Review / Juilliard duo turns on the talent

Music / Clarinettist Eloise Fisher and pianist Teddy Neeman. At Wesley Music Centre, Saturday 22 July. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.

Clarinettist Eloise Fisher.

CONTRASTS, inventiveness and music sublimely played were the order for this concert by the only two Australians to graduate with doctorates from the Juilliard School in the last 10 years, and they both came from Canberra.

The “Sonata for Clarinet and Piano”, by Russian composer Julian Krein (1913-1996) opened the recital. The introspective start blossomed into a vibrant and passionate piece. It soon went back to its opening style while crossing jazz and contemporary boundaries, but always staying tonal.

It was evident from the opening that these two Julliard School graduates play their music with finesse and a high assurance. They closely follow the notes on the page; they are not over animated and create a professional balance with an excellent harmony of sound, which perfectly fitted the quirky united ending in the first work.

Clarinettist Eloise Fisher spoke about the next piece, which was “Sonata for Clarinet and Piano” by Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919-1996), a Soviet composer of Polish-Jewish origin. Fisher said she found this music in her school’s library and she chose it because it had never been borrowed.

Opening on the clarinet, solo, for several bars before the piano came in with a march-like tune, it was immediately mirrored on the clarinet. It quickly bounced into a lively, upbeat show tune style with a highly animated authority. This was a work full of lightness and darkness, in almost every few bars.

Pianist Edward neeman.

The sombre start to the third movement on piano told us of dark times – and this composer had lived through many – he fled  the Nazi invasion of Poland when he was 20; his family was murdered in the Holocaust; in 1948 his father-in-law was assassinated on Stalin’s orders and in 1953 he was arrested but helped to freedom from the Soviet regime by Shostakovich.

Australian composer Arthur Benjamin’s (1893-1960) “Le Tombeau de Ravel”, literally translated means The Tomb of Ravel, wasn’t a work that moves the soul, but it didn’t hurt it either. It ranged across a variety of styles, mainly dance, and mostly on the lighter side. This work showed just how well these performers play in unison, especially in some of the perfectly timed runs.

American pianist and composer Bretton Brown (born 1986) wrote his work titled “What Ensor Saw” for Fisher and Neeman. This contemporary piece, inspired by several artworks of Belgian artist James Ensor, mimicked some of the insects in his art and gave us a musical interpretation of a painting of a cabbage. This world premiere showed a lot of inventiveness and had the players performing some unusual techniques on their instruments.

Paul Schoenfeld’s (born 1947) “Sonata for Klezmer Clarinet and Piano”, as Edward Neeman told us, has intentional wrong notes and is meant to sound like it was played by people who had more passion than skill. This was something of a task for two such fine musicians, but they gave it a shot.

Sounding more like a jam session than a composed piece, it left a great impression of musical creativity and it blew up a storm in this exceptional recital.

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