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Naho & Friends Excel at Burgh Hall

Sunday’s Cowal Music Club concert on 22 January with Naho Hayashi (piano) & friends soon proved to be an excellent ‘five-star’ event, with all four highly gifted young performers delighting a packed Burgh Hall.

Once the performers, all advanced or postgraduate students at the RCS in Glasgow, had been introduced, the first work to be performed was Robert Schumann’s ‘Three Romantic Pieces’ for Clarinet and piano, which received a beautiful performance by Michael Burslem (Clarinet) and Valerie Lim(piano), who comes from Indonesia. Each work was introduced by the performers, - a good idea to enhance communication between performers and the audience.

A full-length (late) Brahms Clarinet Sonata followed, which showed beautiful lyrical playing by both clarinet and piano, with remarkably effortless ensemble and excellent control.

Naho Hayashi (from Japan), who had invited all of the performers to take part, then played Grieg’s highly attractive ‘Lyric Pieces’ op 62. These very varied, often atmospheric pieces demand different moods and colours, as well as contrasted dynamics and textures, which Naho brought out very well, with the audience showing its warm appreciation at the end.

After a short interval, it was Valerie’s turn to perform piano solos, this time with a lovely, especially expressive performance of Chopin’s Nocturne op 27 no2. The performance of the next work, The Etude no 4,- ‘Embraceable you’ by Gerschwin / W. Wild, was really quite outstanding, with beautiful ‘cantabile’ expression combined with virtuoso rippling arpeggios; at times almost reminiscent of a harp.

The last part of the concertwas the Piano Trio Op. 11 "Gassenhaur" by Beethoven. As Michael explained, the clarinet was still a comparatively new instrument at the time, and this is an early Beethoven work, opus 11, dating from 1797. For this trio Michael and Naho were joined by Rebekah Lesan on the cello. This ensemble brought a refreshing change of sounds and style, with all 3 players obviously enjoying themselves, and able to negotiate the tricky passages with apparent ease.

The trio had 3 movements, with the lyrical slow movement being especially attractive, while the first is highly energetic, and the last consists of 9 variations on a popular theme of that age, probably a kind of ‘music while you work’ tune, - not to be confused with today’s ‘O when the Saints!’

The audience were manifestly greatly impressed with the afternoon’s music-making, showing their appreciation with prolonged applause at the end. It will be interesting to hear in due course how the careers of these four highly talented young musicians develop. Watch this space, as they say!

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