Since it is always a privilege and a pleasure when clarinetist Emil Khudyev and his pianist wife Nozomi share their extraordinary musical gifts with us, we were not surprised that last night’s concert at Hidden Valley added more luster to an already exalted reputation. How often do you attend a concert where you don’t know any of the music, and yet the selection of mostly contemporary repertoire totally exceeds our anticipation while taking us on an exciting musical journey? Well, it the capacity audience that turned out last night at Hidden Valley was not to be disappointed, for it was a concert that will linger long in our memory.
The opening work, Fantasistykke for Clarinet and Piano in G minor, by Carl Nielsen, began with Nozomi’s dark and moody introduction on the piano setting the stage for a powerful post romantic mood where both piano and clarinet had important roles. Emil’s rich powerful sound held us in his spell right up to the terrific coda that ends the piece.
The Bach Adagio for Clarinet and Piano, arranged by Ivan Mozgovenko, gave us a warm and romantic view of Johann Sebastian Bach in which Emil’s elegant shaping of phrases and fantastic control of dynamics evolved into a very satisfying duet with Nozomi. Another arrangement by Mozgovenko, the Gigue for Clarinet and Piano by Daniel Auber, totally blindsided me, for I confess to total ignorance even about Auber’s existence. After the abundance of legato playing in the first two pieces, it was almost a shock to hear the playful and energetic non legato in both clarinet and piano that cleansed the palette, so to speak.
Changing the order of the printed program, the next work we heard was the Tango Etude No. 3 for Solo Clarinet by Astor Piazolla. This was impressive virtuosity that confirmed once again, if we even needed confirmation, that Piazolla could combine the spirit of the tango spiced up with a feeling of Klezmer and blow us away with the result.
The next work was the USA premiere of “In Memory of Nesimi” by Redzhep Allayarov, another composer completely unknown to me. Nesimi, a 14th-century Azerbaijani or Turkmen Ḥurūfī poet, was a poet who was tortured by being skinned alive, but whose memory remains today as a powerful martyr. This work began with a powerful elegy on the piano joined by the clarinet with middle eastern sounding scales and intervals. It’s somber and agonizing effects held us spellbound up to the lingering quiet ending, which Emil suggested gave us hope for a better future.
The remaining two works on the program, Victor’s Tale for Clarinet and Piano by John Williams from the motion picture Terminal, starring Tom Hanks, and Alexander Rosenblatt’s Carmen Fantasy for Clarinet and Piano, gave us a spirit of uplifting fun after the seriousness of the work by Allayarov. John Williams prestige continues to grow as his works continue to inspire us with awe, and his Carmen Fantasy is right up there with Vladimir Horowitz’s work that did for the piano what Rosenblatt accomplished for the clarinet. Again we heard clarinet virtuosity combined with the spirit of Klezmer that gave us the feeling of being at a Jewish wedding. It was fantastic, and Nozomi’s piano performance was every bit as impressive as the clarinet playing. What a magnificent duo they represent.
There was one encore by Pangani with beautiful haunting melodies. Let’s hope the Emil and Nozomi Khudyev Duo will continue to come back every year with new treasures to share with us.