north east scotland's festival of new music

press reviews

Tadej Kenig and Pete Stollery

Written by Alan Cooper

reproduced with permission

Music in the University:
TADEJ KENIG and PETE STOLLERY, Clarinet and electronics
Kings College Chapel

The internationally renowned virtuoso of the clarinet Tadej Kenig hails from Slovenia, formerly a major region of Yugoslavia which regained its independence in 1991. In addition to an acknowledged mastery of clarinet technique, he has built a reputation as a gifted champion of the contemporary repertoire. His recital on Wednesday consisted of four pieces which explored surprisingly divergent strategies for exploiting electronics along with the solo instrument.

Petrichor for clarinet and tape by Adam Scott Neal was a sound picture of a rainy summer's afternoon in which a thunderstorm was followed by a more gentle rain shower. The tape did indeed give us heavy rain followed by thunderclaps and then what sounded like rain pelting down on a tin roof – or on the roof of Woodend Barn! For the gentler shower, more instrumental-like sounds ensued with references possibly to tuned percussion. To begin with, the clarinet produced a continuous high energy zigzag of notes perhaps depicting lightening or rain squalls before responding to the more instrumental sounds on the tape with softer more gentle and still wonderfully sustained playing. The result was a kind of musical radio-play of the scenes the composer suggested.

Robert Scott Thompson's Passage for clarinet and electroacoustics was an amazing work. Before hearing it, the two diverse sound sources, clarinet and electronics suggested a kind of oil and water mix that would not achieve a homogeneous blend. However, by consistently echoing certain elements of pitch, timbre and even rhythm in the two sound sources Robert Scott Thompson has created something like a clarinet concerto in which the electronics replace an orchestra. This orchestra provided a continuous wall of mutating sounds far more wide ranging and extensive than what is available from its conventional cousin. It sounded every bit as much at home and comfortable in company with the clarinet as any conventional orchestra though. Once again, Tadej Kenig gave us amazingly well sustained playing sometimes using circular breathing techniques in an outpouring of meditative brilliance from the clarinet. The piece even ended with a splendid solo cadenza for the clarinet.

Last year for sound, I went to Duff House in Banff to hear the Scottish Flute Trio. In that concert I heard Janet Larsson, the very artist who gave the world premiere of Thea Musgrave's Narcissus. That night, twenty years later, she played it again. Soon after the first performance, the composer also produced a version for clarinet and it was that which Tadej Kenig played on Wednesday.

Somehow the flute version had a distant quality as though we were hearing a sound version of a white marble sculpture depicting the Narcissus story. With the clarinet and its two different registers as well as its broader range of timbres from hard and edgy to soft and caressing, this was a more sensuous Narcissus, definitely a creature of flesh and blood. The gradual build up of the digital delay effects until the live soloist is overwhelmed, just like the character in the legend, was done tremendously effectively.

The final and most substantial piece in the recital was Dialogue de l'ombre double by Pierre Boulez. This was a wonderfully dramatic performance in which the spotlights on the soloist were dimmed when the pre-recorded double (Tadej Kenig himself) was playing. Pete Stollery worked his finest electronic magic, making the phantom clarinet fly round the Chapel, sometimes immediate, sometimes far distant. This was indeed a virtuoso performance by both versions of Tadej Kenig. When I was a young student myself and a militant Mahler bore to boot, I used to think that the music of Boulez was formless and completely random. Listening to the performance by Kenig however, I suddenly realised how this music is simply an extension, albeit a broad and adventurous one of what Debussy was doing with pieces like Syrinx. The splendid ending with the long-held note as Tadej Kenig vanished into the darkened corner of the Chapel was the crowning dramatic effect of a totally hypnotic performance.

  • Published on 11 November 2009
  • Written by Alan Cooper

Reproduced with kind permission of the author.

events mentioned
  Date Day Time Location Event Details

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11Wed 5.15 pmAberdeenTadej Kenig, clarinet