Mozart: Piano Quartets
Petite Symphonie, La; Isoir, Daniel
La Petite Symphonie was formed ten years ago out of a desire to combine the performance techniques of symphonic music with the intimate atmosphere of chamber music. Following the group’s first album, Daniel Isoir and his ensemble now offer their interpretation of works that have often been featured in their concert programmes: the two piano quartets. A fusion of the concerto and the quartet, these works are rarely performed and there are surprisingly few recordings available of them, particularly on period instruments. Concerto-like in form and built on a dialogue between the piano and the string trio, they unfold in the more private, secluded and intimate atmosphere of chamber music, whilst retaining the extrovert brilliance of the concerto. The quartet for piano, violin, viola and cello was a completely new ensemble at the end of the 18th century and in fact was invented by Mozart himself. Dating from 1785 and 1786, and therefore contemporary with The Marriage of Figaro, these two piano quartets formed part of a series of three commissioned by the publisher Franz Anton Hoffmeister. However, Hoffmeister’s difficulty in ‘selling’ the first quartet, which was judged to be technically too demanding for amateur musicians, led him to abandon the project, although he agreed to let the composer keep the advance on his fee. In these two quartets Mozart achieves a perfect balance between the piano and the strings, the instruments now combining, now alternating throughout the score. At times, the fortepiano plays alone, albeit fleetingly. The first quartet is more tragic than the second, while the latter has greater luminosity and warmth. This permanent conversation with the strings is undoubtedly enriched by the roundness of tone of Daniel Isoir’s fortepiano. But the pleasure in listening to these two masterpieces of chamber music also stems from the perfect balance and melodious dialogue between the four exceptional musicians who make up La Petite Symphonie.