Brighton Year-Round 2019
The Endsleigh Trio – flautist Katrin Heymann, clarinettist Mike Wilson, and pianist Evelina Ndlovu – create a warm wind-based ensemble with flexible duos as well as the trio line-up. They played works by Ian Clarke, Ernesto Cavallini, Schumann, Fauré and Saint-Saens.
Here’s a breeze after another sweltering few days, and it’s salutary to enter the cool of St Nicholas on the morrow of the hottest bank Holiday Monday ever recorded.
The Endsleigh Trio – flautist Katrin Heymann, clarinettist Mike Wilson, and pianist Evelina Ndlovu – create a warm wind-based ensemble with flexible duos as well as the trio line-up. They played works by Ian Clarke, Ernesto Cavallini, Schumann, Fauré and Saint-Saens. The combo’s French in origin, or at least most music for it has been written in France. Poulenc’s sonorities come to mind too.
Born 1964, Ian Clarke’s the doyen of British flute composers, and his Sunstream for flute and piano is a typically zippy piece with his spiraling harmonics and a fluttering sense of summer as well as sun. Basically tonal with a few nods to modern practice, Clarke’s soundworld is always inviting, upbeat in an often hypnotic and never feelgood manner, and as the title suggests, radiant.
The Milanese clarinettist Cavallini (1807-74) studied under the mellifluous Carulli whose work has featured in several Brighton events recently for guitar. Cavallini wrote mainly clarinet-based compositions and as his 30 Clarinet Caprices suggest he’s known for being the Paganini of the Clarinet. But his two Clarinet Concertos are out on the CPO label, so he’s getting a revival.
The trio here the Reverie Russe is in fact a Grand Duo for three instruments: one of the earliest of its kind, and paved the way for the French making it their own despite the Italians starting the trend with opera composers like Mercadante born 12 years earlier to the day. Both the Italians and French were primarily opera-obsessed, but the French slowly made room for instrumental music throughout the 19th century and it withered in Italy till the 1880s.
This Grand Duo then is one of the sunnier mild romantic forerunners of what would become the province of French music. Melodic, gallant, fast-flowing in its echoes of post-classical music, it’s memorable for its then-new sonorities, and a contrast with the more earnest clarinet compositions by for instance Louis Spohr. The trio here inhabit it like a light-filled home, basked with windows open.
Schumann’s Fantasiestucke Op 73 from around 1844 gets presented in several instrumental versions, though clarinet and piano is one of the most frequent. The full-throated performance Wilson gives it with Ndlovu is rich, potent and emphasizes the more celebratory end of Schumann’s nervy creativity of this period. There’s enough of the dark but the duo don’t dwell on this so much as the expressiveness. Perfect for a centrepiece.
Fauré’s Pavane is known for its flute and piano or indeed orchestral arrangement. Here it’s enriched in a special trio arrangement that adds an expressive cushion and a strongly wind-oriented texture, which amplifies it into a serenade. It hushes the aural steep of this church.
Clarke’s Orange Dawn – despite there being none this morning Heymann added – bring us to the more tonally centred side of Clarke’s expressive range, a more rapt piece with that spiralling-up sense some of Clarke’s works give. It’s a fine coda t the more inward pieces of the recital. Heymann has a fine sense of the way a flute can taper out its expressiveness into stillness, and at the same time revel in the virtuosity Clarke provides: not pyrotechnics here, but satisfying as a workout of the flute’s expressive range.
Because the ending was upbeat. Saint-Saens wrote his Tarantelle Op 6 when he was in short trousers – it’s not often remarked on how he was on of the 10 most precocious composers who ever lived. And at 86 he was writing masterpieces for clarinet, bassoon and oboe. Rossini was duly astonished by this processional piece with a slow tarantella beat with the flute and clarinet piling up variations and decorations expressively on top of the piano’s tread. Not that the piano is let off – there’s virtuosic slides a-plenty here too, and this most thrilling work marches us out into Gallic sunshine.
A deeply satisfying recital.