Beloved of the Gods

Steven Ritter
Fanfare (US)

I love young chamber musicians who are talented and in possession of a lot of sagacity—they can so easily put to rest any number of older and more revered recordings simply by the degree of enthusiasm that they bring to the music, still fresh and endowed with a sense of discovery and excitement. Particularly in Mendelssohn is this degree of commitment and sensation so effortlessly perceived. His string quartets are hardly lacking in recordings, though I’ll wager that truly great ones are in short supply, and this one’s certainly that. Though I have no indication in front of me that any of the others will be forthcoming, if the Tinalley Quartet is managed properly, it could conjure up a complete series that would be one for the ages ... if you want to hear a truly dizzying account of Mendelssohn’s “Ist es wahr?” (Is it true) Quartet—so called as it was created the year of Beethoven’s death and opens with a quotation from a song by Mendelssohn by the same name, an obvious allusion to Beethoven’s op. 135 quartet—his last—with the inscription “Muss es sein?” (Must it be?)—you have it here. Mendelssohn also uses thematic references across movements, another tribute to the Bonn native, and the Tinalleys provide all of the stormy passion you could ask for.

Mozart’s “Kegelstatt” Trio, so nicknamed as Mozart is said to have composed it while playing a game of skittles ... is unusual in its scoring—clarinet, viola, and piano—and was written during high times indeed, the year 1786 that also saw the gestation of Figaro and the “Prague” Symphony. This is one of the works intended for private use, and Mozart’s friend Anton Stadler provided the inspiration for the clarinet part, Mozart himself taking the viola for the first performances. The work is a study in lyricism, and the masterly way he manages the competing registers between the viola and clarinet is an object lesson in chamber-music scoring.

The little bonus here is the Papamina Suite, created from the themes of the Magic Flute and using the same scoring as the Trio. It is based on the Overture and arias for Pamina and Papagano, and is written with some style and flair by pianist Stephen Emmerson. I like music from this opera in any form, and found this a nice respite before the powerful Mendelssohn popped up.

I can’t say that the Mozart Trio tops any of the three listed, but the clarinet work is certainly up to snuff, and the sound is fantastic, nicely balanced Super Audio that resonates equally well on headphones. Melba’s production values are splendid as usual—some of the best in the business. The album is titled Beloved of the Gods—Mozart and Mendelssohn and these two works certainly make a point in espousing the theory of the angelic nature of this music. When you add to it the angelic playing of these performers, you have an hour in heaven for sure.