Music and Vision homepage



Maturity and insight

Julian Bliss and Sinfonia Viva play Mozart,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


For once, the hype isn't exaggerating ... everything you've heard about 15 year-old clarinettist Julian Bliss is true. The accuracy of his playing can be taken on trust; it's his maturity and insight that's so astonishing.

In a warm, mellow account of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, for which he used a basset-clarinet, he combined smooth tone, agility and subtle rubato. The second movement had poise and some breathtaking, magically soft playing. He and Viva were clearly on the same wavelength, particularly in the poignant moments that came through in the finale.

Julian Bliss. Photo © EMI Classics
Julian Bliss. Photo © EMI Classics

It can take an effort to listen to something as familiar as Beethoven's 5th Symphony with fresh ears. But with conductor Nicholas Kok encouraging a clean, incisive orchestral sound with absolutely no padding on it, Viva demonstrated afresh just what an incendiary piece this is. The sharply focussed lower string timbre was particularly welcome in the third movement's trio section. A slightly underplayed opening allowed tension to build through the first movement in a particularly compelling way, and the quiet moments in the second movement were charged with tension.

The evening began with Mendelssohn's 'Reformation' Symphony (No 5). Not out of the composer's top drawer, perhaps (the finale, especially, feels more dutiful than inspired), but it's an attractive work which got a pacy, dramatic performance, with an ideal balance of vigour and delicacy in the scherzo.

Copyright © 7 November 2005 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK


The concert reviewed took place on Wednesday 2 November 2005 at the Assembly Rooms, Derby, UK.

ViVA was founded as the East of England Orchestra in 1982 and is the only professional orchestra native to the UK's East Midlands, providing classical concerts and outreach activities to make live orchestral music accessible to all. Further information, including details of future concerts, is at

At the age of 15, young British clarinettist Julian Bliss is already establishing himself on the international concert scene, having made successful débuts at the BBC Proms, the Wigmore Hall, and at the Verbier and Gstaad Festivals. He has been invited to record exclusively for EMI Classics. Further information from IMG Artists.

 << M&V home       Ensemble home        Monteverdi >>