Harpenden homecoming is sheer Bliss for Julian

PUBLISHED: 11:09 23 August 2009 | UPDATED: 14:22 06 May 2010

Julian Bliss

Julian Bliss

FOR the first time in around a decade, renowned clarinet player Julian Bliss returned to his home town last Monday to perform for the organisation which gave him his first chance to play his instrument. For Julian, now 20, was introduced to the clarinet a

FOR the first time in around a decade, renowned clarinet player Julian Bliss returned to his home town last Monday to perform for the organisation which gave him his first chance to play his instrument.

For Julian, now 20, was introduced to the clarinet at the age of two and a half by Gill Johnston who runs Harpenden Musicale with her husband, David.

Now with an impressive international career already behind him Julian gave his recital with pianist Robert Bottriell as part of Harpenden Musicale's summer music festival.

And his choice of programme for the performance at Harpenden Public Halls left no-one in any doubt that in the 10 years since most of us last heard him he has become an outstanding player.

He started with Gerald Finzi's relatively undemanding Five Bagatelles, a work which tends to show the "Englishness" of the composer.

But his second piece, Sonata for Solo Clarinet by the Romanian composer Tiberiu Olah was an entirely different beast. This was one of the most technically challenging clarinet works I have ever heard and Julian's performance left the audience, which contained many young clarinet players, completely breathless. It demonstrated not only his complete mastery of his instrument but also his tremendous virtuosity and depth of expression.

The programme continued with Francis Poulenc's delightful Sonata and Andre Messager's equally lovely Solo De Concours before Julian continued with Claude Debussy's eloquent Premiere Rapsodie where exquisite phrasing and tonality was all important.

He ended the programmed part of his recital with Rossini's brilliant and showy Introduction, Theme and Variations, a work which demonstrated his amazing dexterity.

But more was to come as the audience, made up largely of young musicians talking part in the summer school which is at the heart of the festival, were reluctant to let him go.

He and Robert Bottriell, who proved to be an outstanding partner for the evening, then gave a series of encores ending with The Flight of the Bumblebee, which almost brought the house down.

JOHN MANNING

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