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Total pleasure from first note to last

Perthshire Advertiser, Ian Hunter

In Perth Concert Hall in a series notable for its excellence, the concert given by Mark Simpson, clarinet and the Solem String Quartet gave total pleasure from first note to last.

The Solem Quartet began with Clara Schumann’s Three Romances Op.22. Originally for violin and piano, this final work (she devoted the forty plus years after her husband Robert’s death to promoting his works) was ideally arranged for quartet by first violin Amy Tress. Listening to their crescendo of tempo and passion the works never sounded like an arrangement. Lyrically expansive the Andante molto began with warm tone moving to fine harmonies. Written during a visit from the young Brahms he could be glimpsed in the passionate bardic tone of the viola start to the Allegretto, later turning to a lighter dancing centre. Marked Passionately quick the final piece had a particularly happy section for solo cello and pizzicato before an ardent climax and a contented conclusion.

Excellence continued, perhaps even more happily, when Mark Simpson, BBC Young Musician and BBC Proms/Guardian Young Composer of the Year, joined the Solem Quartet in Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet.

All five musicians were so right that they could blend perfectly and come to individual solo prominence in Mozart’s confiding, easeful writing.

The second Larghetto movement showed sensitivity and perfect legato with tremendous breath control from Mark Simpson, duetting beautifully with the silvery tone of Amy Tress’s muted first violin. A buoyant Minuet with fine staccato pointing had contrast with the slightly melancholic first Trio and the more rustic second. The bubbling clarinet had humour and a small amount of extra decoration. All added to the enjoyment. The Theme and Variations finale perfectly combined individuality and blend, the joyous fun of the coda bringing about great extended applause from the enthusiastic audience.

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