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.
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
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
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
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.