Sunday, August 5, 2012

Clarinetfest 2012: Day 4

Saturday night at Clarinetfest 2012, I saw a truly wonderful concert.  This concert featured clarinets soloing with the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra.  There were three performers, Gregory Smith of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Jessica Phillips Rieske of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and Belgian/Flemish clarinetist Eddy Vanoosthuyse.  They played the "Premiere Rhapsodie" by Debussy, the Mozart clarinet concerto and the X Concerto By Scott McAllister.

Mr. Smith played the Debussy very well.  It was the first really professional live performance of this piece that I have had the privilege to hear.  His playing really captured the impressionistic style of Debussy.  Mr. Smith's tone was great, and his phrasing was phenomenally crafted throughout the piece.  His technique was flawlessly sound, and I really enjoyed the way he articulated.  The only thing I disliked about his playing was the way he communicated the piece to the audience.  I think, perhaps, because he wasn't playing from memory, some of the notes got lost, or maybe they were reflected by the music stand away from the audience onto the stage.  The way the stand was positioned hid his face from some parts of the audience and limited his ability to communicate with the audience members who were unfortunate enough to have their view obstructed by the stand.  These are minor complaints, however, and probably oversights by the tech crew who had set up the stage.  Mr. Smith played the piece beautifully.

Next, Jessica Phillips Rieske played the Mozart.  I LOVED her Mozart!!  It was beautifully phrased, and her tone was strong and clear and sweet throughout the entire work.  I especially loved the way she performed the second movement.  She really captured the classical elegance of Mozart in that second movement better than I have heard anyone do it.  There were a few spots where the horns were audibly out of tune, but that's how it is with horn sections at times.  All in all it was a solid performance by the Lincoln Symphony and a fantastic exhibition by Ms. Phillips Rieske.

The last piece was quite interesting.  It was the X Concerto by Scott McAllister, played by Belgian clarinetist Eddy Vanoothuyse.  I loved Mr. Vanoothuyse's playing all the way through the piece.  There were also a lot of cool things about this composition.  The composer, Scott McAllister, was at the concert, and he talked about the piece before it was performed.  He said that when he composed it, he was afraid his fellow composers would disapprove that he put a melody in the second movement.  Modern pieces never have melodies!  He also said that he put a little bit of the Mozart clarinet concerto in the third movement, because he wanted the piece to someday win concerto competitions 15 years ago when he composed it, and it has since then.  Funny!

I didn't love the first movement; it was mostly quiet trilling form the clarinet, an impressive feat, but an odd way to start a composition.  The second movement, however, contained a gorgeous melody, which at one point in the piece is taken up and played in the altissimo register, creating a moment of exciting suspense.  The last movement is fun, and the pieces of the Mozart clarinet concert stuck in the middle created a really funny effect.  This is a great piece and Eddy Vanoosthuyse gave a wonderful performance of it.

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