Clarinetist Peter Cigleris teamed up with pianist Martin Cousin for a wonderful lunchtime break. Peter Cigleris studied at the Birmingham Conservatoire and the Royal College of Music, and has performed in many venues across Europe premièring several new works for the clarinet. With a tone and technical ability to impress, he performed on a Peter Eaton Elite clarinet made for him in 2001. Martin Cousin is regarded as one of the most exceptional pianists of his generation and has appeared regularly in major British music venues since graduating from the Royal College of Music. He has performed as a concerto soloist with several prestigious orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic and the BBC Concert Orchestra. The two performed together extremely well and related in a way that meant neither part was overwhelming – the perfect balance.

Peter Cigleris and Martin Cousin
Peter Cigleris and Martin Cousin

The sonata-themed programme for the concert was an exciting mix of world premières, sandwiched by a sonata either side. Peter Cigleris gave the audience a brief explanation of each piece, in true recital style, making them all the more enjoyable to the listener. We were treated to York Bowen’s Clarinet Sonata, Op. 109 to open the concert: a piece with no slow movement, but instead a speedy Allegretto poco scherzando. This not only showcased Ciglerlis but gave Cousin a chance to shine in a large piano section. At the end of the concert was John Ireland’s Fantasy-Sonata, for which Peter Cigleris won the John Ireland Chamber Music award when studying at at the Birmingham Conservatoire. Cigleris told the audience that whilst learning this piece he had the privilege of being able to listen to a recording of Ireland performing the piano accompaniment, which helped him to understand the composer’s intentions for the piece. He did indeed understand this single-movement sonata, well and alongside Cousin he gave a very well-informed rendition.

In the middle of these two fantastic pieces were two exciting world premières. The first première was by composer Andrew Wilson (b. 1960), who studied at Royal Holloway University. His composition was called Rock Mill Variations, Op. 149, named after the picturesque converted windmill where John Ireland spent the last decade of his life. The melody on which the variations are based is from a Christmas carol by Ireland called ‘The Holy Boy’, written in 1913. One of Ireland’s best-known hymns, there are many arrangements of it, but this one in particular had a very fresh edge. The variations were technically demanding, implementing harmonics in the middle section. It was beautifully performed by Cigleris and Cousin, who were thanked by the composer on the stage at the end of his piece.

The second world première was called Sonatina in One Movement, Op. 36 by Simon Milton (b.1977). Having studied music at the Welsh College of Music and Drama and being a clarinetist himself, the composition really captured the essence of the clarinet and the capabilities of the instrument. He pushed the clarinet through the different registers, allowing Cigleris to display his impressive flutter-tonguing technique. The piece was divided into three main sectios which echo that of a sonata. The first section was light and canonic, splitting the melody between the piano and the clarinet. The adagio section had a rumbling bass quality to it, but also involved flutter-tonguing; this provided a contrast to the final section, which reflected on motifs from the first section and included a beautiful piano solo. Wilson also took a bow on stage and thanked the performers.