Peter Cigleris and Dina Duisen

Concert date: 19 February 2023
Reviewed by: JRC

Two composers were drawn to NADSA concerts last Sunday, and it would have been three if Vahan Salorian had not been involved with rehearsals in London. But more of him later.

Peter and Dina’s programme was an eclectic mix of composers spanning three centuries, though only one work was written in the 19th century, and that by a composer who has, unjustly, been largely forgotten, probably because of her gender. Starting with Saint-Saens and ending with Poulenc was a musical sandwich where the bread was delectably familiar, and the filling enticing.

Saint-Saens’ wrote his clarinet sonata Op 167 in 1921, but it is largely in his classical romantic style. For us, the four movements gave scope for smooth and easy legato lines, a light and lively jolly romp, a heavy bass sombre mood (maintained even in the higher clarinet register) and then a clarinet virtuoso fourth movement which was wonderfully brought to a gentle reprise of the initial melody - our journey complete. What better way to engender our confidence. Peter and Dina held us in the palms of their hands and could lead us wherever they wished.

Cecile Hartog 1857-1940 was an English song composer who also wrote Chateaux de Espagne No 1 & 2 for clarinet and piano. The title is probably taken from the French idiom ‘to have unachievable dreams’. What wonderful daydreams they are. The first has such beautiful flowing lines, then drama and plaintive tones, and the second, a lively duo. One could only wish that Cecile were hearing this sensitive and engaged rendering.

Luckily, composer Clive Jenkins was in the audience to hear his five pieces for clarinet and piano. We were taken from light and meanders to a richly melodic ‘Tamarside’. In the ‘Barbican’ I felt the hornpipe was close at hand, and then on to a bustling ‘Drake Circus’. Clive looked a very happy man.

Clarinet enthusiasts would not have been surprised that Michele Mangani 1966 figured in the programme. His clarinet sonata provided a melodic showcase for musical drama and conversations between the instruments. The balance between this duo, whether in the legato pensive second movement or the staccato and virtuosic finale, was superb.

This world premier of Vahan Salorian’s work for piano and clarinet was commissioned by Peter Cigleris, and what an interesting piece it was. Engagingly unpredictable, with obvious impressionist influences, it was so good to have a taste of what modern music can be. Doubtless Peter and Dina will have the opportunity to feature it in London and beyond.

Poulenc’s clarinet sonata was a brilliant way to end the programme. Whether fast and furious, pirouetting on a pinhead or with restrainedly haunting beauty, I never thought of virtuosity, just a direct line to Poulenc.

This breathtaking duo played their encore, Mangani’s Summer Time, for Penelope Putz [NADSA chairman’s wife] who was 93 that day. And, yes, Dina and Peter can do jazzy-blues too!

When listening to such inspiring music-making it is all too easy to ignore the technical ability of the performers. A clarinettist in the audience was visibly stunned by Peter Cigleris’ performance. They transcended the technical; they took us to aesthetic excellence.

NADSA Concert, Sunday 19th February 3.00pm at The Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot.