Contemporary music played by Park Lane Group Young Artists
PLG Young Artists 1
Monday, January 10, 2005 Purcell Room, London
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
A year short of its half-century, the Park Lane Groups week-long, 10-concert series of young musicians and contemporary music is with us again.
The first night brought some outstanding talent, the early-evening slot (6 p.m.) taken by the Elysian String Quartet (from Trinity College of Music). Aurelio Tellos Dansaq II (UK premiere) proved pretty inconsequential in its Peruvian folklore-isms but introduced four musicians of verve and confidence, cellist Laura Moody suggesting that she is the rock of the group (compare Bernard Gregor-Smith of The Lindsays). Phillip Neil Martin explored some acerbic musical processes in An Outburst of Time (London premiere) and Dai Fujikura (one of the featured composers this year) went for some grating timbres that added nothing to very little but at least Midnight All Day only lasted three minutes before escaping into the ether.
The highpoint of the Elysians recital was Stephen Montagues String Quartet No.1: In Memoriam. For amplified string quartet, live electronics and CD, this 25-minute piece held the attention with some imaginative interaction between the forces and grew from an almost sound-less beginning to the closing disembodied elegy via an accelerating train impression (could it be anything else?) and textural activity that brought seemingly disparate elements to integral synchronicity. Tom Gisbey was in charge of what seemed perfectly co-ordinated electronics.
The main concert was for bassoon and piano, and for piano solo. The latter was Alissa Firsova (daughter of Dmitri Smirnov and Elena Firsova). She included her fathers String of Destiny (Sonata No.4), nebulous and pre-ejaculatory, and made a mistake in playing her own The Endless Corridor immediately afterwards, which went through similar designs. Both works seemed over-pedalled, so too Schnittkes Improvisation and Fugue, of which the Improvisation is jazzy and unpredictable.
Firsovas technical ease and her poise are striking. She is impressive, and imaginative, and gave an account of Michael Tippetts Sonata No.1 that was individual and thought-provoking, if occasionally pedantic. (Tippetts four piano sonatas are being heard during this Young Artists week.) Firsova, despite that clouding sustaining pedal, found the Beethovenian link both grandly and diversely in the first movement variations and opened up the slow movement very movingly. Although she was at one with the musics strength and beauty, not least in the Presto third movement, and dealt nonchalantly with technical difficulties, she rather lost the simplicity of the giocoso finale, pulling it a little out of shape. But she wasnt shy of linking the movement to Gershwin, a composer that Tippett much admired, and her belief in the music was encouraging.
Bassoonist Adam Mackenzie and pianist Lefki Karpodini worked well together without quite becoming a duo-partnership; she was just a little too self-effacing and ended up more as an accompanist. He, though, is a big personality and was able to take his chosen pieces to that all-important somewhere. He had one semi-dud piece, Philippe Hersants Niggun, a bassoon solo, attractively lullaby-like but the extended techniques rather scarred the song to little purpose.
Otherwise, Mackenzie played superbly two recent gems for bassoon (and piano!) by British masters, John Casken and Anthony Payne. The formers Blue Medusa is lyrical, highly-charged, suggestive and idiomatically written; while Paynes The Enchantress Plays is more hermetic if spellbound, its elaboration and ecstasy beautifully calculated. André Previns Sonata for bassoon and piano (1999) ended the first evening on a high typically, the three pithy movements are witty, inventive and resourceful; the opening movement captivates, the second is a doleful waltz and seems to end as the Rite begins right up there! and the finale is of rhythmic side-slips and bluff humour. Mackenzie enjoyed himself and Karpodini matched all the ingenuity that Previn includes for his own instrument.
A fine start to what should be an eventful week.