Youthful exuberance achieves stunning results, as the second concert of the Curious Flights season demonstrated Tuesday night at the San Francisco Conservatory. Both the composer (a young Benjamin Britten) and the performers (most recent grads from the conservatory) displayed a talent beyond their years. Even the presenting organization, Curious Flights is in its inaugural season, a series of performances designed to highlight new and rarely-performed works. This time, it featured exclusively music from Benjamin Britten. Now, to find music from Britten that is hardly performed during the 100th anniversary of his birth, Curious Flights' artistic director Brenden Guy had to look back into some very early works Britten wrote while still a student; and had to unearth a clarinet concerto that Britten never completed.
Britten wrote a cute wind sextet as a teenager, and Valinor Winds opened the concert with a clear and bright performance. Britten added a bass clarinet to the typical wind quintet (flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon) and showed already a sure hand in the orchestration. The textures keep varying, the instruments all dialogue together, giving some oscillations to the bass clarinet or the bassoon underneath melodic lines to the flute and oboe. It's not tonal, but it's not jarringly atonal either, more like early Schoenberg.