Saturday, 20 October 2012

Natalie Clien

It is just as likely in the modern age we live in for a musician to turn up on stage armed with a microphone and an Apple Mac. It is comforting to me as I race toward my dotage to finally appreciate things in life that once I may have mocked. Agatha Christie, P.G. Wodehouse, a glass of port and the ability for a woman to arrive on stage accompanied by nothing more than a cello. Natalie Clein is such a woman.

I am not for a minute anti-technology, quite the opposite in fact, but the ability to pick up an instrument and play it is something extraordinary and even though programming a PC is a skill in its own right it doesn’t have the same emotional connection or impact as far as I am concerned.

Natalie Clein is not just a cellist, she is one of a rare breed of musicians who start young then flower with maturity. It was after winning the prestigious BBC Young Musician of the Year award in 1994 that the world stood up to pay attention. Her playing of Elgar’s Cello concerto was remarkable and drew, as any female cellist comes to expect, comparison with the immaculate Jacqueline du Pré.

Female talent born in Dorset seems to be de rigueur these days with Polly Jean Harvey being another famous musician hailing from Thomas Hardy’s Wessex. The comparisons between the two are obvious as are their differences - both hugely talented with one self-taught while the other was formally trained. Natalie started playing the cello at the age of six before going on to study with Anna Shuttleworth and Alexander Baillie at the Royal College of Music where she was bestowed with the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Scholarship. She also studied with the highly respected Heinrich Schiff in Vienna.

Her performance of Haydn’s Cello Concerto at The Proms in August 1997 captured the audience’s attention with its potent mix of passion, skill and lightness of touch. Since then Natalie has gone on to make some sublime recordings most notably of that poison chalice of pieces the aforementioned Cello Concerto by Edward Elgar. Jacqueline du Pré may, and rightly so, have shaped the piece in her own image but Natalie Clein received some high praise from much-regarded sources. Here is what Charlotte Gardener of BBC had to say about Natalie’s 2007 recording:

So, the recording is good, but does it give us a sufficiently different take on the work to warrant us dipping into our pockets for it? In a word, yes. There have been other marvellous post-du Pré renditions of Elgar’s concerto, notably Julian Lloyd Webber’s, but Klein's playing has an especially warm tone and smooth phrasing; her cello treats each note with the same love, and these qualities make hers a particularly unique interpretation. Elgar’s sense of loss is conveyed powerfully under her fingers, but with a gentleness that du Pré’s tempestuous-to-the-point-of-rough delivery never gave.

Such high praise and richly deserved too.

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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