A wonderful musical celebration

Aldeburgh Festival, Zimmermann and Friends, Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings, June 14

Tuesday’s recital brought toether three great virtuosi, the viola player Tabea Zimmermann, the clarinettist and composer, Jorg Widmann and pianist Kirill Gerstein in an eclectic programme of works for these instruments, both individually and in combination.

Gerstein and Widmann proved a perfectly balanced duo in Berg’s Four Pieces, Op.5 Gerstein’s sensitive playing, also heard later in a performance of Oliver Knussen’s Ophelia’s Last Dance, and Widmann’s range of colour, especially his refined lyrical sound, made these beautifully crafted pieces seem magical. Widmann’s own Fantasie for solo clarinet was an exploration of most things, both technically and stylistically, that the clarinet is capable of. It was breathtakingly virtuosic, as well as great fun.

This year’s Festival in part celebrates the music of Gyorgy Ligeti, who died in 2006, and his sonata for unaccompanied viola was the weightiest of the twentieth century works in this recital. Its six highly contrasted movements make heavy demands on the performer, though what stays in the mind is not so much the technical fireworks, peerlessly performed by Zimmermann, as the writing which explores the rich melancholic sound of the viola, which she exemplifies brilliantly, especially in the first movement, written to be performed throughout on the C string. Framing these instrumental works were two pieces from the viola clarinet and piano repertoire. Schumann’s Marchenerzahlungen, four contrasting miniatures containing one of the composer’s most beautiful slow movements, and possibly the finest work for this combination, Mozart’s Kegelstatt Trio K498, both of which were elegantly performed.

Frank Cliff


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