Kungsbacka Piano Trio

Mozart: Piano Trios K. 496 and K. 502; Divertimento in B flat

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Mozart's piano trios don't represent a generically unified group as much as do, say his string quartets. The cover of this disc by the British-Swedish Kungsbacka Trio gives part of the story: it doesn't remake the Divertimento in B flat major, K. 254, into a "piano trio," but it doesn't recognize that the Piano Trio in G major, K. 496, is also an ambiguous case; Mozart tried to sell it as a "Terzett" but entitled it a "Sonata" in his autograph, to which someone else affixed a notation calling the work a trio for piano, violin, and cello. The final Piano Trio in B flat major, K. 502, shows the trio definitively taking shape as an independent genre. The upshot of this evolution is to place the focus on the pianist, who is both the leader of the group (even in the K. 502 trio) and responsible for bringing out the other instruments where they have important parts to play. The Kungsbacka Trio (named after a Swedish town where they operate a music festival) delivers lively performances, on modern instruments, with some inspired Mozart playing by pianist Simon Crawford-Philips. He pushes the tempo slightly in cadential passages for a sound that's exciting without losing clarity or being overdone, and he is alert to all the different ways the relationship among the three instruments is treated. Consider the Adagio central movement of the Divertimento (track 2), where the violin comes in first and ingeniously destabilizes the rhythm in such a way that caused the piece's original performers to lose their places and be forced to begin again. The Kungsbacka musicians capture the magic of this moment, a fine example of the rampant genius of the young Mozart. In general, a strong disc that ties together some tricky material and offers plenty of enjoyment for chamber music enthusiasts. The sound, from the small St. George's church-turned-concert hall in the British town of Brandon Hill, is clear and bright.

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