After a number of esoteric recent releases, Melba have veered back towards the mainstream with this one; even so, the works offered here were new to me. Brett Dean is perhaps better known as one of our finest modern composers, yet he played Principal Viola with the mighty Berlin Philharmonic for several years, and teams here with brother Paul Dean (clarinet) and fellow hometowner Stephen Emmerson (piano) to tackle the unusually-scored ‘Kegelstatt’ trio K498. Rumoured to have been written during a game of skittles, it was intended for private performance by Mozart’s inner circle; appropriate, then, that in the hands of these long-term friends, all of the piece’s warmth and charm comes to the fore, where it is captured in Melba’s supremely natural sound (and that from the CD layer of this SACD!). Also offered is an attractive suite of excerpts from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”, arranged by Emmerson in a revival of an 18th Century tradition for recycling operatic arias into chamber music.
The Tinalley Quartet is a fine young Australian ensemble, victorious at the 2007 Banff International Chamber Music competition. They play here Mendelssohn’s Second String Quartet, written when the precociously gifted composer was still in his teens, which helped to secure them that award. This is a romantic, introspective piece of music, with the instrumental fireworks typical of a quartet from this period largely absent; instead, Tinalley tackle it with an impressive maturity and sophistication, allowing the work’s exquisite sonorities to develop in sumptuous, beguiling fashion. The exceptional quality of the disc’s packaging and artwork is true to the Melba tradition. So there we have it –wonderful music, finely played, superbly recorded and lavishly presented – what are you waiting for?!