Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cue silly grin now

A propos pieces of classical music that I relate to in a thoroughly un-highbrow way, try this on for size. It's the last movement of Weber's Grand Duo Concertant for clarinet and piano, performed in this YouTube clip by Michael Han Kim and a sadly nameless pianist. It's especially unfortunate that we don't get her name considering that her half of the Weber Grand Duo is no less demanding than his. (Update - the clip now has her name on it: Woori Koo.)

I have an elderly vinyl recording of this piece by Janet Hilton and Keith Swallow, which I love to bits. (It's available on CD now.) In this movement especially, their ensemble is so tight it's spooky. While I can quite understand why MHK speeds up toward the end (live performance, debut recital, let's go out with a real bang) and while he and his pianist have no trouble staying together (I've heard a commercial recording at that speed that was a total mess), Hilton and Swallow simply don't need to speed up to sound awesome. Indeed they take the whole movement at a slightly more laid-back tempo than MHK, but because their playing is so totally joined-at-the-hip it simply sounds nonchalantly brilliant. They manage to inject terrific energy into the final section (from 3:47 onwards on the clip here) just by...oh, I don't quite know how they do it. Maybe they simply use The Force. Actually, I suspect they drop the volume a little and then turn it up as they roar up to the bit (3:58 here) where the pianist breaks out in an absolute torrent of notes. I am utterly incapable of listening to that bit without a huge and stupid grin covering my face. This whole movement is definitely one of my feel-good pieces, and even if MHK and his partner aren't quite as amazing as Hilton and Swallow, they're pretty darned good (and of course they're performing live, which is always tougher). Oh, and he is only eleven years old, so I'm prepared to cut him plenty of slack. Enjoy it.