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Music by Mozart
and Mendelssohn -
heard by

'... a truly idiomatic performance ...'

Beloved of the Gods - Mozart and Mendelssohn. Dean Emmerson Dean Trio;  Tinalley String Quartet. © 2009 Melba Recordings

While in Vienna (in 1786) Mozart wrote his K498 trio apparently dedicated to pianist Franziska Jacquin (1769-1850), a Mozart student. Mozart and Franziska's father Nikolaus Joseph (flute) with his youngest son, Gottfried Jacquin were close friends. They gave house concerts together and the composer dedicated several works to family members.

His friendship went even further when one year later he wrote two songs: Als Luise ... (K 520) and Das Traumbild ... (K 530); in order that Gottfried might use them under his own name.

The German word Kegelstatt means a bowling alley where skittles are being played, and though Mozart was known to join in the play the trio's title was added by later publishers. Mozart entered this work into his own list of works as 'Ein Terzett für klavier, Clarinet und Viola'.

Listen -- Mozart: Andante (Kegelstatt Trio)
(track 1, 0:02-0:52) © 2009 Melba Recordings

It was first played in the Jacquins' house with Anton Stadler on the clarinet, Mozart the viola and his pupil, Franziska Jacquin, the pianist. In Mozart's time, the clarinet was a relatively new instrument, and the Kegelstatt Trio (together with Mozart's Clarinet Quintet and the Concerto) helped increase the instrument's popularity.

In 1788, two years after its completion, Artaria published the trio in an arrangement advertised as for violin, viola and keyboard; an added note explained that the clarinet could be used as a violin substitute. The original clarinet score was described as 'alternative part': La parte del Violino si può eseguire anche con un Clarinetto. Other scorings are for clarinet-violin-piano trio, a violin-cello-piano trio or a violin-viola-piano trio as in Artaria's original.

This combination of instruments re-emerged in the nineteenth century when Schumann wrote Märchenerzählungen (Op 132) and Bruch his 'Eight pieces for clarinet, viola, and piano' of 1910.

Mozart's work changed hands on a number of occasions, then in 1912 it was donated to the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département de la Musique, Malherbe Collection, Ms 222.

For their recording of K498 the Kegelstatt, Melba Recordings has co-opted The Dean Emmerson Dean Trio, comprising clarinettist Paul Dean, brother, composer/violist Brett Dean, and pianist Senior Lecturer in Music Literature and Cultural Studies, Stephen Emmerson.

Here we have a truly idiomatic performance alive with the fullest measure of Mozartian dynamics. Once or thrice there is a suspicion of over resonance, nonetheless this emerges as a comfortable reading to live with.

Several stellar rivals are readily available but each of them couples K498 with the Clarinet Quintet, K581 (1789). Michel Portal, clarinet, Bruno Pasquier, viola, Jean-Claude Pennetier, piano, Régis Pasquier, violin, Roland Daugareil, violin and Roland Pidoux, cello, are on harmonia mundi HAR 2961118, and Pascal Moragues, clarinet, Vladimir Mendelssohn, viola, Frank Braley, piano and the Prazak Quartet are on Praga PGA 250200SA.

Other labels with the identical programme are Arte Nova, Naïve, Naxos and Ottavo.

Would-be purchasers with the Clarinet Quintet among their current CDs may opt to have this Mozart/Mendelssohn coupling in their collection(s). In addition they'll acquire the Papamina Suite, an arrangement of music from Mozart's The Magic Flute by Stephen Emmerson.

Listen -- Mozart, arranged by Stephen Emmerson: Papamina Suite
(track 4, 14:16-15:27) © 2009 Melba Recordings

It's a skillfully arranged overview of popular highlights (for clarinet trio) from the score of Mozart's incomparable final opera, Die Zauberflöte (1791). A newcomer to this music might be excused for believing the arrangement was by the Austrian genius himself, christened Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart.

Clearly it could not be so for Emmerson uses several tricks of the trade the eighteenth century classical 'master' would have been unfamiliar with. What matters most however is that the Papamina Suite is a thoroughly enjoyable sixteen and a half minute romp played here with irresistible enjoyment.

Finally the Tinalley String Quartet plays Mendelssohn's String Quartet No 2 in A minor, Op 13, Ist es wahr, which won them the Banff International Chamber Music Competition award in 2007.

Since 2003 the Tinalley String Quartet has rapidly achieved recognition for acclaimed performances at home in Australia and throughout both Europe and the USA. Beside their Banff win they took the Grand Prize at the 2005 Australian Chamber Music Competition, now known as the Asia Pacific Music Competition.

Their members are Ayano Ninomiya and Lerida Delbridge, violins, Justin Williams, viola, and Michelle Wood, cello.

The Quartet's 2008/2009 season has included a second tour of the United States and Canada, and numerous recital and festival appearances around Australia.

Mendelssohn wrote six string quartets with opus numbers, and though he was still a youth in 1827 at the time of the second quartet, he'd already completed the first E flat major quartet, Op 12, the string quintet Op 18, the miraculous Octet for strings Op 20, and two piano quartets.

The second quartet came two years after Beethoven published his final quartets and months after his death in Vienna. Indeed the younger composer included many quotes from Beethoven's quartets in Op 13.

As a unifying motif, Mendelssohn included a quote from the song Ist es wahr? ('Is it true?') for baritone and piano which he'd composed a few months earlier. In marked contrast to the inward soul-searching final movement of Beethoven's string quartet Op 135 inscribed Muss es sein? ('Must it be?'), Mendelssohn's work is overtly romantic.

Listen -- Mendelssohn: Presto (Quartet No 2)
(track 8, 0:00-1:08) © 2009 Melba Recordings

The Tinalley Quartet account can hold its head up among the most formidable of recorded rivals. It reveals a fine, judicious blend of Mendelssohn's incomparably crafted hallmark 'romance', and aerie, vernal gaiety.

Again the question remains: is it Mendelssohn alone you seek? If so, there's a glorious DGG boxed set (four discs) with the Emerson Quartet (no relation to Stephen) in all the quartets and the Octet Op 20. And for those after the second quartet in particular, the superb New Zealand String Quartet version is coupled with the fifth quartet, Op 44 No 3 and the Capriccio and Fugue in E minor, Op 81 No 3 on Naxos 8.570002.

Copyright © 11 November 2009 Howard Smith,
Rarotonga, Cook Islands








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