You write the reviews: Natalie Clein, Mansion House, Doncaster

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The Independent Culture

You know you've been in the presence of greatness" was the judgement of one audience member at this concert, part of Doncaster's Hothouse arts festival. It wasn't necessary to be a classical-music fan to appreciate the musical excellence of this evening, or to know that Natalie Clein won the BBC Young Musician of the Year at the age of 16 in 1994 and the Classical Brit Award for Young British Performer in 2005.

In the intimate and sumptuous splendour of Doncaster's 18th-century Mansion House, the 30-year-old from Bournemouth, modestly clad and smiling warmly, kept everyone's focus on the music (unlike those sizzlingly sexy promotional shots, de rigueur nowadays for the marketing of young classical players) in a colourful and invigorating performance.

Bach pieces bookended stunning virtuosic playing in her performance of Kodaly's Sonata. Clein relished the array of technical complexities in the Kodaly, which swept the audience along in a series of thrills and surprises. Eastern European folk rhythms recalled Elgar, Bartok, Shostakovich, and even the Irish piper Finbar Furey when he's strangling his instrument. Notes soared to squealing, violin-like heights, Clein creating sounds so tortured that it took an interval visit to the quaint and quirkily lavish toilets to recover one's emotional equilibrium.

Not for long, though. We were stunned afresh in the second half by a piece entitled New Commission, an improvisation with the composer Simon Fisher Turner that featured a mix of recorded sounds collected over the past few days. These included ringing notes coaxed by Clein's bow from one of the crystal chandeliers dangling over our heads. The ghost of Benjamin Franklin, the inventor of the glass armonica, must have hovered low as the pulsing ebb and flow of the piece achieved moments of painful beauty, rivalling those in the Kodaly. It worked a treat.

Britten's Cello Suite No 3, written specially for the great Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, was left until the end. It is full of Russian elements, and you'd think that this Britten piece had enough melody, flow and poignancy to placate those who think of his work as somewhat cartoony. All the same, ending on New Commission would have been a bigger wow.

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