Appearing with the kind permission of The Royal Northern College of Music, Laurel Saunders (clarinet) and Angharad Huw (harp) gave the first concert of the Season on Tuesday evening 18 October. It was good to see so many old friends and new faces at the concert, and what a concert it was – full of colour, life and interest. Your reviewer has never come across any of the composers in the programme – except for that Dave Brubeck classic Take Five.
The combination of clarinet and harp is new to the Club, I think, but on checking online I find that numerous composers have written for this combination, Schubert and Schumann to mention just two of them. Others will be mentioned later on in this Review.
The concert began with a piece by Paul Reade “The Victorian Kitchen Garden Suite”. This was a very good beginning and I particularly enjoyed the Prelude and Summer, these were delightful and very evocative of a well doing kitchen garden. Next we heard a short lyrical and peaceful Aria by Aaron Breeze. This was followed by “The Coastal Suite” by Roma Cafolla and was composed especially for clarinet and harp. I found myself on the coast and listening to the sea and the wind in all their varied moods.
Carlos Salzedo wrote “Chanson dans la Nuit” for solo harp and Angharad played this short piece with wit and feeling and it came with some percussive elements.
Béla Kovács’ “Hommage á J S Bach” and “Homage á De Falla” are both works for a solo clarinet, Laurel played these superbly well.
Paul Desmond composed “Take Five” and of course this was familiar to all of us from the Dave Brubeck Quartet. This was most enjoyable and who knew that the harp made a good bass? I didn’t. The first half ended with a Jazz Improvisation by Laurel and Angharad proving once again that harp and clarinet make an ace jazz duo.
After the interval we had a rare event at our concerts, so said Keith Osborne in his splendid programme notes, we had the World Premiere of Aaron Breeze’s “Adagio”. This is a piece which ought to be listened to again as on the first hearing it seemed that the clarinet played discordantly at times and the harp was the bass beat. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did. It was followed by Laurel playing Tiberiu Olah’s Sonata for Clarinet and this piece showed very clearly the many different sounds that can be made by the clarinet, particularly by such a fine player as Laurel.
We then came to one of the most enjoyable pieces of music, this was “Six American Sketches” by Skalia Kanga. This is a descriptive and lyrical composition and the harp was very fine in II Running Water, very refreshing! And the clarinet was very grasshopper like in IV and in V Night Stillness the harp was very lovely with the clarinet interjecting. I would have liked to go to No VI the Country Fayre.
The piece of music by Uno Vesje I found fascinating “Life is flashing before my eyes and I realise that it all started with a blackbird”. This was played by Angharad and sure enough there is a real blackbird singing away (a pre-recording), and this was a lovely piece of music to listen to, both blackbird and harp!
We then heard two sections from Armando Ghidoni’s Jazzy-Celtic Suite – III Interlude and IV Celswing. In this the clarinet sounded smooth and the harp lyrical and in Celswing lively with a swing.
The concert ended, with I think my favourite bit. Laurel and Angharad played a folk improvisation and I asked Angharad about the lovely tune they improvised. Angharad wrote it down for me it is a Welsh folk tune “Hen ferchetan”. I looked it up online afterwards and it means old maid.
This was a wonderful beginning to the 2022/23 Season and I very much hope that Laurel and Angharad will be invited to play for us again. I am sure that they both have wonderful careers ahead of them.