When I spoke to clarinettist Sharon Kam before her EIF recital, she talked about the "jokes" in Lutosławski's Dance Preludes. Sure enough, as she punctuates accents with a raised eyebrow at us, it's easy to see what she means.
Similarly, when Françaix's Tema con Variazioni breaks into a jazzy compound time, Kam – an animated performer in general – breaks out the moves, swinging her hips, eyes on the audience. This is chamber performance at some of its best: engaging and communicative. If there's a disappointment this morning, it's that there's no opportunity given for so much as a word of introduction. Sure, there's something to be said for the music doing the talking, but it feels odd that a performer as charismatic as Kam wouldn't at least say hi.
Kam's playing is wonderful, and she plays with an distinctively physical attack. At times, technically, she overblows, but to delightful, passionate effect – and it's clear in pieces such as Lutosławski's Sonatina how at home and expressive she is with extended technique. Elsewhere, such as in the Brahms Sonata, her tone is delicate as filigree, and her control in some of the complex, quiet passages is thrilling. As she swings the bell of the clarinet towards us, her painting of tone takes on additional dimensions.
Accompanist Enrico Pace is superb throughout. But if there's a highlight it's in the ensemble work in Berg's complex, alienating Vier Stücke. An unfamiliar tonal and rythmical world is made human by the careful, glacial passing of theme and silence back and forth between the pair.
Sharon Kam & Enrico Pace performed at The Queen's Hall, Edinburgh on 11 August 2022, run ended.