“apotheosis, vol. 2” = MOZART: The Piano Quartets – Joyce Yang, p/ Alexander String Quartet – Foghorn Classics CD2018, 1:04:09 [Dist. by Naxos] *****:
I love the Alexander String Quartet; it would be unfair to call them throwbacks, for that suggests that they live in the past with little interest in string progression and modern techniques. But they possess a tonal quality that reeks flexibility, fascination, and enthrallment with beautiful sound for its own sake, soft, vibrant, yet able to turn on a dime. There is simply no more beautiful quartet playing today.
This second volume of “apotheosis” focuses on the marvelous piano quartets of Mozart—K. 478 in G Minor, K. 493 in Eb Major. These are, with good reason, a couple of the most beloved chamber works in the entire literature, despite that fact that overall there are not many examples—or good ones, at any rate, in the history of music. (The exceptions are fantastic!) It’s like a car with a flat tire—the balances are often very difficult to achieve properly, with the piano often having to simply take over what is perceived as a missing part. But Mozart, never one to be satisfied with such a construct, finds, time and time again, solutions to the most difficult of compositional puzzles.
The G-minor was composed first, and was not successful, even though time has proved that judgement silly. Part of the problem is that he made no concessions to the amateur player, and the piece is fiendishly difficult. Once he returned with the E-flat quartet, hardly easier, but somehow more surface attraction to the casual ear, the pair became inseparable. These works breathe the easy air of the time—Marriage of Figaro was hot off the press, while gems like the Piano Concertos Nos. 20 and 21 were resonating throughout Vienna.
These gorgeous performances easily leap to the top of the heap, even with the plethora of great recordings already there. Time to pare down and make room for a truly great release.