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Michael Collins (clarinet) Noriko Ogawa (piano)
Blackheath Sundays, Blackheath Halls 11am Sun 10th April

Brahms - Sonata No.1 in F minor, Op.120
Weber - Grand Duo Concertante
Schumann - 3 Fantasy Pieces
Brahms - Sonata No.2 in Eb major, Op.120

An auspicious start to a new season of Blackheath Sundays, under the Halls' new artistic director Jo Paton, given to a sold-out audience in the Recital Room.

These were two equally matched virtuosi in complete accord, Collins (one-time winner of the BBC Young Musician competition) giving a display of the power and refinement possible with the clarinet from bravura ff to ppp refinement. Ogawa is a forthright pianist, a concerto pianist in the Weber, a display piece for two soloists, and a whole orchestra in the less straightforward Brahms piano parts.

This programme of 'standards' from the clarinet repertoire was not of a kind normally to attract the interest of critics, but the audience was delighted to hear a morning of familiar music given with such assurance, and I wondered if it might be associated with a CD recording at the Halls? [Collins' recording of the Schumann & Weber with Kathryn Stott on Eminence is no longer available and he doesn't appear to have the Brahms sonatas in his discography, which is surprising].

One point worth considering for these concerts, especially when they are sold-out or nearly so. Michael Collins and Noriko Ogawa are big artists, and would have sounded more satisfactory downstairs in the more generous acoustic of the Great Hall; and its Fazioli might have suited Ogawa's playing better? [q.v. my review of Andreas Boyde's Brahms] - excerpt below:

It will be interesting to see how Boyde's Brahms is developing when he returns with further recitals next year; there is the makings of a fine cycle - a great one, we will see? Perhaps Andreas Boyde should consider the possibility of trying the Fazioli in the Great Hall? With the seating arranged in a semi-circle it is possible to create a feeling of intimacy, encouraging for performers, even when the audience is a small one.

Next week April 17 come to see the start of the London Marathon at Blackheath, then go on to Blackheath for Isabelle Van Keulen's recital with Aleksander Madzar, with free croissants and coffee beforehand!

© Peter Grahame Woolf