Anna Menzies (cello) & Prach Boondiskulchok (piano)
Diana Galvydyte (violin) & Christopher Guild (piano)
Reviewed by: Andrew Morris
Reviewed: 10 January, 2012
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Purcell Room
A new year and a change of format for the Park Lane Group’s January showcase of young talent: concentrating the evening’s music making into one concert rather than two seems like a good arrangement, preceded by conversations and masterclasses. Four musicians featured in this second night of typically adventurous programming. With two extremely fine string players and accomplished pianists the musical riches were in plentiful supply.
Throughout the week a ‘Frontline’ composer is chosen. Anthony Payne was here celebrated with two works for violin and piano, both conceptually intriguing if not uniformly appealing. Footfalls in the Memory (1998) grew out of a previous piece, Footfalls Echo (1978), the composer now pursuing paths that had gone undeveloped in the earlier work. In his programme note, Payne discussed resonances with T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets and their poetic notions of time and exploration; very intriguing, but hard to discern in practice. The scheme of Payne’s Of Knots and Skeins (2002) was much more readily apparent with an initial knotty tangle being organised into lyrical and sparingly textured music that ultimately unravels as though the end of the yarn has been found. Diana Galvydyte and Christopher Guild were more than equal to the music’s demands and, in the second work, their delicacy helped elucidate the underlying ideas.
Galvydyte’s abilities were even more apparent in two works for unaccompanied violin. Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Lachen Varient (2002) was perhaps the best piece of the evening; a slowly spiralling and swirling drama which suddenly vaporises under the mounting pressure. Thomas Oehler’s The Great Refusal (2009-10) is a forthright statement of “the struggle for the ultimate form of freedom – to live without anxiety”; a noble ideal, but a piece sounding – and looking – quite uncomfortable to play. It posed more problems for Galvydyte than Salonen’s piece did, but her finest playing was silken without lacking passion and her repertoire of colour and touch was extraordinary.
Cellist Anna Menzies’s playing was distinguished by purity of intonation and weight of tone. She and pianist Prach Boondiskulchok included the world premiere of Steven Jackson’s Zephyr Not to Dance on the Shoes (2011; PLG commission), captivating music of wondering lines characterised by an air of introverted distraction, apparently inspired by the relief felt by the composer after the success of a dance project he been involved with. The first performance of Philip Dawson’s Neither From Nor Towards (another PLG commission) proved an altogether more astringent duet, this time for prepared piano with a cello exploring the limits of pitched sound. Eliot was again a reference point, this time supporting a concept setting the violence of past events with the stasis of objects motionless in time. Most striking was the listless and depressed conclusion, reaching an effective final gesture, with Menzies’s bow drawn across her cello strings to produce an airy and hollow sound suggesting, perhaps, the empty ambivalence of time’s inevitable progression.
Menzies and Boondiskulchok finished the concert with Frank Bridge’s Cello Sonata (1913-17), an outpouring of lyrical ardour tinged with despair. The language of the work is some way from the hardened edges of his later Oration (for cello and orchestra), but he still surprises with an unconventional but effective two-movement structure which offers the tantalising prospect of a suddenly triumphant finale, only to pull it away for something truer to the work’s overall tone. Menzies’s dark sound was particularly suited to the lyricism of the Adagio and both players excelled at the darting changes of Bridge’s direction.