Reviewed by: William Yeoman
Reviewed: 11 January, 2005
Venue: Purcell Room, London
Geoffrey Poole’s The Impersonal Touch, a 1995 PLG commission, began the Yukawa/Chan duo’s recital in fine style, with the work’s argument between two very different musical personalities (one flowing and Minimalist, the other jagged and Expressionist) reaching a febrile intensity before tapering off following a sparkling conciliatory dialogue. By contrast, Kenneth Hesketh’s short works, Netsuke Fragments I & II, presented often densely textured and sparkling miniatures after Netsuke, small and intricately carved toggles traditionally used by the Japanese to attach pouch-cords to kimono sashes. These were followed by Anthony Power’s lively and cohesive short work, Flyer (here given its London première), Detlev Glanert’s surprisingly rhapsodic Enigmatic Landscape and György Ligeti’s Three Pieces for Two Pianos. The Ligeti are quite substantial, and all display his tactile approach to keyboard writing, the logical hand-shapes and finger-patterns reflected in the motifs and larger units. The first propels accented chords through a long stretto into the upper register of the piano; the second, ‘Self-Portrait’, is an obsessive moto perpetuo; the third’s bell-like opening lifts like a mysterious curtain to reveal fractious melodies and the ghost of a chorale prelude sliding towards a climax which finally melts into pianissimo chords. Yukawa and Chan seemed very well matched both technically and tonally, and comfortable with the variety of contemporary idioms they tackled.
Violinist Ning Kam, with Daniel Becker, opened with the UK première of Paul Moravec’s busy and mischievous Ariel Fantasy, immediately setting the tone for the rest of their contribution with impassioned, yet relaxed playing and a sense of abandon. This was equally evident in Lutoslawski’s Partita, with the many lyrical passages, fluttering figures, rhetorical outbursts and beautiful violin soliloquies confidently and convincingly drawn.
Flautist Daniel Parkin and pianist Lindy Tennent-Brown then played the tuneful recitatives and swelling, ecstatic trills of Australian composer Anne Boyd’s Bali Mood No.1. Lowell Liebermann’s two-movement Sonata (Op.23) came next, flooding the auditorium with dark tones, rapid divisions, imprecations and precipitous, virtuosic passages, throughout which Parkin skilfully blended the tonal variety of his flute with Tennent-Brown’s imaginative piano work.
Following the interval came another Anne Boyd piece, Goldfish through Summer Rain, before which Parkin recited the poem that inspired this evocative bit of ‘Japonisme’. Debussy-like sprinklings from the piano offset Parkin’s flute, which was miraculously transformed into a shakuhachi. Then it was back to America for Aaron Copland’s Duo, which piece’s opening intervals, recalling Fanfare for the Common Man, meandered through simple folk-like tunes and a sparse slow movement before exploding into an exuberant dance.
Kam and Becker then returned to reclaim the stage with James Olsen’s whimsical The Eight-Legged Altar Attendant’, based on a passage from Ted Hughes’s “Tales of Ovid”, which refers to the Gods of Mount Olympus lamenting the loss of humankind and horrified at being left with empty temples inhabited only by spiders. This portrait of a spider, with some wonderful harmonics, pizzicatos and trills ornamenting a great deal of scurrying and leaping about, was followed by the final piece for the evening, John Adams’s Road Movies for violin and piano, a great work where a typically minimalist first movement is pushed gently aside by a bluesy meditation on landscape which in turn makes way for a frenetic, swinging “perpetual-motion machine” called ‘40% swing’. Of course Kam and Becker acquitted themselves very well indeed here, as they had all night, triggering very healthy applause from the audience and bringing to an end an entertaining evening from some of Britain’s finest up and coming musicians.