Mozart’s E flat major Divertimento, K.563 is a quite
outstanding score; certainly one of greatest ever written for
string trio. Although inhabiting a very different sound-world
probably Schoenberg’s String Trio, Op.45 from 1946 is
its only rival in quality. At almost fifty minutes in performance
the substantial six movement score is something of a Cinderella.
It is to be hoped that this marvellous performance by the Trio
Zimmermann will assist in giving this surprisingly neglected
score the acknowledgement it richly deserves. It undoubtedly
suffers from being described by Mozart as a divertimento
a term generally associated with lighter works designed
The string trio repertoire is not extensive with the Mozart
Divertimento, K.563 and Schoenberg’s much shorter String
Trio, Op.45 reigning supreme. Of the other scores for the
combination of violin, viola and cello I have always regarded
Beethoven’s Serenade, Op. 8 and his four String Trios,
Op.3 and Op.9/1-3 as fine works – all often overlooked.
In 2007 renowned solo violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann got together
with violist Antoine Tamestit and cellist Christian Poltéra
to form their string trio. Trio Zimmermann is not however a
full time ensemble. Although Zimmermann is by far the best known
of the three all have solo careers and come together a couple
of times each year to tour.
Mozart was thirty-two when he composed his outstanding Divertimento
for violin, viola and cello in E flat major, K.563 in 1788.
With the exception of his stage works this must be one of his
most lengthy scores; certainly his longest chamber work. The
year 1788 was a remarkably fruitful period that saw Don Giovanni
premièred and the composition of his last three. The lengthy
opening Allegro is here played with real joie de vivre
followed by the extended Adagio, a heartfelt
love letter in music. Marked Allegretto the first Menuetto
is suitably lively yet the players still maintain courtly good
manners. With a stretched out folk-like theme and set of variations
the Andante is inventive and varied. The second Menuetto
another Allegretto contains two trios, the first
designed as a Ländler the second also in the manner of
a folk dance with far more emphasis given to the violin. The
concluding Allegro is a joyfully amenable and memorably
lyrical Rondo just bursting with vitality.
Taking pride of place from the surprisingly few complete versions
of Mozart’s Divertimento, K.563 is the distinguished
1967 performance from the Grumiaux Trio (Grumiaux, Janzer and
Szabo) on Philips. After some forty-five years the Grumiaux
version has never been outshone and still sounds fine today.
Another recording worthy of consideration is the 2000 account
by the impressive Leopold String Trio (Thorsen, Dickinson and
Gould) on Hyperion.
The String Trio in B flat major, D.471 was composed in
1816 by the nineteen year old Schubert. This is an appealing
score but makes no claims for greatness unlike K.563. Notable
Schubert works from the year 1816 include the now lost Prometheus:
Cantata (the first commission to earn him money), Mass in
C major, D.452, String Quartet in E major, D.353,
Symphony No.4 in C minor, D.417 ‘Tragic’, Symphony
No.5 in B flat major, D.485 and over a hundred songs. Commencing
with a lovely and instantly memorable melody the D.471 reminded
me so much of Mozart. Caught up in the cheerfulness of the score
the Trio Zimmermann play with a sense of fondness and proficiency.
The best known version of this Schubert’s String Trio is
the excellent 1969 account from the Grumiaux Trio (Grumiaux,
Janzer and Czako). Released on Philips the performance still
sounds fresh after over forty years.
In both the Mozart and the Schubert scores the recordings from
the Grumiaux Trio from the late 1960s on Philips offer the most
challenging competition. With playing that feels natural and
unforced Trio Zimmermann bring warmth and vitality to the music.
Their unity and tonal blend is to a high standard and they play
with humanity and sensitivity. Ideally to widen the emotional
extremes of the Mozart performances I wanted a touch more searching
quality in the Adagio and additional drama in the Allegros.
Each score on this BIS disc was recorded on separate occasions
in 2009 and 2010 at Nybrokajen in Stockholm. I played this hybrid
SACD on my standard player and was delighted by the overall
sound and balance. I was interested to read that on this recording
Frank Peter Zimmermann was playing the ‘Lady Inchiquin’ Antonio
Stradivarius (1711) violin that was once played by Fritz Kreisler.
Antoine Tamestit used the ‘Mahler’ Antonio Stradivarius
(1672) viola and Christian Poltéra played an Andreas Guarneri
cello from 1675; all with modern stringing and set-ups.
Beautifully presented and recorded this impressive disc will
prove a most worthwhile addition to any chamber music collection.
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