Review: The King’s School Ely Concert Society’s event in the Hayward Theatre on Friday 7th May 2010: ‘Clarinet and Piano’

It isn’t until you hear an instrument played by a professional that you realize just how magnificent it can be. I have always liked the sound of the clarinet, took it up and was surprised how challenging it was to play. Pushing your bottom lip against a single reed and clamping your fingers on the keys to try to get over ‘the break’ were just two of the many difficulties. The sounds I made were nowhere near as pure and potent as those I heard in ‘Clarinet and Piano’.

 David Campbell, Jocelyn Howell and José Requéna were undoubtedly some of the finest clarinettists in the area. Accompanied by the highly skilful pianist, John Flinders, this amazing group mesmerized the audience with a thoroughly enjoyable programme of delightful pieces.

The evening opened with a work by the nephew of the Burgmüller we know and love for his piano studies. This work, ‘Duo for Clarinet and Piano Op. 15’, played by David and John, brought home immediately just how beautiful, powerful and agile the clarinet can be.

Jocelyn and John’s ‘premiere Rhapsodie’ by Debussy explored a variety of exotic colours, adapting quickly from amazingly long, pure tones to Debussy’s cheeky lively and detached episodes.  John’s liquid chords on the piano were adorable.   

Definitely one of the highlights of the evening, Mozart’s ‘Divertimento No. 1’, filled the hall with the delicious sound of three unaccompanied clarinets playing as one, reminding us of the grace, charm and joy of Mozart at his best.

In complete contrast, three pieces in a more popular vein led us to the interval. These were ‘Habanera from ‘Aires Tropicales’ by Paquito D’Rivera, and ‘You made me Love You’ by Jimmy Monaco. The ‘Habanera’ was particularly atmospheric. David demonstrated the special high tonal agility of an E flat clarinet while José anchored with the splendid bass tones of the large bass clarinet on its own little wheel that balanced it on the floor.

Another highlight of the evening was ‘Sonatina’ by Malcolm Arnold. From the opening energetic attack, it was clear that this piece showed all the virtuosic variety that the clarinet and accompanying piano can muster and David and John were the ideal people to demonstrate this. John’s piano playing reflected the wonderful antics of the clarinet exactly. These were amazing performers.

Nostalgia and a contemplative lament featured in ‘Ballad in Memory of Shirley Horn’ (a jazz singer) by Richard Rodney Bennett. Jocelyn and John and their sensitivity and control made this a real cry from the heart.

The personalities of these fine performers were revealed as they let their hair down in the final group of very well known pieces. José, the serious and competent classical performer of earlier in the evening, transformed into a alluring mover as he wowed the audience with his inherent Latin rhythmic and tonal magnetism of ‘La Cumparsita’ by Rodriquez, ‘Tico Tico’ by Zequinha Abreu and ‘Girl from Ipanema’ by Carlos Jobin.

This magnificent quartet demonstrated they were every bit as flamboyant as the violinists Kreisler originally scored for in ‘Liebesfreud’ and ‘Schön Rosmarin’. ‘The Entertainer’ by Scott Joplin ended the concert admirably for we were indeed, very highly entertained.



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