A CD titled Apotheosis vol. 2 has just arrived. It features the Alexander String Quartet and pianist Joyce Yang playing two of Mozart’s piano quartets: K. 478 and K. 493. Ostensibly mature works from the composer’s Vienna years both these works are considered two of Mozart’s greatest works for the string quartet and piano combination.

Prior to the K. 478in G minor and the K.493, in E flat major Mozart had written six piano quintets which he dedicated to Haydn. During that time Mozart was happily writing in a traditional style closer in spirit to that of his older friend, still authentically his but adhering to the do’s and don’ts of Classical composition.

But then times changed. The Austrians were busy building up their army and keeping an eye on the Ottomans. No longer able to make a living exclusively from concertizing, Mozart the virtuoso keyboard artist and in-demand composer became Mozart the entrepreneur. He organized concerts here and there throughout Vienna. He wrote feverishly, convinced that amateurs would snap up his compositions no sooner they were published.

Not easy, but difficult to augment one’s earnings peddling off compositions way beyond the capabilities of the average Austrian hausfrau with musical inclinations. Mozart became more defiantly sui generis than ever before. In the G minor quintet he springs one surprise after another, creating a musical landscape filled with unpredictable twists and turns, requiring professionals with a cool mind and a warm heart.  The Eb K.493 is a  dauntingly complex business that can reduce technically unfit players to tears.

The Alexander String Quartet and the superlative Joyce Yang, are five musicians who can play this music with an even mix of gravitas and flair, elegance and abandon. That occurs every minute of the total running time of roughly one hour in this CD 2018 from Foghorn Classics (Foghorn just released this year, impeccably annotated by Paul Yarborough and superbly engineered by Robert Shumaker and David Frazier.

Let us salute the four members of the Alexander String Quartet: Zakarias Grafilo, first violin; Frederik Lifsitz, second violin; Paul Yarborough, viola; Sandy Wilson, cello, and hope that they and Ms. Yang will return soon with more treasures.

Rafael de Acha