Tonight, we experienced: a most pleasant intimacy and ultimate musical dialogue; whisperingly delicate sounds produced by musicians with the utmost care such that you could hear a pin drop; moments where we held our breath in anticipation for what would be come next; impeccable timing achieved naturally by a spirited partnership in front of our eyes. Our second recital of the season by clarinetist Emma Johnson and pianist Finghin Collins gave us many precious and treasurable moments. Theirs was the perfect recital in the Breinton style – in city concert halls and airy churches, you would never experience the magical performance of music like this that is so alive. This was precisely the reason why we started to organise these recitals at Breinton some ten years ago.
Beethoven’s Variations on the well-known theme from Mozart’s Don Giovanni was a sweet story-telling, immediately breaking the audience / performer boundary. The clarinet’s angelic tones were blended joyfully with the charming and playful piano, which brought a smile to everyone’s face.
Brahms’ F Minor Sonata brought a complete change of the atmosphere. The strength of the duo partnership and the harmonious relationship between the piano and clarinet was fully appreciated here and throughout the closely-knit passages which are typical of Brahms’ Sonatas. The first movement had a dignified and serious mood, whilst the second movement brought such a lyrical and dreamy ease (Emma described it as “biting into a ripe pear”) with the exquisitely beautiful ending.
The second half of the programme was centred on Leonard Bernstein, this year being the centenary of his birth, and included: Dvorak’s Sonatina, which was written during his first stay in America; Three Pieces for solo clarinet by Stravinsky, whom Bernstein so admired; Ravel’s Habanera; and Bernstein’s own Clarinet Sonata. Emma’s versatility on the clarinet shone throughout this half, from the light-hearted Sonatina to Stravinsky’s quirkily rhythmed solo pieces. Her tone changed forms (warm, passionate, bright, edgy, pearly, deep, you name it), delivering the essential messages to the audience. Whatever the style she played and tone she produced, it was projected to suit the acoustics of the room; quite amazing! One could feel pianist Finghin Collins’ outpouring of love for chamber music; he too, adopted his playing in all forms and shapes, from the more serious Brahms to the mysterious and hazy Ravel.
The encore was To a wild Rose by Edward McDowell, a most beautiful and heart-felt ending, and simply priceless.