Faure / JC Bach / Mozart / Britten / Gounod Chamber Music by Inventi Ensemble

On Sunday 6 August, 1933, Benjamin Britten, along with his family and friends, gathered to listen to a broadcast of his Phantasy Quartet for oboe and strings. He was none too impressed, noting in his diary that the string players ‘aren’t really first-class musicians’. Listening to Melbourne’s Inventi Ensemble’s recording of the work, I can’t help but think Britten would be both impressed and moved. Led by oboist Ben Opie, the ensemble gives a vibrant reading of Britten’s deliciously youthful score. And this seems to be the theme for the whole disc: fresh and lively arrangements of well-known works such as Fauré’s Pavane and Gounod’s Ave Maria, alongside the lesser-known pieces such as JC Bach’s Quintet in D Major.

The final movement of the Bach, described in the liner notes as a ‘raucous, fun folk dance’, is a highlight of the album. Here, the cellist wrests with his strings to produce an extremely rustic timbre that would not be out of place in a drinking song. More than that, each musician brings individual finesse to create a finely uniform recording complete with light, shade, and many colours in between.

The Inventi Ensemble describes Mozart’s Flute Quartet in D as a delight, and I would go further to say that it incorporates all that is loved about Mozart’s music: it’s brilliant, full of classical grace, and elegant without being stuffy. Flautist Melissa Doecke is the star here: she plays with a superbly clear tone and excellent intonation. Her agile runs and trills skip effortlessly above the accompanying ensemble  – the members of whom occasionally fumble over their own notes. But that is merely a minor quibble about what is an otherwise enjoyable performance.

I really enjoyed Inventi Ensemble’s debut recording, particularly for its inventive approach to classical music.

Alexandra Mathew is from Readings Carlton.