Hyperion Records

Piano Trio in C major, K548
composer
Summer 1788

Recordings
'Mozart: Piano Trios K254 & 548' (CDA66093)
Mozart: Piano Trios K254 & 548
MP3 £5.99FLAC £5.99ALAC £5.99Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66093  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
Details
Movement 1: Allegro
Track 7 on CDA67609 [7'07]
Track 4 on CDA66093 [11'24] Archive Service; also available on CDS44021/3
Track 1 on CDS44021/3 CD3 [11'24] 3CDs Boxed set (at a special price) — Archive Service
Movement 2: Andante cantabile
Track 8 on CDA67609 [6'57]
Track 5 on CDA66093 [12'44] Archive Service; also available on CDS44021/3
Track 2 on CDS44021/3 CD3 [12'44] 3CDs Boxed set (at a special price) — Archive Service
Movement 3: Allegro
Track 9 on CDA67609 [4'38]
Track 6 on CDA66093 [4'28] Archive Service; also available on CDS44021/3
Track 3 on CDS44021/3 CD3 [4'28] 3CDs Boxed set (at a special price) — Archive Service

Piano Trio in C major, K548
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In the summer of 1788 Mozart wrote a pair of piano trios: the trio in E major K542 (recorded on Hyperion CDA67556), and the Piano Trio in C major K548. This was around the time of the symphonies in E flat (No 39) and G minor (No 40), and Mozart may have written this trio to play at one of the concerts planned for his new orchestral works. But although this was a period of extraordinary productivity, it brought Mozart little financial reward. Austria was at war with the Ottoman Empire, aristocratic support for the arts had dwindled, and Mozart’s wife Constanze was ill and required expensive treatment at a spa. In April Mozart had advertised for subscriptions to a manuscript edition of three string quintets. But there were so few subscribers that he was forced to postpone the publication until the following year. He was running up substantial debts, and the family moved from their apartment in the centre of the city out into a suburb. Shortly before this trio was written, Mozart’s fourth child died. But there seems no clear link between the events of Mozart’s life and the mood of his music. Works that are urgent and tragic in tone alternate freely with others that are cheerful and relaxed, and theories about manic-depressive tendencies do little to explain the pattern.

The first movement of the trio opens confidently, with assertive octaves played by all three instruments, answered delicately and questioningly by the piano. Soon there are flamboyant runs in both piano and violin suggesting that, despite the opening exchange, this trio is going to be uncomplicated in tone. The central development draws out rather a different story. The contrasts of the opening return, the assertive octaves are now in minor keys and alternate with sighing phrases and chromatic shifts. The piano attempts to introduce more flamboyant arpeggios, but the sighing phrases persist, and when the assertive opening theme returns, one is left with the feeling that there is an element of bravura in the confidence. This sense is reinforced by the occasional hesitant touch of minor keys during the reprise and the return of the sighing phrases as the overtly cheerful movement works towards its conclusion.

Similar dark hints also colour the slow movement. The calm of the opening theme is disturbed by sudden accents. A second, more expansive theme, is taken up yearningly by the cello, and a delicate third theme is coloured by dark chromatic touches in its harmonies. It is the middle of the movement that takes us furthest away from the calm decorations of the opening melody. The three instruments combine in octaves once more, but now fiercely. Florid runs from the beginning of the movement are answered by snatches of the expansive second theme, but now combined with shifts of harmony that create a more searching and unsettled impression.

The third movement has the innocent charm of several of Mozart’s piano concerto finales. There are more little chromatic touches in the principal theme, but by now they are playful rather than serious. There is a central episode in C minor, in which variants of the opening figure call to each other from instrument to instrument, and the movement begins to take on a suggestion of Beethoven-like urgency. But this is short lived, and Mozart works back to C major, side-stepping the first theme to plunge straight into the middle of the opening material. When he does eventually return to the first theme, it has acquired witty little decorations, which take on a mock-clumsy air when imitated by the violin. And at the end of the movement, one of the hesitant chromatic moments from the early part of the movement is reiterated, delaying the music in its tracks. But the emphatic conclusion, with the three instruments combining cheerfully in octaves for the last time, makes it clear that any dark elements have by now been thoroughly vanquished.

from notes by Robert Philip © 2007

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