Mood, colour and atmosphere
Anyone coming to classical music for the first time can have certain needs – they might prefer tuneful music or something not too romantic or something that is big and loud or has a more intimate feel to it. Those who like lots of mood, colour and atmosphere on their wish list would find no better choice than in French music, especially that of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This programme of music by Saint-Saens, Poulenc and Milhaud had lots of these qualities.
The programme started off very quietly with a highly evocative piece by Saint-Saens – one of his Bagatelles. The word ‘bagatelle’ can be translated as a trinket or trifle, but this was neither of these. It was quite a serious piece and very atmospheric starting very quietly and played with great sensitivity by Chris Cartner. It was a nice hors d’oeuvre before Saint-Saens Sonata for Clarinet and Piano played by Ian Skyes. It starts and ends with the same lilting melody and spans five movements. It’s quite a straightforward in its conception, and no less effective for that, and a far cry from the composer’s most well know piece, The Carnival of the Animals.
‘Meloncoly’, Playfulness and Jazz
After the interval we heard ‘Melancolie’ by Francois Poulenc. This is a short, but very atmospheric piece with a haunting subtle melody that any pianist would love playing as you can put into it whatever you want in terms of mood and colour. Anyone wanting an example of a classic piece of French piano music should listen to this. It’s not too melancholic… it’s actually more magical than the former.
Next came a completely different piece by Poulenc, his Sonata for Clarinet and Piano. This is a very playful piece – if you like your music with lots of twist and turns. Indeed I am sure the first movement has echoes of a very famous Mozart aria, ‘Non piu andrai’ from The Marriage of Figaro. The Romanza is hauntingly beautiful and rich in its communication – almost pleading and yearning. The ‘Allegro con fuco’ is just that – lots of fire. The Sonata was superbly played by Ian Sykes with just the right amount of shading as well as expertly delivered helter-skelter ‘runs’ for which the clarinet is famous.
The concert ended with Milhaud’s ‘Duo Concertante’ for clarinet and piano. Perhaps a piece that aptly summed up what this lovely Spring evening was about – mood, colour and bags of atmosphere.