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
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.