Beloved of the Gods

Graham Williams
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Not surprisingly, there is no shortage of recommendable recordings of Mozart’s ‘Kegelstatt’ Trio K498, since it is one of his finest chamber works. Mozart wrote this trio, for the unusual combination of clarinet, viola and piano, in 1786 when he was at the height of his powers. It was intended for performance by his friends; the clarinettist Anton Stadler, the pianist Franziska von Jacquin, and Mozart himself playing the viola.

The performers on this SACD are the Dean Emmerson Dean trio, comprising the clarinettist, Paul Dean, the violist Brett Dean who is now becoming better known as a composer, and the pianist Stephen Emmerson. Paul Dean has already impressed with his recordings of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet and Concerto for this label, Sublime Mozart - and is equally impressive here with his fluent well-produced sound and impeccable musicianship. Brett Dean’s rich toned viola playing evinces a strong personality as is to be expected from a musician who played viola for fifteen years in the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, while Stephen Emmeson’s sensitive and agile pianism never unduly dominates the ensemble thus allowing the blending of the sombre colours of the clarinet and viola to be appreciated. The whole performance of this wonderful work is a delight, and one would be hard pressed to identify any finer version from the many CD recordings available.

In between the two main works on the disc we have the Papamina Suite, an arrangement for clarinet, viola and piano by Stephen Emmerson of music from Mozart’s Magic Flute. As its title suggests, the five-movement suite uses, in addition to the opera’s overture, music primarily associated with two of the opera’s main characters, Papageno and Pamina. Arrangements of this type were common in the 18th century and many will be familiar with recordings of Mozart operas arranged for wind band that appear from time to time. Stephen Emmerson’s delightful sequence of four of the most familiar sections of the opera work very well indeed, and all three players of the Dean Emmerson Dean trio give captivating and witty accounts of this music.

For the longest work on this SACD, the four young players of the Tinalley Quartet take the stage and deliver a wonderfully assured and fresh performance of Mendelssohn’s remarkable String Quartet No. 2 in A minor Op.13 ‘Ist es wahr’. I say remarkable because it is hard to believe that a work of such confidence, maturity and fecundity of invention could have been composed when Mendelssohn was just eighteen. The quartet was written in 1827 the year of Beethoven’s death, and the music is permeated with influences from and homage to Beethoven’s Late Quartets. The Tinalley Quartet respond convincingly to the wide emotional spectrum of the work, from the anguished fugue in the first movement to the simple melodic beauty of the ‘Intermezzo’ with its delicate gossamer trio, yet produce unfailingly beautiful tone throughout each of the four movements.

The quality of both Melba’s presentation and 5.1channel recording is superb. The sound stage is very natural and the instrumental positioning clear while there is much ambient information from the surround channels.

This refreshing and original coupling of Mozart and Mendelssohn is highly recommended.

*****5 stars performance/*****5 stars sonics