Jonathan Crow / Matt Haimovitz / Douglas McNabney

Mozart the Mason

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The concept of this disc makes less and less sense the more you think about it, but that doesn't stop it from being a very nicely played program of Mozart chamber music. Mozart was indeed a Freemason, and he wrote music, including The Magic Flute, that was directly related to Masonic ideas and rituals. Two works are included on this album; one, the Divertimento for string trio, K. 563, has a tenuous connection to Freemasonry in that Mozart wrote it for a friend, Michael Puchberg, who was a fellow Mason and often lent Mozart money. It supposedly contains patterns and proportions of threes and sixes that relate to Masonic symbolism, but groups of two and three in Mozartian structures are as common as dirt. The other work on the album is a set of preludes and fugues for string trio; the fugues are arranged from Bach's three-part fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier, while the preludes are Mozart's own. What this work, which opens the album, has to do with Freemasonry is not clear; Bach was certainly no Mason. The liner notes point out that the influence of Bach's polyphony is apparent in the Divertimento as well, but this trait doesn't square with the Divertimento's alleged links to The Magic Flute -- the Masonic symbolism of that opera depends on the simplicity of its musical language.

So this disc contributes little to an understanding of Mozart the Mason. If you ignore the packaging, however, what's left is a very affecting performance of some Mozart works that stand somewhat outside the general run of his chamber music. The Preludes and Fugues, K. 404a, are unique in Mozart's output, and the Canadian trio of Jonathan Crow, Douglas McNabney, and Matt Haimovitz catch the peculiar quality of Mozart's attempts to write a retrospective prelude. Their performance of the Divertimento is even better; it has a deliberate, reverential quality that illuminates its dense 13-minute adagio movement and actually meshes well with the supposition that the work was indeed somehow involved with Mozart's interest in the Masonic order. This unusual and intense recording of the Divertimento is one of the very best available. Download the album if you can, and save yourself the bizarre cover art and the labored concept.

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