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The intense mood of the Beethoven sonata was contrasted in the cool repose of Chopin's D flat Nocturne, where again rubato was kept to a minimum and the even-toned pacing moved inexorably towards the two main climaxes, the first just before the recapitulation and the last leading to the coda. Chopin's filigree flowed like fine vermicelli in luminous tracery -- the ending was ravishing.

Julian Clef with Malcolm Miller at the Foundling Museum. Photo © 2008 Ronald Stein
Julian Clef with Malcolm Miller at the Foundling Museum. Photo © 2008 Ronald Stein

The Polonaise in F sharp which ensued had a noble bravura yet was especially enthralling in the gentle harmonies of the lyrical middle section. Clef proved himself a poet too in the spacious tableaux of Debussy's Reflets dans L'eau, where the pointillist wisps of melody flickered freely against the velvety backcloth, though still building to a powerful climax where one could savour the novel harmonies to the full. To close, Prokofiev's Toccata Op 11 was an ideal tour de force, its exhilarating 'moto perpetuo' lucidly projected. Without rushing, Julian Clef maintained a rhythmic tension that intensified excitingly towards the climaxes: while virtuoso at the surface, one also sensed his interest in the finer points of virtuosity, the details of harmony (one could really discern the major minor fluctuations of the Russian linear writing) and buoyancy of the textures, always achieving clarity.

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Copyright © 7 April 2008 Malcolm Miller, London UK

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Classical Music Programme Notes for concerts and recordings, by Malcolm Miller