Peter Serkin / Alexander Schneider / Michael Tree / David Sayer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Chamber Music Masterpieces (Disc 1)

Thomas Bartlett

By Thomas Bartlett

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

It's hard to imagine a more impressively credentialed (or intriguingly cross-generational) quartet than the one assembled on this 1965 recording: violinist Alexander Schneider of the legendary Budapest String Quartet, which was about to disband after a brilliant five-decade career; violist Michael Tree and cellist David Soyer, two highly esteemed members of the then-fledgling Guarneri Quartet; and the great Rudolf Serkin's 18-year-old son, Peter, who would go on to become one of the pre-eminent concert pianists of the late 20th century.

A classic 1965 recording of the legendary Budapest String Quartet tackling Mozart’s piano quartets.

On this disc, they tackle Mozart's two piano quartets, among his best and most frequently performed chamber pieces, and the first piano quartets ever written that were true quartets rather than piano showpieces with string accompaniment. The two quartets make a great pairing, the rich sonorities of the darkly dramatic G Minor contrasting perfectly with the beatific, effortlessly melodic E-Flat Major. On this recording the strings take a lush, perhaps anachronistically Romantic, but ravishingly beautiful approach, while Serkin plays with a more classical limpidity and lightness of touch, although his tone is as rich and concentrated as ever. The result is a perfectly balanced reading that may be rejected by rigorous period performance advocates, but should appeal to fans of the Casals/Serkin/Busch/Marlboro Festival style of chamber playing.