Most weekends the recital room at Blackheath Halls
is well filled for its Sunday
morning concerts; string quartets are often sold out. Yet only about
25 people stirred themselves to come and hear Victoria Soames Samek,
Lawrence Perkins and John Flinders. Apparently wind instruments scare
away the regulars! Why? (I believe that Conway Hall has a similar experience.)
It is also hard for more than a few wind players to establish themselves
as famous soloists, and some readers will not know those names.
They are however acclaimed recording artists - Victoria
Soames Samek launched the admired specialist CD label, Clarinet
Classics, celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year,
Perkins is a distinguished Hyperion artist - they brought to
Blackheath a well honed, ideally balanced programme, ringing the changes
upon this unusual and delectable trio combination.
If the repertoire for such a group does not consist
of hallowed masterpieces in the established canon that does not mean
that an audience will be short-changed. It is a different experience
to listen to music you don't already know, and can be equally rewarding
and gratifying for everyone, not just for jaded critics who have heard
the great standards a little too often. The musicians dressed informally
and supplemented the programme notes with a few brief personal introductions,
bridging the rows of empty seats. This was an exceptional concert, which
sent us all home to our Sunday dinner happy.
The two trios are early works, both ideally conceived
for this trio of instruments, the Hurlstone a reminder of our loss by
his death at 30. Martinu's Clarinet Sonatina and Weber's Andante
& Hungarian Rondo for bassoon are thoroughly characteristic
works of their composers. Victoria Soames Samek and Lawrence Perkins
are leading exponents of the instruments to which they are dedicated,
Perkins' tone suave and extremely beautiful (no bassoon jokes in this
programme) on an instrument which I aspired to study when young, baulked
by the cost of acquiring one. Two small pieces by Howells are perfect
little gems - he served less popular instruments well; I play his substantial
oeuvre for the clavichord (recorded, but on piano, by John McCabe) on
that instrument. The only programmed work that I knew, and love to play,
was Bartok's Three Rondos on Folk Tunes, which John Flinders
opted to replace with Chopin's Berceuse, because his left hand
was recovering after an injury and its percussiveness might have jeopardised
the rest of the programme. It was a pellucid, inward performance and
Flinders confirmed afterwards that he was thoroughly at home with the
Blackheath Bösendorfer, which poses problems for some pianists.
The English Romantics Trio must be invited back to Blackheath
and he must play the Bartoks then.
The Hurlstone and
Howells items are on Clarinet Classics
0023 and Weber's Andante & Hungarian Rondo on
Lawrence Perkins' CD of bassoon concertos (Hyperion
CDA67288); both recommended unreservedly for assured pleasure.
Peter Grahame Woolf
Victoria Soames Samek can be heard with The Mühlfeld Trio, which
she founded in 1978, premièring Thea
Musgrave's Ring Out Wild Bells at the Purcell Room, SBC
on 12 March.