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Young clarinettist makes a confident solo debut

Harriet Allen (clarinet), Anthony Smith (piano) and Pippa Newman (viola). Photo: Peter Hislop.

Music / “Clarinet Delights”, Harriet Allen, Anthony Smith and Pippa Newman. At Wesley Music Centre, December 8. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.

FEATURING the works of Mozart, Schumann, and Finzi, this concert celebrated the beauty and versatility of the clarinet.

Making her debut solo performance, clarinettist Harriet Allen, along with pianist Anthony Smith and violist Pippa Newman, performed a selection of works, concluding with Mozart’s “Kegelstatt” Trio.

In just year 11, Allen has the ability and self-assurance of someone far in advance of her years. She interacted clearly and confidently with the audience in a relaxed and open manner.

Beginning with “The Victorian Kitchen Garden Suite”, by Paul Reade, it was written for a 13-part British television series produced in 1987. This mellow music with a strong country feel wafted and walked smoothly between Allen on clarinet and Smith on piano.

In several parts, it got playful and created a genuine feel for a garden atmosphere. Showing few nerves, Allen, in her solo debut, portrayed empathy for this eclectic and catchy music. Her stage presence projected strength as she spoke about the compositions.

Then, “Adagio for Clarinet and Piano”, by Heinrich Baermann (1784-1847). Once mistakenly attributed to Richard Wagner, this melancholy piece had several long notes for clarinet, which Allen held nicely. Despite occasional struggles with good intonation, these were minor issues that did not disrupt the flow of the work.

“Five Bagatelle for Clarinet and Piano”, by Gerald Finzi, followed. Crossing a variety of styles and capturing many moods, the music sounded fresh, though written in 1945. Each piece showed a unique style. While not idiosyncratic, they were individual enough to stand on their own. It was refreshing to hear Allen tackle such a dynamic group of Bagatelles.

After the interval, Robert Schumann’s “Fantasiestücke”, in three short movements, is a complex work. It covers a lot of musical territory. Going from dark to bright and back again, it could be said that this piece mirrored his turbulent life.

Filled with flowing romantic beauty, both the music and the performance reflected this highly nuanced composition. It spoke of a leading artisan of sound. The final fiery movement ascended to a triumphant and bright finale.

The concert finished with the “Trio in E flat Major”, K.498 for clarinet, viola and piano, by Mozart. Allen and Smith were joined by Pippa Newman on viola.

Perhaps composed during a game of Skittles in 1786, combining three voices, the blend of tonal qualities spoke as loud as the quality of the composition. The trio produced an even and clear performance that ended a fine concert.

Allen seems like a go-getter. Her enterprising nature and determination will help propel her through her career. Her stage presence, ability and knowing how to suitably cast her sound in a space, these skills will improve, but for this, her first solo concert, it was a convincing performance.




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Helen Musa

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