Debussy
Première rapsodie
Poulenc
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano
Schumann
Arabeske in C, Op.18
Brahms
Sonata No.2 in E-flat for Clarinet and Piano, Op.120/2

Annelien Van Wauwe (clarinet) & Nino Gvetadze (piano)

Annelien Van Wauwe
Photograph: © Christian Ruvolo If at first it seemed that Annelien Van Wauwe – the Belgian clarinettist, another BBC New Generation Artists featured during this Wigmore Hall series – was the star, with Nino Gvetadze merely supporting on the ivories, that impression was quickly dispelled during the Debussy. Very much the clarinettist’s show as it starts, the Rapsodie soon becomes a dialogue with the piano, albeit that a large part of the attraction is the way it also displays the wind instrument’s capabilities. Both performers engaged with gusto, Van Wauwe in particular making the most of the many opportunities for long, sinuous lines and manic, rapid-fire style.

There are some similarly flash passages in Poulenc’s Sonata (dedicated to Honegger) and first-performed by Benny Goodman and Leonard Bernstein, but what was most notable here were Van Wauwe’s subtle variations in phrasing and emphasis – in music that could otherwise feel repetitive – and in the vocal quality of the slow movement. The Finale, cheeky and verging on the diabolical, had virtuosic contributions from Gvetadze too. She then played Schumann’s Arabeske. Its gentility is surely misleading, and that quality is there, as much as anything else, to accentuate the poignancy of the more-introspective passages. Gvetadze managed the shifting moods with impressive certainty, and subtlety, yet without giving in to out-and-out yearning until the final bars, a sigh of resignation, or despair. C-major has rarely sounded less contented.

The other highlight was the joyous second movement of the Brahms. If there is a twinge of doubt or gloom here, it is quickly conquered melodically, and the two performers complemented each other as smoothly as Brahms’s handling of their respective instruments. The succeeding Andante con moto introduction to the Finale, with its rhythmic fixations, is perhaps more of a mixed bag musically, but the Allegro brought a bravura finish, ‘soloist’ and ‘accompanist’ working as a sensitive, confident – and equal – partnership.

 

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