In a fairly small recital room off the courtyard at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich - the home of Trinity College of Music and the thriving harp department of Gabriella Dall'Olio - Claire Iselin magically teleported her audience to a peaceful, exotic oasis with her harp playing. Her programme was crafted to display a wide variety of styles, each one brilliantly executed with real commitment to the style: she had the whole audience with her throughout the concert.

Claire, who started learning the harp in her native France at the age of six, is a very stylish player who is unafraid to interpret the music in a very personal and often intimate way. I understand that this is typical of a French musician, but Claire is not a 'typical' musician in any sense - she is an exceptional young artist. Her thoughtful and focused playing drew the audience in, from the opening of her first piece, Prelude to the Cantos de Espana by Albeniz, to the final flourish of Ravel's Introduction, Cadenza and Allegro.

We really enjoyed the excerpts from The Crown of Ariadne, by Schafer, for harp and percussion - all the instruments were deftly handled by Claire and her technique and precision at the harp shone out, even despite the added (but wonderful!) distraction of a dancer. Audrey Rogero, contemporary dancer from Laban, which is affiliated with TCM, did a beautiful job of complimenting the music as she noiselessly swooped around the room, becoming first the essence of Ariadne's delicate and sensual dance, then the spirit of Dance of the Bull and finally, the Dance of the Night Insects. It was all suggetive rather than intensely characterised, which worked well as a compliment to the music. As Claire performed this part of the music from the side of the stage, on a pre-prepared Salvi Apollo that was surrounded by the necessary percussion instruments, I was particularly happy that Audrey's dancing was in the foreground as I couldn't see Claire very well at that point, so it was very entertaining to watch and experience the music in this new way. (I should make it clear that in the score of the music, Schafer adds choreographic suggestions for the harpist to interpret her/himself, mainly using the arms and the effect of having instruments on either side of the harp, but Claire has taken this one step further by inviting Audrey to choreograph an actual dance to it, which is not suggested in the score but a very nice idea.)

The third item in the programme was, for me, the highlight. Claire's 'The Moldau' by Smetana didn't have me yearning to hear the full orchestral version for even a second. She coloured this music precisely, often very delicately and with a wonderful sense of direction throughout the piece. The resounding fortissimo section of this piece (coming somewhere between two-thirds of the way through and the ending, I think) was particularly memorable to due Claire's sense of timing, and her giving wonderful definition and shape to the bass-line. This allowed us space as we listened, to journey with her and share in the excitement of the music building and reaching a tremendous climax. This is no mean feat as a harpist, a fact that was obviously appreciated by the harpist-filled audience in the tumultuous applause at the end of this piece.

Claire closed her recital with Ravel's Introduction and Allegro for harp with the accompaniment of string quartet, flute and clarinet. Particularly impressive in this piece was the way Claire seamlessly joined with the dynamic of the accompanying Billroth Ensemble, showing her to be a really strong chamber musician. There was some really exquisite phrasing and finely honed shapes that she created both within the dynamic of the ensemble and projecting above it as the soloist. My favourite moment was when the excellent clarinettist Daniel Broncano created a pianissimo (pianissississississimo really!) to mark the start of an echo phrase that was beautifully matched by the ensemble: Claire couldn't help but smile spontaneously at that moment, which was a real joy for the audience as well as the players.

If I had to give a small piece of advice (not that anyone has asked me to!!!) I would suggest that when playing harmonics with the thumb, one can be free to move the thumb as if playing it independently on a full-length string. Regardless of the string being reduced to half its original length by the creation of the harmonic, it actually then becomes a new complete string in itself and can be played as such.

All that remains to be said is that Claire Iselin is a wonderful musician and I wish her very well indeed for her career, which has surely got off to a magnificent start already. I will be going to her concerts whenever I can!

Highly Strung x