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CD Review

Wolfgang Mozart

The Trios for Piano, Violin and Cello

  • Trio in C Major, K. 548 [19:50]
  • Trio in E Major, K. 542 [18:38]
  • Trio in B Flat Major, K. 502 [22:37]
André Previn, piano
Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin
Daniel Müller-Schott, cello
Recorded Live, Baden-Baden, May 2005
Released March 2006
Deutsche Grammophon 4775796 61:20
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The Music – Although highly enjoyable, Mozart's Piano Trios do not represent his finest hour. Both the Violin Concertos and Sonatas for Violin and Piano are more compelling fare. I only bring this up as a guide for those new to Mozart's music who might assume that all of Mozart's mature works are of the masterpiece level.

Anne-Sophie Mutter – This extremely popular violinist is on a determined mission to record the Mozart Violin Concertos, Piano Trios, and Violin Sonatas. Through it all, Mutter uses the old-school approach which is to play Classical era music as one would perform Romantic era works.

Vibrato is constant; you can try to hide but you can't avoid it – it's all over the landscape. In addition, Mutter often sounds like a gypsy playing as the wagon moves over the countryside. This is the same type of playing she employs on her recent set of the Mozart Violin Concertos that I reviewed with some skepticism a few short months ago. The problem is that Mozart creates an abundance of opportunities in the Concertos for flights of fancy and virtuoso playing; these opportunities are much reduced in the Piano Trios which require greater elegance and structural balance. The fact is that Mutter has little concern with balance or elegance.

Partnership – From my perspective, Mutter and her husband André Previn are consistently at odds with one another. Mutter emotes romantically, Previn offers classical balance, purity and restraint. I find that they sound ill-suited for partnership, neither one willing to budge from their respective conceptions of Mozart's music. Müller-Schott? Well, he's around now and then but doesn't play a major or distinctive role.

Stop Complaining – In the vibrato minefield, I have to admit that the interpretations have plenty of gusto, wit, playfulness, drive, and good cheer. In other words, there is nothing boring about the performances; they are as vibrant as any in the catalogs. Also, the sonics are quite good with ample depth, clarity, and definition among the three instruments.

Don's Conclusions: A recommendation is entirely dependent on the listener's response to Anne-Sophie Mutter's performance style. For those who enjoy a romanticized Mozart, her disc should give many hours of listening pleasure. However, Mozart enthusiasts who prefer minimal vibrato, period instruments and classical proportion might find Mutter an impossible pill to swallow. Personally, I intend to keep the disc only for reference purposes, feeling that the music is more appealing when Mutter is at rest.

Copyright © 2006, Don Satz