Clarinettist Julian Bliss thrills in Invercargill

As a clarinet enthusiast back in my younger days, and a general music lover, I was excited to have the opportunity to see clarinettist Julian Bliss and NZTrio live. I was not left disappointed.

The concert opened with Brahms’ Trio for clarinet, cello and piano in A minor Op.114, with Bliss on the clarinet, Ashley Brown on the cello and Sarah Watkins on the piano.  In short, it was a delight for the ears. The trio was seamless, the waltz in the third movement dreamy, and the final movement powerful. All three instruments, although very different, worked together in perfect harmony.

Next up was a piece by Ross Harris, titled There May be Light, which was commissioned by Chamber Music New Zealand especially for Bliss and the NZTrio. Bliss, Brown and Watkins were joined by Justine Cormack on the violin.

It’s mentioned by Harris the piece raises questions which may or may not have answers. Musically complex with unusual instrumentation and the use of multiphonics, Bliss, Brown and Watkins well and truly did it justice. This was an intriguing piece, and a very interesting change in tone. Where Brahms was warm and inviting, this was eerie, haunting and gave me chills – it left me wanting more.

The final piece for the evening was Quartet for the End of Time by Olivier Messaien. They could not have finished the concert with anything better. This was wonderful – a very powerful display of musicianship which left the audience enthralled. Each musician was both individually and collectively amazing.

Bliss in the third movement, Abyss of the Birds, showed incredible technique and was mesmerising to listen to, as was Brown during his cello solo in the fifth movement.

The biggest highlight for me however was the final movement In Praise of the Immortality of Jesus in which Cormack shone. It moved the audience so much so that at the conclusion of the piece, there was such a silence you could have heard a pin drop.

All in all, a fabulous concert showcasing some exceptional talent.

Sarah Van Voornveld, Southland Times – 4 August 2016

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