This unusual combination of clarinet, violin, cello and piano boasts an orchestral palette of tone colours and an extraordinary dynamic range. The players all well seasoned and in this performance they drew us into their sound-worlds with an assured confidence.
A brilliant recital of some challenging and infrequently performed music.
The programme opened with Hindemith’s ‘Clarinet Quartet Op. 30’, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Paul Hindemith’s death. The work is fantastical and explores very unusual harmonies and colours. Clarinettist Jean Johnson’s playing is stylish and bold, and captivated the audience with her pure tone and gleaming legato. Perfect-sighted pianist Edward Cohen abandoned his hefty piano scores in favour of an iPad, two pages squeezed into a tiny blur of notes on the screen. His playing was sensitive and clear, and allowed the other three plenty of room to shine.
The more intimate atmosphere of Hans Gál’s ‘Serenade op. 93’ was a wonderfully charming contrast to the magnitude of the quartet. An Austrian composer, Gál later emigrated to Britain and finally settled in Edinburgh, where he taught at the university, making this work perfectly apt for a Fringe debut. The lighter texture of the work, with equal parts for all three, showed Christian Elliott to be a very fine cellist indeed. His tone is luxuriously warm, and his intonation is so secure and precise that it verges on the scientific.
Khachaturian’s ‘Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano’ was the final piece to be presented. Thoroughly virtuosic, with influences of central Asian folk music, this, his only piece of chamber music was a rare delight. The exotic atmosphere was fantastical, and thoroughly escapist for this listener. Cohen’s playing was particularly flashy, and his exuberant gestures a joy to watch.
Although the variation in instrumentation added interest to this already exciting combination, the programme would perhaps have been more satisfying if more use was made of the full ensemble. It was nonetheless a brilliant recital of some challenging and infrequently performed music.