Robert Blanken’s playing has long been one of the glories of the Hampshire music scene but he surely surpassed himself as soloist in Malcolm Arnold’s second clarinet concerto.
Written in 1974, it is a virtuoso, quirky piece ranging from riotous ragtime to simple though sometimes angular melodies by way of dark moments. It demands virtuosity in both colouring and rhythmic quirkiness – and the HSO’s principal clarinet cleared every hurdle with apparent ease.So dazzling was his performance, indeed, that the audience leapt at guest conductor Levon Parikian’s offer of a repeat of the finale.
The orchestra played well in the concerto, and then in Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique symphony took advantage of sensible tempi that did not over-tax members’ ability to sustain tone and expression.
String intonation did suffer in the rapid march-like movement but the wind playing was well-characterised.
And the audience, guided by Parikian’s positioning of his hands, knew when (and when not) to applaud.