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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
CD 1
Divertimento in B flat major K254 (1776) [21:11]
Piano Trio in G Major K496 (1786) [26:20]
Piano Trio in B Flat major K502 (1786) [23:50]
CD 2
Piano Trio in E Major K542 (1788) [19:39] 
Piano Trio in C Major K548 (1788) [20:57]
Piano Trio in G Major K564 (1788) [25:05]
Gryphon Trio (Jamie Parker (piano); Annalee Patipatanakoon (violin); Roman Borys (cello))
rec. 17-22 July 2005, Humbercrest United Church, Montreal, Canada.
ANALEKTA AN 2 9827-8 [70:21 + 65:41]

 

There will Iím sure be a great deal of Mozart to listen to this year (250th birthday!). I hope that some of his less well known pieces will be given an airing and greater recognition.

Mozartís piano trios are not that well known; certainly compared to his quartets, quintets and piano sonatas. There are several good sets available, my personal favorites include the Beaux Arts Trio which presently reside in the Mozart edition [Philips 4648202]. I see that there is also a Duo set [Philips 4461542]. Thereís also the excellent Trio Fontenay which I purchased after the glowing review by Michael Cookson (Warner Classics APEX 2564 62189 - see review). These recordings which cost me only £6.99 via Amazon are also in a very good value Warner 16 CD chamber music set retailing from as little as £30 (Warner Classics 2564 62335-2 - see review). Against this background, these new recordings from the Gryphon Trio at full price need to be very special.

The Gryphon Trio begins this selection with a Divertimento from 1776 at a time when the trio would still be based around the piano. The violin doubles the pianoís right hand; the cello, the left. There is a lovely slow movement which as the sleeve-notes point out has a superb cantilena. They play this very well but to my ears their approach is more 19th century romanticised than Mozartian. Comparing it with old favorites such as the Beaux Arts demonstrates that these Canadians are very high in the ranks but must cede precedence to the older recording.

Everything sounds just right from the opening chords of K496. Why isnít this fine work better known? Whilst the melody reminds me of a piano concerto, the sound is firmly in a chamber setting. The languid slow movement follows. Here the sound is preferable to that offered by the Trio Fontenay. The highlight of the piece is a delightful set of variations which work very well. It is a bonus to have the individual variations on separate tracks: not the case with the competition.

This recording of K502 is brought into direct comparison with the recently reviewed Mutter disc. There will be those who prefer the Gryphonís approach but I feel it is just a little matter of fact compared with Mutter and Co. Donít get me wrong, this is Mozart playing of a high order and Iíd love to hear them live. Itís just that if I could choose only one version of these pieces Iíd go for Mutter and recommend for the budget conscious the Fontenay.

K564, which is not on the Mutter disc, also has a lovely set of variations and a superb finale. It makes great home listening particularly after a busy week and with perhaps a glass to hand! The Gryphon plays this, as with all the trios, very well and empathetically. If I was to be critical, I simply miss the last degree of Mozartian charm.

A small note. The box proclaims Ďthe complete piano triosí but does not include K442, a problematic composite piece you can find in the Beaux Artsí complete Mozart set.

To sum up - this has been quite a difficult review. I am delighted to have acquainted myself with this fine Canadian trio. They deliver first rate performances of splendid and unfairly neglected pieces and I will return to them often. However, if I had to plump for one double disc of the recognized Piano Trios I would choose the cheaper, and to my ears superior, Trio Fontenay. It may be about 16 years old now and so the sound may not be quite so good but the playing is really special. For those with a bigger budget, the Beaux Arts in the Complete Mozart edition is a super alternative.

David R Dunsmore

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