Hermitage String Trio

Mozart: Divertimento in E flat major, KV 563; Preludes and Fugues

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Mozart's Divertimento for string trio in E flat major, K. 563, has never been accorded quite the respect of his late string quartets, perhaps due to lingering veneration of the string quartet as the most intellectually refined of genres. In its six-movement structure, with a pair of minuets and a pair of slow movements, the work harks back to the divertimenti of Mozart's youth -- light works that lived up to their name. Within the individual movements, though, this sizable work (46 minutes plus even in this fairly brisk reading) is fully of a piece with the string quartets -- the perfect fusion of counterpoint and classical style, giving each instrument an equal role -- and in a few places, such as the extreme harmonic excursion in the opening movement, gives a hint of the directions in which Mozart might have gone had he lived longer. The work is fully capable of standing up to the serious, somewhat tense treatment it receives here from the Russian-European Hermitage String Trio, which minimizes the melodic charm in favor of hard surfaces that emphasize the work's construction. The Divertimento is appropriately framed by two of the Six Fugues with Slow Preludes, K. 404a, which are (probably) Mozart's formal exercises in mastering the fugal style of Johann Sebastian Bach. It was study that paid rich dividends in the last three or four years of Mozart's life. The trio's remarkable ensemble and unanimity of tone are beautifully rendered by Chandos' engineers, working in their favored haunt of Suffolk's Potton Hall.

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