MOZART Piano Quartets
There have been several excellent recordings recently of these two works, mostly on period instruments. Here’s another, on modern instruments, and with performances quite out of the ordinary. These are unusually expansive works, their first movements each close on 15 minutes’ music, prolific in their thematic matter and richly developed. They demand playing that shows a grasp of their scale, playing that makes plain to the listener the shape, the functional character of the large spans of the music.
Paul Lewis and the Leopold String Trio excel in this, with their feeling for its structure and its tension: I am thinking primarily of the first movement of the G minor, and especially of its great climax at the end of the development section, which is delivered with a power and a sense of its logic that are compelling. It is in fact clear from the opening that this is a performance to reckon with, exemplified by its carefully measured tempo, its poise and its subtle handling of the balance between strings and piano. There is a great deal of variety from Lewis in matters of touch and articulation, and much refinement of detail: the shades of meaning in the shifts between major and minor, and in the often chromatic harmony, do not escape him and his colleagues. The Andante is unhurried, allowing plenty of time for expressive detail; and the darker colours within the finale, for all its G major good cheer, are there too.
The spacious and outgoing E flat work is no less sympathetically done, with plenty of feeling for its special kind of broad lyricism; I particularly relished the gently springy rhythms and the tenderness of the string phrasing in the first movement, and Lewis’s beautifully shaped phrasing in the Larghetto. A real winner, this disc: warmly recommended.