Melba Recordings

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A Lotus Blossoming

20/10/2012
The Australian
Graham Strahle
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ACCORDING to Buddhist and Hindu teaching, lotus blossom symbolises purity of mind and body in one's striving for spiritual awakening.

…this is a compelling release that offers an extremely fine performance of a key early work by Zemlinsky, his Clarinet Trio, Op 3, from 1896. The Vienna-born Zemlinsky began as a disciple of Brahms, cultivating in his first works an undisguisedly Brahmsian style under his mentor's active encouragement. These include the Clarinet Trio, which Brahms held in such high regard that he recommended it for publication.

Indeed, so similar is it in style that one might easily mistake it for Brahms, except for a somewhat strange, spectral expression and occasionally strained harmonies that point to Zemlinsky's later direction as a pre-modernist. Ensemble Liaison, comprising pianist Timothy Young, cellist Svetlana Bogosavljevic and clarinettist David Griffiths, plays it with full-blooded expressive weight and conviction.

The players judge perfectly its fluxes of intensity and the way its mood shifts, just like Brahms, from dark introspection to radiance and tenderness. There are few other recordings of this Trio, but still fewer that can match the authority of Ensemble Liaison's playing.

Joined by guest violinist Wilma Smith, the ensemble offers a beautifully wrought, though less intense, performance of Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time. Contemplatively serene, it just falls short in generating enough heat in its terser movements.