Young musician winner captures audience

Endless Melody, Nicholas Daniel, Aldeburgh Church, June 27It is several years since Nicholas Daniel won the BBC Young Musician Competition but he retains his youthful charm and ability to capture, indeed captivate an audience.

Endless Melody, Nicholas Daniel, Aldeburgh Church, June 27

It is several years since Nicholas Daniel won the BBC Young Musician Competition but he retains his youthful charm and ability to capture, indeed captivate an audience. Alongside the excellent Charles Owen on piano he gave a superb recital ranging from Bach to the centenarian Elliott Carter and including a concentration camp death.

The recital began and concluded with a Bach Sonata (originally for flute and harpsichord), in A and E flat respectively, the first notable for crisp piano playing throughout, particularly the ornamentations in the finale and a rich oboe tone in the slow movement. The concluding work was more enjoyable and engaging and Daniel's accuracy and �lan in the finale after nearly ninety minutes of solid playing was astonishing.

Three Romances might suggest pieces of small consequence but not so for Schumann's opus 94. Written for clarinet or violin as well as piano they seemed particularly attuned to the reflective capabilities of the oboe.

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The first had echoes of the symphonies and piano concerto with a touch of magic in the equivocal ending. The second begins with a more conventional melody but a stormy middle section markedly increases the tension and this carried over into the brooding finale with composer and performers mining rich seams. This was something special.

Elliott Carter's Inner Song for solo oboe seemed to place more physical strain on Daniel but he produced some arresting sounds throughout and to finish.

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An already satisfying first half was completed by the Suite for Piano and Oboe by Pavel Hass, a Czech who died in Auschwitz in 1944. Daniel eloquently summarised both composer and composition before embarking on a performance of high intensity and commitment.

Pavel's love and loyalty to his country and family shone through as did his anger and bitterness at the events that destroyed him and so many others and both performers completely identified with this remarkable work.

'Follow that' was the immediate thought as one emerged in to the sea air and Carter and Harrison Birtwistle satisfyingly obliged. Carter's birthday gift for the celebrated oboist Heinz Holliger was both extrovert and amusing while Birtwistle's An Interrupted Endless Melody proved absorbing after some explanation.

Written for Daniel it consists of a single oboe line with three different piano accompaniments, not coordinated with the oboe. Actually, it turned out easier (and better) than that might suggest. The symmetry of the programme - surely not a coincidence and a highly satisfying aspect of it - gave us more Schumann, this time arrangements by Howard Ferguson of pieces written for the pedal piano, a largely forgotten instrument today but which certainly aroused Schumann's enthusiasm.

Ferguson demonstrated his widely appreciated skills in these attractive pieces and the second Bach sonata concluded this outstanding concert. Charles Owen deserves high praise for his incisive, intelligent playing, not just an accompanist but a full artistic partner.

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