Mozart Piano Quartet

Hugo Stähle: Piano Quartet Op. 1; Antonín Dvorák: Piano Quartet Op. 23

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The big news from this recording resides in what is apparently the premiere recording of Hugo Stähle's Piano Quartet in A major, Op. 1. Before his death at age 22, Stähle, a student of Louis Spohr, managed to complete an opera, a symphony, and two song cycles in addition to the present work. It's well worth checking out, and it's intriguing enough to make listeners want to hear the rest of his slender output. Stähle died in 1848, so it seems less than likely that he knew the music of Schubert. Yet that is who comes to mind when hearing the combination of melodic effusion, dramatic scope, and daring long-range contrast. The unexpected outburst at the end of the slow movement is especially reminiscent of the slow movement of Schubert's Piano Trio No. 2 in E flat major, D. 929, and the entire work is smoothly executed with moments that stick in your head long after hearing them. Schubert might have made a better pairing than the rather diffuse Piano Quartet in D major, Op. 23, by the young Dvorák, a work played without great enthusiasm by the Mozart-Klavierquartett. But the group seems aware of the weight of the Stähle work and brings it alive, aided by clear sound from the audiophile MDG label, working in an unidentified venue at the Musikhochschule in Munich. For those interested in the chamber music of the Romantics, this will be a satisfying find that hardly anyone saw coming.

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