Clarinet maestro Bliss hits town with NZTrio

By Peter Williams

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Sarah Henderson, Justine Cormack and Ashley Brown will perform in Napier tomorrow with British clarinet virtuoso Julian Bliss.
Sarah Henderson, Justine Cormack and Ashley Brown will perform in Napier tomorrow with British clarinet virtuoso Julian Bliss.

British clarinet virtuoso Julian Bliss will perform with the NZTrio - violinist Justine Cormack, cellist Ashley Brown and pianist Sarah Watkins - in the next Chamber Music New Zealand Hawke's Bay Concert at the Century Theatre, Napier at 8pm tomorrow.

The performance is part of a 10-centre nationwide tour featuring Olivier Messiaen's 20th-century masterpiece Quartet For The End of Time.

At just 27 years old, Bliss is widely recognised as one of the world's finest clarinettists. He began playing the clarinet as a 4-year-old and now excels as a concert soloist, chamber musician and jazz artist. He is also passionate about music education, regularly lectures in the United States and is the Patron of the Mayor of London's Fund for Young Musicians.

His influence on the next generation of young musicians is also demonstrated through his work with musical instrument manufacturers Conn-Selmer which led to the design and launch of the Leblanc-Bliss range of affordable clarinets.

More than 30,000 of these instruments have been sold in the past seven years.

He will also have an influence on young New Zealand musicians. During the tour he will conduct a masterclass in Wellington, and with the NZTrio, will adjudicate the semifinal and final of the New Zealand Community Trust National Chamber Music Contest in Auckland from August5 and 6.

"Chamber Music New Zealand has brought Julian Bliss together with NZTrio to perform two different programmes on the tour - pairing Bliss' versatility and virtuosity with NZTrio's adventurous style," said ChMNZ publicist Sally Woodfield. "At the heart of the programme is Messiaen's masterpiece and this year marks the 75th anniversary since this emotional work premiered in Nazi prisoner-of-war camp Stalag VIII-A.

"Messiaen wrote the quartet while interned as a prisoner, writing for the players and instruments available - clarinet, piano, violin and cello. The work has been described as 'touching the farthest edges of human experience'. It premiered in January 1941 for an audience of fellow prisoners and prison guards with Messiaen himself playing a poorly maintained upright piano in freezing conditions."

"It's hard not to have an image of the first performance in mind when you approach the score for the quartet," says NZTrio pianist Sarah Watkins.

"However, what strikes me each time I sit at the piano is the incredible colour and sonority Messiaen has created - a somewhat mystical world of birdsong, deep spirituality and faith, all wrapped in a timeless luminous haze."

Also on the programme is the newly commissioned work from New Zealand composer Ross Harris - There may be light - written specifically for Julian Bliss and the NZTrio, to complement Messiaen's quartet.

"There may be light is very spacious and full of subtle gestures, often within a very delicate dynamic range with a sense of fragility. It's a wonderful invitation for our audiences to conjure their own imaginings for what they hear," Watkins adds.

Brahms' Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano in A minor will open the programme after a pre-concert talk at 7pm.

Tickets from www.ticketek.co.nz or phone 0800 TICKETEK (842 538) $50-$70.

Children and Student Rush $10 (booking fees apply).

- Hawkes Bay Today

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