Amazon.com essential recording
This is a wonderful recording of two indispensable masterpieces. By adding the viola, which he loved to play, to the popular piano trio, Mozart became "the father of the piano quartet" with these very different works, the first somber and dramatic, though it ends with a sprightly finale, the second lyrical and serene. Mozart treats all the instruments as equals, but primarily alternates piano and strings, bringing them together in climactic moments. This means that the musicians must inwardly participate in the music-making during long rests to create continuity and seamless give-and-take, a subtle problem these performers solve admirably. These four superb soloists have a rapport so strong that thoughts and feelings seem to flow between them in an unbroken current. Their playing is technically impeccable; their phrasing and style are unanimous, elegant, and flexible; their tone, though each player has a different one, is beautiful and expressive; the piano sings ravishingly; Ax adds discreet, improvisatory embellishments, especially in repeats. They bring out all of Mozart's mercurial moods, the light and shadow, repose and passion, joy and sorrow. --Edith Eisler
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MUTUALLY MUTUAL MOZART
Melvyn M. Sobel | Freeport (Long Island), New York | 08/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With a consistency of interpretation and authenticity that beggars criticism, Mozart's undeniably glowing piano quartets spring warmly to life in the fraternal hands of Ax, Stern, Laredo and Ma. There is no streamlining here; the performances retain an endearing rough and ready quality so contagious, so fresh, so vital that the rare musical melding allows the listener immediate emotional entree. Tempi are insightfully and affectionately judged, the balance between slow and fast movements, perfectly contrasted. Ax, true to the composer, gives the piano a voice amongst the strings, acting very much the representative compass. Stern is particularly lyrical here, and Laredo liberates the second violin with a melodious sensitivity; Ma's cello adds an outstanding autumnal stability to the whole. The recording is exceptionally realistic and present, with each instrument beautifully engaged. This is self-recommending, glorious "hausmusik" intimately, yet spontaneously re-defined by a stellar ensemble.
[Running time: 55:37]