top
Mozart Chamber Music 10 CD
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Mozart Chamber Music 10 CD

Amadeus Quartet

Label: Diapason
Format: CD
Barcode: 3770003441908
barcode
Catalog number: DIAP 01
Releasedate: 22-01-16
- The first volume of a new series launched by Diapason, the world famous specialized classical music magazine
- Devoted to Mozart's chamber music, it has been compiled by real connoisseurs
- Remastered historical recordings (the most recent is dated 1962) where first half of XXth Century great interpreters of Mozart are all represented: from Julliard and Amadeus Quartet to Curzon, Heifetz, Lili Kraus, Grimiaux....
- Budget Price
Bring together eight or ten CDs of most of Mozart’s chamber music in a boxed set? Schubert’s piano music? Chopin’s? Dvorak’s? Debussy’s? The Beethoven symphonies? The idea is certainly not new. But the unusual method definitely is. This time it isn’t a record company delving more or less carefully through its archives, choosing performances to form a vast panorama, one that inevitably results in compromises, since the company must select from its own catalogue. In our case, the entire Diapason magazine team is part of the project, searching high and low for the crème de la crème. The same uncompromising rigour we use to select five, six or seven gems from the flood of new record- ings each month was put into practice here, to create a series that, one boxed set after another, will gradually build an unprecedented ideal record library. Let it be understood that such teamwork is both a virtue and a necessity. We don’t rely on hazy memories or include recordings thought to be definitive merely out of habit or laziness; we make sure that everyone’s memory is refreshed through comparative listening. Each of the selections in the set is the result of patient and scrupulous listening, divided amongst the more than 30 specialists of the Diapason team. When necessary, we base our criteria on rarity: this helps to choose between top performances—and gives us the perfect chance to bring some forgotten treasures to light. Should we have chosen homogeneous groups, bet on a single interpreter, for example the marvellous and imitable Horszowski and Szigeti for Mozart’s violin and piano sonatas? We decided to go in the opposite direction for three reasons: to avoid competing with record companies that may still have this rendition in their catalogues; to lessen the risk of including a version that many people already own; and particularly, to showcase a variety of different approaches to the same composer by confronting one against the other. This can be cruel when a version is mediocre or merely pretty. But at this level of excellence, it will always be fascinating. 
Should it come as a surprise that the wonderful decade that produced Erick Kleiber’s Marriage of Figaro, Böhm’s first Così, the Don Giovannis of Furtwängler, Mitropoulos and Giulini, Fricsay’s Abduction from the Seraglio, Pritchard’s Idomeneo, and Karajan’s towering versions of almost all these works (here the author pauses for breath); should it come as a surprise that the infallible sense of Mozartian drama that brings these conduc- tors together, despite striking differences in sensibilities, should be profoundly reflected in the playing of the musicians that recorded his chamber music during the same pe- riod? Performers in the early music movement often claim they are “dusting off” Mozart, reinstating the eloquent energy of phrases that had become overly legato, and liberating dramatic gestures from syrupy conventions. But isn’t this akin to reinventing the wheel? I defy anyone to find a single speck of dust on the strings of Joseph Szigeti, Szymon Goldberg, the youthful Amadeus Quartet, the Budapest String Quartet, or on the keyboards of Lili Kraus, William Kapell and Clifford Curzon ... the question is not of playing in a more or less “Mozartian” style or of a certain school—the diversity of these renditions is on a par with those of the conductors mentioned above—but of expert performers who with ut- most simplicity and generosity give each note an intelligible, articulate meaning, without wearing their intentions on their sleeves. Eloquence, for the Mozartian elect, is elegance. This vast anthology is largely made up of recordings that are very difficult or impossible to find. The rarest appear on CDs 5 and 6. How is it possible that the first complete rendition of the “Haydn” Quartets, performed by the Juilliard String Quartet at its finest, was never trans- ferred to a CD? The answer is typical: Sony, though they reissued their later version many times, overlooked the prodigious LPs the group recorded for Columbia in 1963. The sessions took place on 1, 2, 14, 16, 18, 25, 29 and 31 May 1962 a year that marked a turning point in the Quartet’s career: they took over from the Budapest String Quartet as the resident en- semble at the Library of Congress, and as such were loaned the Stradivarius instruments and Tourte bows that Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, an enlightened patron, had acquired for the concert series given in the library’s auditorium. Coolidge, a passionate advocate of chamber music at a time when other American patrons concentrated on aiding orchestras, specified that the instruments could only be played as a quartet. Robert Mann, Isidore Cohen, Raphael Hillyer and Claus Adam, whose style included an unprecedented blend of perfectionism, vigour and wide dynamic range, which at the time made a strong impression, put no less intensity into Mozart’s music than they did into Schubert’s or Bartok’s. I am very grateful to Piotr Kaminsky for bringing this treasure to my attention, and to Jean- Michel Molkhou for allowing me to borrow three original LPs from his collection, which were, thank God, in superb condition. Isabelle Davy transferred the music, removing sur- face noise without dulling the sound. The Quartet was recorded close to the instruments in rather a dry acoustic that does not correspond to today’s standards, but transmits the true spirit of chamber music, a friendly exchange. As often happened in those years, the stereo effect was exaggerated on the LPs, and we dealt with that problem. Another priceless gem arrives with the Mozart recordings of Lili Kraus and Szymon Goldberg. A Mozartian quintessence: singing lines, imagination, an inexhaustible rhythmic wellspring, strong characterisation of the various themes, and extremely clear-cut exchang- es that never come across as restrained. Who could imagine when listening to this splendid sound (recorded in 1935 and 1937) that it is the oldest selection in our anthology? Dividing the great violin sonatas between the Kraus/Goldberg team and the Mieczyslaw Horszowski/Joseph Szigeti couple (less “orthodox” Mozartians, whose playing recalls Tchaikovsky in certain Adagios) for the great violin and piano sonatas was heartrending. And how could we have left out Yehudi Menuhin and his sister in KV 376? Or abandoned Clara Haskil and Arthur Grumiaux, although their Mozart recorded for Philips are well known? Horszowki’s magic touch opens the first CD in Mozart’s darkest sonata: the mo- ment when the gloomy, melancholy minuet is introduced by the piano and quickly taken up by Szigeti’s bow is worth all the gold in the world. Here even Haskil must yield. For the trios, the choice was obvious. No one has equalled the complete edition—Lili Kraus with the Viennese musicians Willi Boskovsky and Nikolaus Hübner—made in late 1954 for Les Discophiles Français. Here Madame Kraus wears the pants, as she should in these trios, the piano leading the way proudly and unabashedly. André Charlin saw things the same way, and placed his microphones in perfect accordance. Towering versions of the string quintets are divided among the young Amadeus Quartet (KV 593), the Budapest String Quartet in two of Mozart’s most tormented compositions (KV 406 and 516), and the Griller Quartet, whose harmonious delivery allows us to gauge its sense of architecture and proportion in a classic rendering of the vast KV 515. It is hard to imagine three more varied sounds! The heady vibrato of the Amadeus Quartet—and their unique approach to rhythm, hovering between tension and nonchalance—is in- stantly recognizable in two of the three “Prussian” Quartets and the Piano Quartet No. 1. For the second one, instead of continuing with Clifford Curzon and the Amadeus Quar- tet’s celebrated version, we went for a rare treasure. Does anyone recall that the Ameri- can pianist William Kapell, a champion of Rachmaninov, Chopin and Prokofiev, travelled to Prades in 1953 at the ageing Casals’s request? Just listen to the ease—better still, the desire—with which he slipped on the Mozartian mantle alongside Paul Tortelier, Milton Thomas and Arthur Grumiaux, who was determined not to be outdone by this regal pres- ence at the piano. Did Grumiaux ever play Mozart with such exaltation—and at the risk of making more than one faux pas? The joyful rivalry among the three string instruments and the powerfully nuanced piano in the first movement and the finale (one searches in vain for the slightest hesitation in the musical line) becomes a subtle jockeying among melodies in the Larghetto. The final CD, dedicated to works including wind instruments, opens with the KV 452 Quintet, a masterpiece that Mozart himself felt was one of his greatest achievements. We could have picked the perennially lively Lili Kraus, but she was escorted by French wind players whose “green” sound and questionable tuning might have caused offence. Instead, we lost out hearts to the tender, reserved, playing of young Alfred Brendel’s partners, perfectly suited to chamber music, and which allows the work to unfold as a dialogue. In the historic Hungarian Wind Quintet’s recording, special respect is due to legendary oboist, Tibor Szeszler. His phrasing, imbued with an adolescent rather than a feminine grace, blends beautifully with László Hara’s bassoon, János Ónozó’s French horn and György Balassa’s clarinet.
A completely different clarinet sound illuminates the “Kegelstatt” Trio. Reginald Kell’s name is still associated with the development of vibrato. He was the first to cultivate a virtuoso vibrato on the clarinet, on which he shaped all the inflexions of the human voice. It is easy to understand why Horszowski was his favourite partner. Their recording’s vivid palette (fifty shades of tenderness) has rarely been equalled, and is sustained by the great Lillain Fuch’s luminous and flawless viola playing. Our collection closes with a classic: in 1938 Benny Goodman, not yet thirty, but already a swing star, recorded the Quintet KV 581 with the Budapest String Quartet. He was surprised by “the extremely demanding standards of the Quartet, which gave minute, constant attention to every detail, during every rehearsal, every concert and for every work”. Goodman, who came from another world, followed the Quartet’s example, sculpting his sound during these sessions, which left him with unpleas- ant memories but have provided delight to listeners ever since.