Piano trios have traditionally held a much less exalted position in his chamber music output. This seems a pity, for they contain some of his sunniest and most relaxed music. The trios were completed within a two year period and date from a period of great personal crisis and unhappiness in Mozartís life. Although the years 1786-88 were a highly creative time with the production of his last three symphonies, the Opera Don Giovanni and most of the late piano concertos, the period saw Mozartís own rapid descent into debt as well as the death of his father Leopold.

The basic structure is that which Mozart inherited from Haydn. They are three movement works in which the role of the piano dominates. The violin doubles as the right-hand part while the cello shadows the left. This form is the case with the Divertimento, K254 and the Piano Trio, K564 (1788) and they remain very much in the traditional mould. It is with the four piano trios, K496, K502, K542 and K548 that Mozart begins to expand into new ideas and the strings start to explore a new-found freedom and independence.

One of my favourite works in the set is the seemingly sunny and relatively undemanding K502 trio which in fact belies the actual sophistication of the score. The Trio Fontenay give an expressive interpretation of the B flat trio with natural and unaffected playing. In a three month period in 1788 Mozart wrote three piano trios and the first of these, K542, is considered to be the most significant and certainly the most moving. The straightforward and cheerful mood is effortlessly communicated by these three artists who also sensitively convey the undercurrents of melancholy.

These performances, brimming with artistry and exuberance, are outstanding and will provide much pleasure. Notwithstanding, I remain an admirer of the set of complete trios from the Beaux Arts. These form part of a five disc collection in the Complete Mozart Edition vol. 14 on Philips 422 514-2. Another excellent set worthy of consideration are the 1994-95 recordings of the Divertimento, K254 and piano trios K496 / K502 from Maria Jo„o Pires, Augustin Dumay and Jian Wang on Deutsche Grammophon 449 208-2.

Top class performances from the Trio Fontenay superbly presented by Warner Classics Apex.

Michael Cookson








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