10th-Anniversary Concert of the Loveland Gift

Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op.37 – III: Finale
Così fan tutte – Per pieta
Horae (pro Clara) – Auge; Anatolia
Études, Op.42 – No.5 in C sharp minor
Cello Concerto in B minor Op.104 – III: Finale
Poulenc, orchestrated Lennox Berkeley
Sonata for Flute and Piano – I: Allegro malinconio & III: Presto giocoso
Première Rhapsodie
Nocturnes, Op.9 – No.3 in B
Miroirs – Alborado del gracioso
Rory Boyle
Piano Concerto No.2 in F, Op.102 – II: Andante & III: Allegro

Kodo Osada (piano)
Clare Hammond (pianists)
Fraser Langton (clarinet)
Rosanna Ter-Berg (flute)
Liubov Ulybysheva (cello)
Yulia Vorontsova (piano)
Camilla Roberts (soprano)
Mishka Rushdie Momen (piano)

Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama Chamber Orchestra
Sir Richard Armstrong

Reviewed by: Rian Evans

Reviewed: 17 November, 2012
Venue: Dora Stoutzker Hall, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff

Sir Richard ArmstrongSpotting rising talent, and doing what he could to encourage it, was a particular interest of music critic Kenneth Loveland. After Loveland’s death in 1998, his widow, together with friends and musicians, inaugurated an award in his memory, to help support young musicians. This concert was a celebration of ten years since the first such Gift was made and, in the best sense, a vindication. Celebratory or gala evenings are notoriously difficult to programme, the basic requirement being to fit everyone in. What was pleasurable here was the careful balance of established repertoire and new music, with eight Loveland Gift winners variously presenting solo works and concerto-movements, the latter conducted by Sir Richard Armstrong, no less.

Kodo Osada’s crisply poised account of the finale of Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto was an admirable opener. His highly musical sensibilities were much in evidence, so too his ability to reflect the different emotional tenor of successive episodes. Osada proved an insightful accompanist in clarinettist Fraser Langton’s playing of Debussy. The piece emerged vividly, with Langton displaying some lovely silken tone. But his character and versatility came to the fore in music he had commissioned from Rory Boyle, Burble being a veritable box-of-technical-tricks, here strikingly delivered.

Another winner who chose new music was Clare Hammond. Kenneth Hesketh’s Horae (pro Clara) is named for the twelve goddesses of Greek mythology who personified the hours between sunrise and sunset. Of the sequence of pieces written – as the title suggests – especially for her, Hammond played ‘Auge’ (daybreak) and ‘Anatolia’ (dawn). She found a crystalline beauty in the figurations of the former and brought out the latter’s contrasts of colouring and texture with much flair. In the Scriabin, her phrasing of the wave-upon-wave of invention had the requisite sweep, and she captured too the frenetic, breathless, quality that marking of marking ‘affannato’ demands.

Rosanna Ter-Berg’s played Poulenc’s Flute Sonata not as written, for flute and piano, but in his friend Lennox Berkeley’s orchestration. (Berkeley was a one-time teacher of Rory Boyle.) Ter-Berg is the real thing. Her sound is vibrant and, as well as revelling in the long arcs of melody, her playing had verve and, crucial in Poulenc, wit. Two Russian recipients of the Loveland Gift, Liubov Ulybysheva and Yulia Vorontsova made very accomplished appearances. Ulybysheva’s most emotive playing came high on the ‘A’-string in the coda of the finale of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto, perhaps not such a big deal in the small-scale Dora Stoutzker Hall, but so utterly secure as to signal her readiness for larger venues. Vorontsova was totally immersed in the spirit and character of the two movements from Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto and, with her sparkling technique, she underlined just what an excellent choice this was, warmly lyrical in the Andante and optimistic and fizzing in the finale.

In 2002, Camilla Roberts was the first recipient of the Gift. Representing Wales in the 2005 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World is just one of the various landmarks in her career since then. ‘Per pietà’ from Così fan tutte showed just how her voice has developed, with a confidence and assurance to match. Yet it was the recipient of the 2012 award, Mishka Rushdie Momen, whose performance suggests we’ll be hearing the most from her. Aged just 20 she played with remarkable grace and finesse. The Chopin had a limpid tone, glistening passagework and exquisite colouring but, most impressive of all, was the way she used the acoustic to create an intimacy which meant that we were involved in every note. Her Ravel was also thoroughly idiomatic and stylish.

Plaudits too for the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama Chamber Orchestra, its members responding admirably to Richard Armstrong’s direction. It was very much his mix of sensitivity and authority that made the concerto snippets such good listening. Kenneth Loveland would have been pleased and rather moved.

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