Sunday, 14 November 2010

Clarion at Glenorchy

Clarion Clarinet Quartet
Richard de la Rue, John Walthew
Barry Parsons and John Welton, bass

Wednesday's lunchtime concert at Glenorchy United Reform Church in Exmouth was very special this week.  Not one but four clarinets playing in perfect harmony.
The 'Clarion Clarinet Quartet' amazed their audience from their very first note.  Mozart's 'Rondo' was lively and exciting throughout, never easing off until the final bass note, played perfectly by new member, bass-clarinetist John Welton.  John then explained somewhat breathlessly that the Rondo was originally scored for twelve instruments and the arrangement they were playing required them to produce the same effect with only four - which they did admirably!  Playing beautiful conterpoint melodies, often in two pairs, in front of the ornate Bevington organ pipes created a wonderful 'baroque feel that we were all enjoying.   (Admittedly, Mozart was a classical composer, not baroque).
After the excitement of Mozart the quartet played us the restful and serene 'Petites Litanies de Jésus', a piano setting of Frédéric Boyer’s poem, composed  by Gabriel Grovlez in the early twentieth century.  The piece had been arranged for clarinet quartet by local composer Jaemus Downing from Tavistock; and Jaemus was in the audience to enjoy the premiere performance and hear the audience's response - which was one of universal approval!
Time pressure meant that we didn’t get to hear Debussy’s ‘Le Petit Negre’, but moved straight on to Quator Opus 4 by Bernhard Crusell from the beginning of the nineteenth century.  This is in three movements but, as is so often the case,  the first movement was so satisfying, with its increasingly rapid staccato playing and leisurely finish, that the audience automatically started applauding before hearing the other two movements.  Needless to say the subsequent two movements were equally satisfying and received their due recognition at the end.
Then came a change to jazz ensemble playing.  Late twentieth century Norwegian composer Trygve Madsen’s ‘Clarinet Marmalade’ was composed specifically for clarinet quartet.  The audience had to be warned that there are sudden and final-sounding stops in the music which are not the end of the piece.  This happened three times and the audience managed to resist the temptation to show their appreciation prematurely.  Even at the end, when the piece seemed to have come to a natural close, there was a pregnant pause before the resounding last two notes.  However, the need to remember not to clap too soon did not detract from the audience’s enjoyment of this gorgeous Jazz composition.
More classical music followed, with Mozart’s Adagio K580a developed from a fragment of composition for clarinet and three bassett horns.  Then romantic, with Dvořák’s Slavonic Dance No 2 from Opus 46, a lovely slow introduction leading into a lively dance theme and gentle finish, all perfectly suited to the combined clarinet sound.
Sadly there was not enough time for Stamitz’ ‘Romance’ from Concerto No 3.  We were to have heard Richard play the mini E flat clarinet.  Instead we had a brief demonstration by Richard ending on its top note – followed by John Welton’s bottom note on the bass clarinet to show the full range of the instruments.
‘Bagatelle’ by band leader Clare Grundman was a complete story in sound beautifully told by the quartet.
Finally (there was not time for ‘Organ Interlude’ unfortunately) we heard the ‘Klezmer Triptych’ of traditional eastern European Jewish dances arranged for clarinet quartet by Mike Curtis.  New boy John Welton struggled with the tricky bass part at the start of the second piece and had to call for a re-start.  This was done very slickly, however, and the audience hardly noticed.  All three pieces were jolly but with that melancholy minor element so characteristic of Jewish dances.  A perfect finish to a thoroughly enjoyable programme.

On Saturday 27th November at 7.30pm, in Lympstone Parish Church,
the Clarion Clarinet Quartet will be joining forces with:

Ruth Avis, flute (as we well know) and piccolo,
Sarah Dean, alto saxophone,
Isabelle Woollcott, ’cello

in ‘The Devon Cantata’ sung by

Jane Anderson-Brown (soprano),
Bob Carter (tenor),
Paul Zaple (baritone)

and ‘Façade’ narrated by

Bob Carter and Mai Targett

This setting of Edith Sitwell’s poetry by her Bloomsbury colleague William Walton is rarely heard in local performances so this is one not to miss.

Tickets £7.50 (box: 01395 263928).

You can find more information about events in Lympstone here.

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