In 2016 Melbourne’s Tinalley Quartet – Adam Chalabi and Lerida Delbridge on violins, Justin Williams on viola, and then cellist Michelle Wood – played Ravel’s quartet in the first half of a typically adventurous concert with rock singer Lior in the Sydney Opera House’s Utzon Room. In my review I said Tinalley played with passion and commitment, adding: “It was a bit of a bumpy ride, but this was a colourful and full-throated reading.” The colour, passion and earthy quality are still there in their debut album with Decca, released in March this year, but there is plenty of French polish as well. There is also a change of personnel with Patrick Murphy – formerly of the Tankstream Quartet and later the Grainger String Quartet – joining Tinalley on cello at the end of last year.

The superlative quality of the “Decca sound” certainly hasn’t hurt the ensemble’s fresh and characterful articulation, but this was recorded on their home turf at the Melbourne Recital Centre so we can claim this as our own. Chalabi has always impressed with his finely nuanced singing lines and he and Delbridge combine almost telepathically. Williams is a very fine violist, with excellent intonation and always ready to take over the steering wheel when needed.

Murphy is the perfect fit on this double bill of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. Debussy and Ravel are very much the Cav and Pag of the chamber music world, joined at the hip but none the lesser for that – but on the downside it does mean that there is an enormous and very strong field of recordings in which this disc is competing.

It’s hard to find a weakness in either performance, however.
If anything the Ravel is the stronger – Tinalley really captures the poetry as well as all those shimmering colours and textures. If you were only to have one recording of these two lovely works you couldn’t go wrong with this charmer from a top-notch Australian ensemble.

Composer: Ravel, Debussy
Composition: String Quartets
Performer: Tinalley String Quartet
Catalogue Number: Decca 4816906

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