Viola's chance to shine

Clarinet, viola and piano, Aldeburgh Festival, Blythburgh Church, June 22Piano and clarinet certainly get their share of the limelight; the viola rather less so.

Clarinet, viola and piano, Aldeburgh Festival, Blythburgh Church, June 22

Piano and clarinet certainly get their share of the limelight; the viola rather less so. It was, therefore, a particular pleasure to hear some of the fine music written for it and especially in the hands of such an outstanding performer as Tabea Zimmerman. The concert began with Schumann's Fantasiestucke for clarinet and piano with Martin Frost and Pierre-Laurent Aimard as soloists. Frost produced a lovely flow in the first piece and incisive scherzando runs in the second.

The same composer's Marchenbilder were given superbly poised and persuasive performances. From the first bars Zimmerman's authoritative style and tone suited Schumann's weighty thoughts to perfection. The strong double stops of the second movement looked forward to the Hungarian Dances of Brahms, real excitement was generated in the running figures of the third movement, while nobility returned in the final piece. The first half ended with all three performers in Gyorgy Kurtag's concentrated, epigrammatic Hommage a R. Sch (Schumann). The performance compelled admiration even if not full comprehension in its three minute hearing.

More serious and extended demands were made by the next work, Marco Stroppa's Hommage a Gy. K (Kurtag, of course) for clarinet, bass clarinet, viola and piano. It is not easy to summarise a work which is as much a visual as aural experience. However, Johannes Zurl drew some astonishing sounds from the bass clarinet and it was only in the final part of a fairly long work did some of the movements and rearrangements seem to teeter on the brink of gimmickry.


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Finally, to Schumann again and his Marchenerzahlungen for clarinet, viola and piano. The pieces themselves seemed to lack the intensity of the other works heard but I would have happily listened to these performers for another hour, whatever they played.

Gareth Jones

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