Mozart: Divertimento - Trio Zimmermann
Classical - Chamber
Mozart: Divertimento in E flat major K.563
Schubert: String Trio in B flat major D.471
‘Each instrument is primus inter pares, every note is significant …’ is how the scholar Alfred Einstein described W.A. Mozart’s Divertimento in E flat major for string trio. What other work could then be more suitable for the first disc of a star-studded ensemble such as Trio Zimmermann, in which each member is very definitely first among equals?
Composed in the same year as the three final symphonies, Mozart’s only real trio for violin, viola and cello is a weighty work – six movements and close to 50 glorious minutes of music – and the fact that Mozart chose the title Divertimento (from the Italian divertire: to amuse) for a piece of these dimensions has often been remarked upon. But to Mozart, there was no real dividing line between ‘serious’ art and pleasure or amusement – and so, to quote Einstein once more, he gave us ‘the most perfect, finest thing that has ever been heard in this world’.
To round off the disc, Frank Peter Zimmermann, Antoine Tamestit and Christian Poltéra have chosen to record Franz Schubert’s first contribution to the string trio genre, the opening – and only complete – movement (Allegro) of his String Trio in B flat major, D 471, written in 1816 when the composer was only nineteen.
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Review by John Broggio - February 20, 2011
A wonderful disc that easily joins the ranks of classic recordings of these works.
The Mozart Divertimento is one of the largest scale string divermento's in the repertoire (if not the largest) and has been dominated in the catalogue since 1967 by the appearance of the Grumiaux Trio's account of the work. Spread over 6 movements and more than 1000 bars, this is one of Mozart's greatest chamber works in terms of craft even if it might lack some of the most sublime melodic inspiration that graces (for example) the slow movement of his clarinet quintet. By comparison with his string quartets the writing is strikingly far more democratic and all three musicians get a great deal of time in the limelight - this is in contrast to many of the quartets, even the later ones, where the first violin is very much first amongst equals by a good head and shoulders.
The Trio Zimmermann is as illustrious as one could imagine bringing together 3 first class soloists; Frank Peter Zimmermann needs no introduction to listeners; Christian Poltera has appeared here to great success twice before (Dutilleux, Lutosławski: Cello Concertos - Poltera, van Steen and Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov - Leschenko, Argerich, Poltera, Lakatos) and Antoine Tamestit has also contributed memorably to Schubert: Trout Quintet - Helmchen, Tetzlaff, Tamestit, Hecker, Posch, Baerten. One sometimes fears that such meetings of strong individuals doesn't always lead to an approach that lends itself to the more intimate nature of chamber music but such fears are allayed from the off. All lines have their own personality yet their expressiveness always yields to the common good when it is not their turn to shine. The trio has obviously had a meeting of minds for whilst individual details are delivered distinctly - reflecting the minor differences of inflection in the score - they are always related in character to the other protagonists.
Tempo choices are refreshingly swift, yet never harried in the least; this is most effective in the Adagio which flows with great eloquence and, especially, the Andante (a superb set of variations in all but name) in which the dazzling passage work is delivered in an understated quicksilver fashion that is impossible not to admire as it is all phrased (miraculously so) into the overall structure of each musical argument in a manner that few ensembles have achieved. Other aspects that mark this account out from much of the competition (including the Grumiaux Trio) are the additions of embellishments where taste allows (try the first Trio in the second Menuetto for example) and the inclusion of all repeats. Before anyone who is not sold on historically informed performance practice becomes worried that the sound is going to be anaemic and lacking warmth, then such fears can be put to rest because, although their tone is pure, vibrato is used liberally (although it tighter than was the case in earlier times). The one questionable trait is the generous use of glissando in the final Allegro - some will find it gratuitous (it occurs first in the opening 10 bars, so audition to check!) but that is the only possible blemish that could be found by all except the most ardent HIP purists.
The Schubert is a minor masterpiece in sonata form that lasts approximately 11 minutes when the repeats are included (as they are here). In common with the Mozart, the removal of the second violin part has made the thematic material much more evenly distributed than in comparable the writing of quartets written at around the same time. This contains one of Schubert's sunniest melodies and the Trio Zimmermann respond with winning playing that cannot help but bring a smile to the face of all but the most jaded of listeners.
The recording, made in Nybrokajen 11 (the former Academy of Music), is very good indeed - so good, that one doesn't even contemplate it whilst listening to the wonderful music making on offer; just enough distance is granted to allow a refined timbre to emanate from the speakers - definitely best seats in the house! For chamber music, that is all one can wish for and here it is what the music and musicians deservedly get.
A delightful disc in every respect.
Copyright © 2011 John Broggio and HRAudio.net
Review by Mark Novak - April 26, 2011
Don’t be put off by the title of this work as a Divertimento – it is anything but a trifle. Rather, it is a 48 minute, six-movement excursion into wonderful melodies, drama and counterpoint. Mozart composed this at the time of his last three symphonies and so it is most definitely a “late” piece from the fertile and imaginative mind of this genius. This auspicious SACD is its first appearance in a hi-rez format and it is a very welcome addition to the chamber music pantheon. When it comes to chamber music for strings, I am very partial to the quartet as opposed to a trio format. However, Mozart’s writing is so good and engaging that the additional violin is never missed. I would put this piece up against any of Mozart’s string quartets and quintets (save perhaps for the “Dissonance” quartet) as the pinnacle of his chamber writing for strings. He squeezes every last piece of juice from the three instrumentalists who must all be first-class players to execute it well.
The performance by the Trio Zimmermann is marvelous. Comprised of Violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann, violist Antoine Tamestit and cellist Christian Poltera, the group provides a fantastic ensemble sound as well as a sensitive touch that reveals the lead line as it passes from one instrument to another. No one player dominates as it should be in this piece – all contribute very effectively to the ebb and flow. Granted, the first violin gets more of the “solo” material than the other two yet Zimmermann never seems to dominate but instead floats appropriately above the accompanying line in perfect proportion. Beautiful! The Schubert trio filler is not nearly at the same exalted level as the Mozart from a composition standpoint but it makes for a pleasant 11 minute makeweight that is also performed superbly.
The performances were recorded in a very familiar BIS chamber music venue, Nybrokajen 11 in Stockholm (Mozart in July, 2009 and Schubert in July, 2010). The producer and engineer of both sessions was Hans Kipfer, a stalwart with BIS. The sound is excellent. All three instruments posses their natural timbres in a well-judged acoustic with plenty of low-end foundation that captures the fullness of the cello very well. The players are arranged in a semi-circle with violin left, viola middle and cello on right. As with all recordings, one must make sure to set a proper playback level to maximize realism. When so doing, you will occasionally hear the faint breath intakes of the players but in no case did I find it distracting as is sometimes the case in close-up recordings. Highly recommended!
Copyright © 2011 Mark Novak and HRAudio.net