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Musicians from The North East of Scotland Music School
NESMS Clarinet Trio
A Programme of Fantasy- and Fairytale-Inspired Music
Laura Smith (Clarinet), Kara Taylor (Cello), Colin Sinclair (Piano)
Big Sky Studio, Music Hall, Aberdeen
Saturday 10th August, 2019
Reviewed by Alan Cooper

I was glad to be able to attend the second of the two Big Sky NESMS Concerts especially since it was by quite a long way the better of the two. This is not to denigrate the first concert but to say how marvellous was the second in every way. It was grand to see a capacity audience filling the Studio for this event!

I note that the programme for this very special event says 'Accompanied on Piano by Colin Sinclair'. Can I take issue with this? Colin was far more than an accompanist in this performance. He was every bit as important as the girls, in fact he was absolutely stunning. All three were that — and possibly beyond!

The concert began with a Clarinet Trio by the Italian composer Nino Rota. Not everyone will be familiar with his name but they will probably be well acquainted with some of the music he wrote as a major film composer. He composed the music for The Godfather – 'Speak Softly, Love' – and for the film of Romeo and Juliet – 'A Time for Us' – not to be confused with Bernstein's song of a similar title from West Side Story. Nino Rota's song was a hit for Johnny Mathis some years ago. By pure coincidence I rediscovered among my piles of music a book of film music by Nino Rota and have been struggling with the music from 'Amarcord': a film by Fellini who regularly used Rota's music. He was however also a more serious composer and teacher. He composed no fewer than ten operas, five ballets and many orchestral, choral and chamber works.

The NESMS Clarinet Trio proved this Trio by Rota to be a particularly fine work. As I listened to and watched Colin Sinclair's performance especially in coda of the third movement I realised that my plinky-plonk attempts at Rota's music were of an infinitely lower standard. Colin was really setting the piano alight.

The Trio is in three movements. The first was wonderfully spicy music played with real verve and precision by all three performers. The clarinet and cello rejoiced in the luscious romanticism of the central slow movement and, as the programme note stated, the finale had a definite 'circus' feel about it in both rhythm and melody. As I am finding in the music for Amarcord, Rota often adds a slightly sardonic touch to this sort of movement which makes it particularly fascinating. I really enjoyed Saturday's performance by our three fantastic musicians.

The other large scale work which the NESMS Trio performed on Saturday was by an even less well known composer Carl Frühling. He is regarded as an Austrian composer but was born in part of what today is the Ukraine. He spent most of his career in Vienna but like other late romantic composers of his time such as Zemlinsky, his music fell out of fashion set against Schoenberg or Stravinsky. It did not help at that time that he was Jewish. At least Zemlinsky had the sense to emigrate to the USA: Frühling died in poverty in Vienna.

The cellist Steven Isserlis has been championing Frühling's music and along with that of Hans Gal, another Austrian composer of the same era who came to work in Edinburgh, his music is experiencing a return to favour — so congratulations to the NESMS Clarinet Trio for deciding to programme this piece, the Clarinet Trio Op. 40. It is in four movements.

The first has many delicious passages of late romantic effusiveness and all three performers were at their finest in promoting this. The second movement is marked 'Anmutig bewegt' meaning something like 'lively and in a graceful way' and this is precisely what we got from all three of our players today. They gave this movement a wonderfully lightsome elegance in their playing. The fourth movement was delightfully pensive while the finale buzzed with excitement. It was full of fun and once again Colin Sinclair was setting his keyboard alight.

The rest of the programme was given over to music by Schumann. His three Fantasy Pieces were shared by the cello who played the first and third while Laura Smith on clarinet played the slower central movement. I have to say that Kara Taylor was on top form today. Her performance in Schumann's music was pure perfection.

After the Clarinet Trio by Frühling, the audience gave our players a massive ovation to which they responded with another short work by Schumann, his Märchenerzählungen Op. 132 no 3 — the German title being a long and complex word for fairytales. This was actually scored for piano with clarinet and viola, but today's version using cello went down particularly well and the full-house audience was actually in no hurry to leave after this splendid concert!

For a review of the first NESMS concert at the Big Sky Studio go to

BIG SKY STUDIO, MUSIC HALL - Saturday 13th July 2019