This beloved pianist - possibly the most recorded pianist of the last century - is known for his nearly "non-virtuosic" style, where he plays in a lyric manner, emphasizing the composer over technique.


He also led the acceptance of the performance of J.S. Bach on the piano - once a controversial artistic statement. 


This collection features over 4 hours of glorious solo Bach, played with the touch of one of the great lyric pianists who ever recorded.




Mozart: His Greatest String Quartets - The American String Quartet

Mozart: His Greatest String Quartets - The American String Quartet

Cello – David Geber
Viola – Daniel Avshalomov
Violin – Laurie Carney, Peter Winograd

From the liner notes by the violist from the American String Quartet: 

“How does it feel to perform Mozart? we are sometimes asked. Our sensations include awe, but vary with the works. Even the awe is a bit checkered: Mozart is great, all Mozart’s quartets are Mozart, but not all Mozart's quartets are great.” 


by David White

The notes to this large collection state the case succinctly – to paraphrase the notes: Mozart is great, all Mozart’s quartets are by Mozart, so therefore…are all Mozart’s quartets great?


No. It’s not that difficult an answer, really. Mozart and Bach are about the only composers who live in the rarified air that they did even the simple things with a degree of genius that puts all the others to shame. My musical education went as far as taking enough musical theory and music appreciation classes to know that Mozart and Bach set the standards of where simple jobs are done with a simplicity that only a fully secure person would allow. It’s been written mostly about Mozart that his works often express ideas so simple that almost no one would dare to put their name on, but Mozart can follow through because he takes the simplicity and builds a Mona Lisa around it.


The string quartets are an “in-between” form for Mozart. His friend and teacher Haydn had such facility that you could imagine Joseph tossing a few off after lunch, in time to debut it that evening. And Haydn’s quartets are like sturdy machines. If they were clocks they would never lose time, and if they were buildings they would age but never look old or outdated, such is their timeless construction.


But Mozart’s touch never seemed to come easily, particularly when you take a long view, as if considering an entire body of work. In the realm of concerti, particularly for the piano, Mozart brushes off all competitors – with such grace and genius, it’s the seeming equivalent of dashing up Mount Everest in a day, on a few protein shakes and no oxygen. What’s the big fuss, you’d expect him to say, as the others huff and puff and write 90 minute concerti to say what Mozart accomplished in 17.


Again, in the area of string quartets we have to give the prize to Haydn, for the depth of his work, his development of the art form and his overall accomplishments. But what of Mozart – again, his string quartets fall well below his artistic achievements in opera, or for the piano and orchestra. They even seem to show a bit of struggle. Heresy possibly, but his quartets actually give off a hint of Schubert at times – stuffed with quality ideas, but uncertainty at times, with creativity a means without an end. Which is another way of saying…many of these quartets are too long!


Perhaps you can make too fine a point – if Mozart ONLY left string quartets as his entire artistic output, this entire writing would be silly and wrong. Mozart’s string quartets do pale in comparison to his piano concerti and his operas…but if it were a house, it would be like comparing homes in Paris, London, Rome, or New York. And Haydn – I kept this for the end – couldn’t hold a candle to Mozart’s imagination. As an architect, Haydn was beyond compare. He molded the string quartet into a means of personal expression on par with Bach’s cantatas. But Mozart flooded the page with brilliance, and you can’t help but let it wash over you as you listen to these quartets. Is Mozart great? Yes. Is ALL Mozart great? No…but is great Mozart better than great…YES.


String Quartet No. 14 in G Major, K. 387 "Spring"
5 I. Allegro vivace assai 07:48
6 II. Menuetto. Allegro 08:24
7 III. Andante cantabile 07:38
8 IV. Molto allegro 05:40


String Quartet No. 15 in D Minor, K. 421 /417B
1 I. Allegro Moderato 07:36
2 II. Andante 06:35
3 III. Minuet and Trio. Allegretto 03:47
4 IV. Allegretto ma non troppo 09:17


String Quartet No. 16 in E-Flat Major, K. 428

1 I. Allegro non Troppo 07:01
2 II. Andante molto 06:12
3 III. Menuetto - Allegro 05:48
4 IV. Allegro vivace 05:16


String Quartet No. 17 in B-Flat Major, K. 458 "Hunt"
9 I. Allegro vivace assai 06:32
10 II. Menuetto. Moderato 04:08
11 III. Adagio 07:10
12 IV. Allegro assai 04:48


String Quartet No. 18 in A Major, K. 464
1 I. Allegro 07:15
2 II. Menuetto 06:08
3 III. Andante 13:16
4 IV. Allegro non troppo 05:14

String Quartet No. 19 in C Major, K. 465 "Dissonant"
1 I. Adagio. Allegro 08:33
2 II. Andante cantabile 07:28
3 III. Menuetto. Allegro 05:02
4 IV. Allegro molto 05:56


String Quartet No. 20 in D Major, K. 499 "Hoffmeister"
13 I. Allegretto 07:05
14 II. Menuetto. Allegretto 03:09
3 III. Adagio 08:44
4 IV. Molto allegro 04:52

String Quartet No. 21 in D Major, K. 575 "Prussian Quartet No. 1"
8 I. Allegretto 07:43
9 II. Andante 04:32
10 III. Menuetto. Allegro 05:40
11 IV. Allegretto 06:02


String Quartet No. 22 in B-Flat Major, K. 589 "Prussian Quartet No. 2"
5 I. Allegro 06:12
6 II. Larghetto 06:22
7 III. Menuetto - Moderato 06:18
8 IV. Allegro assai 03:47


String Quartet No. 23 in F Major, K. 590 "Prussian Quartet No. 3"
13 I. Allegro moderato 08:47
14 II. Andante 05:59
15 III. Menuetto. Allegretto 03:53
16 IV. Allegro 04:54









You have to approach a complete cycle differently, I think. When a group sits down specifically to record an entire set of compositions, you have to give them credit for stamina and the devotion to the works. It took 3 sessions over 3 years to complete this set, but you still have to sit and discuss the "less than 200" K listings before you perform them, and while the group admits these works are hardly great utterances, they do point out that it takes some effort. And yet, when you focus on the last 13 quartets, as this set does, you get a remarkable uniformity of approach, a team like concept of Mozart and his string quartets. Lovely music - which is a given, but also some superb devotion to craft from the American String Quartet. -- David White