..And yet another followed with a mesmerising performance of Nielsen’s pluralistic Clarinet Concerto, a comprehensive character study, in which the SCO’s astounding principal clarinettist, Maximiliano Martin, marshalled and unleashed all of his technical and expressive wizardry on the volatile masterpiece in what must have been one of the performances of his life.
…and the performance of Nielsen’s Clarinet Concerto that followed had the spark of a full-on debate. The soloist was SCO principal Clarinete Maximiliano Martin, clearly enjoying being centre-stage. His opening gambit was fresh and questioning; his cadenzas had the urgency of someone gripping your arm to emphasise a point. Nielsen wrote the piece for a close friend and Martin clinched the fond informality of the portraiture.
The Orchestra’s principal clarinettist Maximiliano Martín gave a mesmerising account of this difficult and turbulent work. The orchestration was a strange mix of strings, two bassoons, two horns and a really important snare drum adding urgency and anger to this battle of the keys between E and F majors. This concerto is continuous piece of music yet Martín seemed completely at ease with both the lyrical moments and the more agitated when notes sometimes poured out so fast he seemed almost blown across the stage like a man fighting a gale as he took irregular steps to and fro.
Swensen brought a mix of sensitive playing to the Adagio sections and a bright sharp focus to the agitated passages, ratcheted up by the insistent tattoos from the snare drum. Martín really impressed with his performance, and amazed with whisper-quiet playing. His short unaccompanied encore Go to Sleep my Little Child by Teobaldo Power was so beautiful the entire audience seemed to hold its breath until the last soft notes died away.
Seen and Hear International
It was a nice piece of programming to go straight from this into Nielsen’s Clarinet Concerto, which was a declared influence on McLeod, and the two works are fairly similarly structured: one movement with many sections and huge swings of mood between them. It was a credit to Joseph Swensen that he held the whole thing together so convincingly, making the concerto sound like a coherent whole rather than a sequence of episodes. As he often does, SCO principal clarinettist Maximiliano Martín took the solo part and managed a genuinely amazing range of tones and moods, never less than virtuosic in his style and technique. He conjured up a beautifully mellow tone for the opening, switching without breaking a sweat into something sparky and assertive for the subsequent section. After this the clarinet was, by turns, velvety, sensuousness, sparky and angry, all as the composer required. The cadenzas were particularly impressive, not only for Martín’s finger work, but also for the sheer range of sounds he was able to draw out of the reed. In a touching gesture, he dedicated his encore (Stravinsky’s First Piece) to the late Judy Mackerras, not only the wife of Sir Charles, but a great friend of the SCO and a clarinettist herself; clearly also someone dear to Martín.
However, the work’s saving grace was Maximiliano Martin, the SCO principal clarinettist, whose display was utterly masterful.
..delivered a killer combination of showmanship, musicianship and dazzling virtuosity. His inextinguishable personality conquered the work’s astringent challenges.