Cincinnati Symphony principal clarinetist Richard Hawley was one of the best reasons to drop by Corbett Auditorium at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music on Tuesday evening.
The others were violinist/conductor Jaime Laredo and members of the CSO, who opened the third season of "Bach and Beyond," the CSO's popular chamber orchestra series.
Bach wasn't on the program (that's next week), but Haydn and Mozart filled in nicely.
Laredo, founding conductor and distinguished artist for the series, performed and conducted Haydn's Violin Concerto in C Major.
Hawley was soloist in Mozart's Clarinet Concerto.
Filling out the 18th-century program were Mozart's Serenade in D Major, K.239 ("Serenata notturna") and Haydn's Symphony No. 68.
An impeccable performer whose playing is always eagerly anticipated on CSO concerts, Hawley paid full homage to Mozart's great concerto. From the merest sliver of tone to full-blown melody, he filled eachbar with consummate artistry.
His ability to turn ebony into gold -- to impose his will on the instrument and make it sing -- was evident throughout, from rapid passages to the hushed return of the opening theme in the serene Adagio.
It was fun to watch Hawley, too, as he attended to the clarinet's "plumbing" i.e. blowing through the mouthpiece to clear it of moisture and drawing a swab through the body of the instrument between movements.