Hyperion Records

Piano Trio in G major, K496
July 1786; Vienna

'Mozart: Piano Trios K496 & 542' (CDA66148)
Mozart: Piano Trios K496 & 542
MP3 £5.99FLAC £5.99ALAC £5.99Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66148  Archive Service; also available on CDS44021/3  
'Mozart: Piano Trios' (CDA67609)
Mozart: Piano Trios
'Mozart: Six Piano Trios' (CDS44021/3)
Mozart: Six Piano Trios
MP3 £11.25FLAC £11.25ALAC £11.25Buy by post £41.97 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDS44021/3  3CDs Boxed set (at a special price) — Archive Service   Download currently discounted
Movement 1: Allegro
Track 4 on CDA67609 [8'21]
Track 1 on CDA66148 [12'38] Archive Service; also available on CDS44021/3
Track 4 on CDS44021/3 CD1 [12'38] 3CDs Boxed set (at a special price) — Archive Service
Movement 2: Andante
Track 5 on CDA67609 [6'00]
Track 2 on CDA66148 [6'51] Archive Service; also available on CDS44021/3
Track 5 on CDS44021/3 CD1 [6'51] 3CDs Boxed set (at a special price) — Archive Service
Movement 3: Allegretto: Theme and Variations I–VI
Track 6 on CDA67609 [9'08]
Track 3 on CDA66148 [10'29] Archive Service; also available on CDS44021/3
Track 6 on CDS44021/3 CD1 [10'29] 3CDs Boxed set (at a special price) — Archive Service

Piano Trio in G major, K496
The piano trios that Mozart wrote in Vienna after he moved there in 1781 are quite different from the earlier Divertimento, both in musical scope and in the relationship between the instruments. Mozart soon achieved fame in the city as a pianist, and had acquired his own fortepiano by 1785. The keyboard parts that he wrote for his piano trios were now much less suitable for playing on the harpsichord, and much more demanding. Although the best amateur players would certainly have played them on the harpsichord if a piano was not available, they were written for Mozart himself to perform on the fortepiano at his concerts in Vienna. The piano parts are tailored to his own exceptional skills as a pianist—his ‘quickness, neatness and delicacy … and a sensitivity that went straight to the heart’, as an early biographer put it. Indeed, it was Mozart more than anyone who awoke the Viennese to the expressive possibilities of the piano as a chamber and concerto instrument. At the same time Mozart created a new relationship in his trios between the piano and the stringed instruments, in which violin and cello began to take on independent lives of their own.

The Piano Trio in G major K496 is the first of these mature trios, one of a pair written in 1786 (the other being the trio in B flat K502, see Hyperion CDA67556). Mozart had been living in Vienna for five years and was beginning to enjoy some real success, for the first and only time in his career. The Marriage of Figaro was premiered in May 1786, and was increasingly acclaimed as its run continued. In March he had completed two of his greatest piano concertos, K488 in A major and K491 in C minor. This G major Piano Trio followed in July.

The solo piano introduces the opening theme, which is almost operatic in its fluid decoration. At first, only the violin joins in the dialogue, with the cello fulfilling its traditional role as the bass instrument. But the middle section begins dramatically with all instruments fortissimo, and then quietly the cello leads off the discussion, suddenly taking its place as the equal of piano and violin—a moment that must have been startling to Mozart’s contemporaries. The Andante begins, like the first movement, with an elegantly decorated theme. But the movement that unfolds has unexpected depth and complexity, with sudden modulations and, in the middle section, contrapuntal interweavings that remind us of Mozart’s love of J S Bach and Handel. The finale is a set of variations on a rather stately gavotte. The first three variations proceed innocently, but the fourth variation, in the minor, interrupts the calm with an extraordinary change of tone, the violin reiterating a drone-like motif, the cello repeating a sombre bass line below, and the piano weaving more counterpoint above. The fifth variation is an Adagio, which seems almost to take us back to the slow movement. The final variation brings a return to the gavotte tempo with flamboyant piano arpeggios, and all seems set for a brilliant ending. But the strange drone motif and counterpoint from the fourth variation return, and only just in time Mozart pulls the music back to a cheerful conclusion.

from notes by Robert Philip © 2007

Track-specific metadata
Click track numbers opposite to select

Details for CDS44021/3 disc 1 track 5
Recording date
26 June 1984
Recording venue
Recording producer
Martin Compton
Recording engineer
Antony Howell
Hyperion usage
  1. Mozart: Piano Trios K496 & 542 (CDA66148)
    Disc 1 Track 2
    Release date: December 1987
    Deletion date: May 1991
    Archive Service; also available on CDS44021/3
  2. Mozart: Six Piano Trios (CDS44021/3)
    Disc 1 Track 5
    Release date: May 1991
    Deletion date: October 2007
    3CDs Boxed set (at a special price) — Archive Service
   English   Français   Deutsch