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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Nationality: Austrian
Born: January 27, 1756, Salzburg Died: December 5, 1791, Vienna (age 35)

Piano Trio in G major, K. 564

(for violin, cello and piano)
5:13 I. Allegro
6:37 II. Andante [con Variazioni]
5:04 III. Allegretto
Duration: 18 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1788 (age 31-32)
6 recordings, 13 videos
autoopen autoplay
5:03
Kungsbacka Piano Trio
I. Allegro
5:50
Kungsbacka Piano Trio
II. Andante [con Variazioni]
4:42
Kungsbacka Piano Trio
III. Allegretto
5:20
Haydn Trio Eisenstadt
I. Allegro
5:03
Haydn Trio Eisenstadt
III. Allegretto
5:12
Beaux Arts Trio
I. Allegro
6:51
Beaux Arts Trio
II. Andante [con Variazioni]
4:30
Beaux Arts Trio
III. Allegretto
6:23
Shvayneflaish, et. al.
II. Andante [con Variazioni]
4:57
Shvayneflaish, et. al.
III. Allegretto
18:04
Mozartean Players
5:24
Han Trio
I. Allegro
4:53
Han Trio
III. Allegretto
From Kai Christiansen

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756-1791

Piano Trio in G Major, K. 564, 1788
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart"In my boyhood, each time I played Mozart for my Grandma Clara, she said, in a flat voice, "Sounds just like water." One day, on a picnic, she announced factually that the creek sounded just like Mozart." — W. A. Mathieu, The Musical Life

The classical piano trio came of age in Mozart's hands. The full transition from the harpsichord to pianoforte coincided almost perfectly with Mozart's life. He was a superb pianist – among history's very first. He contributed mightily to the young instrument's essential repertoire. Several composers before Mozart wrote for the ostensible ensemble of keyboard, violin and cello, fabulous works by skilled composers such a C.P.E. Bach, Schobert and Haydn. But there were at least two differences between their compositions and Mozart's. First, they wrote for "keyboard", possibly conceived with harpsichord in mind. Mozart wrote specifically and idiosyncratically for the piano itself. Second, the string parts were either "ad libitum" (optional), or quite secondary within music conceived primarily for the solo keyboard. With Mozart, the classically balanced triumvirate of piano, violin and cello finds its first blossom, indeed, an exquisite bouquet of compositions for this nascent ensemble soon to become a centerpiece at the heart of the chamber music literature.

The bouquet comprises seven trios in all: an early divertimento and seven mature works, one of which is the famous Kegelstatt featuring the clarinet instead of the violin. The five final works for violin, cello and piano are seminal masterworks of the literature sparking lively debates about which among them are the finest. Mozart's last piano trio, K. 564 in G major, shares the year of 1788 with some of his greatest works including the last three symphonies and the sublime string trio. Contrary to any misguided grumbles about the predominance of the piano or the less than inspirational themes – these are the traditional critiques – this final trio is an exquisitely wrought classical masterpiece of great warmth, color, ingenuity, and, above all, a balanced, nuanced ensemble. It is subtle, yet arguably perfect; It is Mozart after all.

Mozart does rely on a recurring pattern throughout the trio: the solo piano states the primary themes before they are "echoed" by the strings. But the ever shifting ensemble profile makes Mozart's textures much more kaleidoscopic this. Themes first given to keyboard recur in their elaborated restatements with the strings, here the violin, there the cello. Nothing seems to ultimately dominate; each of the three instruments sing and partner, lead and follow, and also temporarily exit the sage. An emerging sense of "instrumental opera" is apt: Mozart was the reigning master of lyrical expression for a small cast of players and here the music continuously "converses."

The first movement is a trim sonata form with a single theme dominating both key areas of the exposition, a nearly "monothematic" sonata alla Haydn. It is a happy, lively vehicle for a rich tapestry of shifting instrumental alliances. The development clouds with a flash of darker passion and a "false reprise" enables Mozart to further digress before the returning home. Mozart always makes crucial shifts and elaborations in his restatements, often the touch of Mozart's finest hand.

The central theme and variations is worth the value of the whole trio if, for no other reason, it confirms that Mozart's part writing was ample, full, balanced and kind to all three players. This is not just a detail of color but of deeper design and emotional affect. Mozart's variations reveal his beautiful, perhaps endless musical inventiveness, not only in the details of the notes, but the inseparable deployment of the instruments. Central to Mozart's art is his delicate perfection in the keyboard part which is linear (rather than chordal), contrapuntal, and, at times, a mere gentle figuration of color. A favorite Mozart ploy concludes the variation set: an eerie, quiet, minor-keyed meditation brings the music to a whisper then a silence enabling the final variation to burst onto the scene in full technicolor glory, a little miracle of catharsis through Mozart's inimitable effervescence.

The finale sustains the good-natured classical vivacity with an equally bubbly rondo, a distinctive narrative drama for a cast of three. Melody and mood dance across repeating refrains with various adventures in between. The lyrical dance impulse is the key, the foil against which Mozart can play: ever-changing color, jolly rhythms and perhaps a love story between keys and bows. A brief coda seals the love with a fleeting, tender kiss.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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