|Julian Bliss (and me). Great clarinetist, really cool guy.|
It was a wonderful concert! Bliss played the Mihaud Sonata, Penderecki's Three Miniatures, and the Brahms Sonata (#1) in the first half. After Intermission, he played Piazolla's Oblivion, Debussy's Premiere Rhapsodie and the Prokofiev flute sonata which he had arranged for clarinet. Throughout the concert Mr. Bliss joked and commented about the music he was playing. He had a really warm stage presence and a lot of confidence. At one point, he said that he had worked on a piece with a composer a long long time ago. This made me laugh, because at 23, it can't have been that long ago. Maybe long long ago doesn't mean what Mr. Bliss thinks it means!
I was really surprised at the beginning of the concert. Mr. Bliss came out, and he played the Milhaud and the Penderecki quite well technically and musically, but he didn't grab me the way that I expected him to. Then he played the Brahms, and something about it wasn't quite right. He was kind of careless with the Brahms Sonata and he didn't play with the emotional depth that the Brahms demands. I didn't dislike his playing, of course, he was very proficient, but I didn't hear the virtuoso sound that I have come to expect from a performer as renowned as Julian Bliss. I thought to myself, why do people find Julian Bliss so amazing?
|A cool mobile at the National Pastime Theater.|
Then, he played the Debussy Premiere Rhapsodie. Before this night, I had come to the conclusion that this was not the greatest piece of clarinet literature, and I kind of dreaded when I would have to learn it -- which will be soon. This is a song I have heard played many times by many people, famous and not so famous, and, while I have like many of them, none of the performances have truly impressed me. Bliss's performance completely blew me away! I loved everything he did. He brought the music to life. His tone was clean and clear. His phrasing was phenomenal. His articulations were different than anyone I've ever heard before him, and I found his performance stronger and more vibrant than any I've heard. I thought to myself as I listened, "THIS is why Julian Bliss is a world class performer! I get it." After he finished, I was sad that the music had stopped, as I wanted it to go on and on for hours.
|The theater space at the National Pastime Theater in Chicago|
After the concert, I hung around to see if I could meet Julian Bliss. He was very willing to hang around and chat with anyone who came up to him after the concert, and he greeted everyone like they were old friends. What a great guy! He even let my mom take a picture of the two of us. You know, Julian Bliss is quite short! It seems that many famous clarinetists tend to be on the small side: Wenzel Fuchs, Anthony McGill and now Julian Bliss are all around my height. And I'm only 5'5" (and probably almost done growing). I have a theory: maybe playing the clarinet stunts your growth.
In any case, the concert was a GREAT experience, and I was very happy to have finally heard an interpretation of the Premiere Rhapsodie that was truly amazing. I hope that I will get to hear Mr. Bliss again.