By Gillie Tunley and Adam Harrington.
The Arnhem Clarinet Choir brought light, warmth and quite a bit of fun to Christ Church in Reading on the evening of Thursday 17 October. Their programme included Dvorák, Pachelbel (he of canon fame) and a powerful version of Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque. They will be performing in Reading town centre on Saturday 19 October.
The ‘choir’ (Arnhems Klarinetten Koor in Dutch, or AKK ) opened with a sprightly rendition of Dvorák’s Serenade for wind instruments. The piece starts with a courtly dance before shifting gear into pastoral lyricism, and was an excellent piece with which the band showed off their classical music street-cred. They then moved on to Bürki’s reflective and mysterious Monastery Pictures.
Catozzi’s Beelzebub featured a solo from the choir’s double bass clarinet, an extraordinary instrument shaped like a giant gothic paperclip. It’s worth seeing the band just to witness this!
The choir next played a a deeply moving arrangement of Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque. Written in 2000 and famously arranged for a ‘virtual choir’ in 2009, (see video), this golden, shimmering and ethereal piece stood at the emotional heart of the concert.
The playful and skittish Caprice for clarinets by Grundman was followed by Wolfgram’s Klezmersuite. The clarinet band seemed made for this yearning and soulful music from the Jewish communities of eastern Europe; the sound was spot-on.
The eastern European theme continued with Serenade from Belgian-Polish composer P Dzon. They then moved on to Benoit’s Luim, a fanciful and capricious mood piece that unexpectedly channelled the sailor’s hornpipe. Borodin’s clamourous Choeur des villageois was an exercise in gradual crescendo and diminuendo that portrays a singing choir moving towards and away from the listener.
The band brought that old warhorse Pachelbel’s Canon in D out for an airing and interwove a joyful upper register with a resonant bass line to reach a radiant resolution. Galloping towards the finale, the band played the csárdás-infused Hungarian impressions by van der Roost and ended the concert with the raunchy rhythms of Chapuis’ Ambiente del Tango.
The band returned to klezmer themes in their encore, with a rousing performance of Itamar Freilach by Alexis Ciesla.
There is another chance to see the superb Arnhem Clarinet Choir together with the Reading Male Voice Choir at Greyfriars Church, Friar Street, Reading RG1 1EH on Saturday 19 October at 7.30pm. Tickets for the concert can be purchased online.