MOZART: Piano Quartet; Oboe Quartet; Oboe “Kegelstatt” Trio – Adaskin String Trio/ Sally Pinkas, p./ Thomas Gallant, ob. – MSR Classics

MOZART: Piano Quartet in E-flat, K.493; Oboe Quartet in F, K.370/368b; Oboe Trio in E-Flat, K.498 “Kegelstatt” – Adaskin String Trio/ Sally Pinkas, p./ Thomas Gallant, ob. – MSR Classics MS 1447, 62:02 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

High quality readings of three seminal Mozart works, and one with a twist.

“What Mozart Oboe Trio?” you might rightly ask. No, it’s not a header misprint, and the “Kegelstatt” appellation applies here. It’s simply an arrangement—the first on record per the notes of this release—for Mozart’s formidable piano trio. Unlike Haydn, who really went to town with his 40-odd compositions in the genre, Mozart wrote only seven—eight if you include the early Divertimento, K 254—and this one, easily the most popular, was darkened and sonically blended by the substitution of the clarinet for the violin, and the viola for the cello. The result is one of the most intriguing and richest aural tapestries in the literature. The composer didn’t set out to make any kind of statement with this, but instead wrote according to the dictates of the instrumentation available, in this case Anton Stadler on clarinet (Mozart himself took the viola part). Curiously, when the Trio was published, it was listed for violin, viola, and piano, sans clarinet. The reason supposed is that Mozart’s practicality may have led to the idea of more sales, and while this may be true, it could be considered a bit of a stretch to think that the instrumentation didn’t matter at all to the composer, which is what the notes to this release suggest. I’m not convinced—the oboe is a much different instrument in terms of color than the clarinet, and Mozart is truly a very color-conscious composer. This performance of Ensemble Schumann is superb—but for me the haunting flavors of the clarinet are difficult to escape when listening to this very-familiar piece.

We are on more familiar territory with the other two pieces, and I would indeed be criminally remiss if I did not mention the superb playing of oboist Thomas Gallant, who soars through this tricky yet feather-on-the-wind Oboe Quartet with nary a glance at the technical difficulties. This is one of those works that feels gallant (no pun) and breezy while replete with some of the most difficult wind writing ever conceived, and all forces pass muster with highest marks.

The Piano Quartet is one of a pair, and one of the most popular chamber pieces of Mozart. It was 1784, and he was amid an incredibly facile, fertile, and profitable period of his Viennese sojourn. After the issuance of the first piece in G-minor, friend and publisher Franz Anton Hoffmeister released Mozart from his contractual obligation of two works, due to the “difficult piano part” of the G-minor quartet. Mozart responded two years later with his E-flat masterpiece, thereby setting down dual pillars of amazing quality, and cementing for future generations a form that, until his time, was virtually unknown.

The Adaskin Trio provides a reading of exceptional warmth, matching the burnished tone of many native Viennese ensembles, a hallmark of this group since their inception in 1994. MSR provides excellent sound quality recorded at WGBH studios in Boston. Recommended.

—Steven Ritter

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