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S&H Concert review

HURLSTONE Trio, HOWELLS Minuet and A near Minuet, GLINKA Trio, WEBER Andante & Hungarian Rondo, MARTINU Clarinet Sonatina CHOPIN Berceuse English Romantics Trio Victoria Soames Samek (clarinet) Lawrence Perkins (bassoon) John Flinders (piano) Blackheath Halls 3 March 2002 (PGW)

Most weekends the recital room at Blackheath Halls is well filled for its Sunday morning concerts; string quartets are often sold out. Yet only about 25 people stirred themselves to come and hear Victoria Soames Samek, Lawrence Perkins and John Flinders. Apparently wind instruments scare away the regulars! Why? (I believe that Conway Hall has a similar experience.) It is also hard for more than a few wind players to establish themselves as famous soloists, and some readers will not know those names.

They are however acclaimed recording artists - Victoria Soames Samek launched the admired specialist CD label, Clarinet Classics, celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year, and Lawrence Perkins is a distinguished Hyperion artist - they brought to Blackheath a well honed, ideally balanced programme, ringing the changes upon this unusual and delectable trio combination.

If the repertoire for such a group does not consist of hallowed masterpieces in the established canon that does not mean that an audience will be short-changed. It is a different experience to listen to music you don't already know, and can be equally rewarding and gratifying for everyone, not just for jaded critics who have heard the great standards a little too often. The musicians dressed informally and supplemented the programme notes with a few brief personal introductions, bridging the rows of empty seats. This was an exceptional concert, which sent us all home to our Sunday dinner happy.

The two trios are early works, both ideally conceived for this trio of instruments, the Hurlstone a reminder of our loss by his death at 30. Martinu's Clarinet Sonatina and Weber's Andante & Hungarian Rondo for bassoon are thoroughly characteristic works of their composers. Victoria Soames Samek and Lawrence Perkins are leading exponents of the instruments to which they are dedicated, Perkins' tone suave and extremely beautiful (no bassoon jokes in this programme) on an instrument which I aspired to study when young, baulked by the cost of acquiring one. Two small pieces by Howells are perfect little gems - he served less popular instruments well; I play his substantial oeuvre for the clavichord (recorded, but on piano, by John McCabe) on that instrument. The only programmed work that I knew, and love to play, was Bartok's Three Rondos on Folk Tunes, which John Flinders opted to replace with Chopin's Berceuse, because his left hand was recovering after an injury and its percussiveness might have jeopardised the rest of the programme. It was a pellucid, inward performance and Flinders confirmed afterwards that he was thoroughly at home with the Blackheath Bösendorfer, which poses problems for some pianists. The English Romantics Trio must be invited back to Blackheath and he must play the Bartoks then.

The Hurlstone and Howells items are on Clarinet Classics 0023 and Weber's Andante & Hungarian Rondo on Lawrence Perkins' CD of bassoon concertos (Hyperion CDA67288); both recommended unreservedly for assured pleasure.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Victoria Soames Samek can be heard with The Mühlfeld Trio, which she founded in 1978, premièring Thea Musgrave's Ring Out Wild Bells at the Purcell Room, SBC on 12 March.

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