PLG Young Artists New Year Series – 3

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Aquilon Trio [Eulalie Charland (violin), Massimo Di Trolio (clarinet) & Maiko Mori (piano)]

Milos Karadaglic (guitar)

Dafydd Williams (violin) & Dominic John (piano)


Reviewed by: Edward Lewis

Reviewed: 9 January, 2007
Venue: Purcell Room, London

The concerts of the Park Lane Group’s inspiring New Year Series are, by necessity, going to involve contrasts – contrasts of ensemble, compositional style, performing approach and ability. And it is that one word – contrast – that kept occurring to me throughout the third pair of the PLG’s Purcell Room concerts.

In the second recital, there was, at one end of the spectrum, the fiery, swarthy Milos Karadaglic, whose performance of Leo Brouwer’s programmatic El Decameron Negro was simultaneously powerful and tender, and the more varied use of the instrument afforded by Judith Bingham’s Moonrise, as well as the ambiguous harmonies characteristic of her better known choral writing, seemed to hold as much intricate fascination for him as to us.

But after skilfully negotiating Howard Skempton’s Five Preludes, it was his concert-ending performance of Ginastera’s Sonata that embodied Karadaglic’s formidable talents. His combination of elegant poise and driven weight shone through the music in a delicately dazzling defiance of the laws of physics. This is a man who can reach the parts other guitarists can only dream of – letting his instrument truly sing in the graceful slow movement, and then dragging us back to Latino reality with wonderful brutality in the closing movement given with a rhythmic drive that can only have been hard-wired into his soul.

Fantastic contrasts. A contrast of a different nature was Adam Gorb’s Sonata, which Dafydd Williams and Dominic John opened with. Justified by the notion of contrast, we were bombarded with sections derivative of Bartók, interspersed with thin, unison sections – always a danger with just two performers in terms of ensemble and tuning, a danger which was at times all too apparent.

Elements of the music, if anything, lacked contrast, especially between the writing for the two instruments. Extended pizzicato sections became tiresomely lost in the piano accompaniment, and it would, of course, be crass of me to suggest that the beautifully played solo violin sections derived from any of Vaughan Williams’s works.

Williams’s violin-playing settled down for the tonally rich and quixotic One Charming Night by Rhian Samuel, but once again the contrasts inherent in Williams’s playing surfaced for Messiaen’s Theme and Variations. At times he played with a rewarding broadness of tone, but this pure sound occasionally strayed into a strained territory with some intonation issues marring rare bursts of passion. Contrasts – some good, some bad.

And it is contrasts, of course, that Aquilon seized on in the first of the concerts, most obviously in Bartók’s suggestively titled Contrasts. Any piece commissioned by Josef Szigeti and Benny Goodman hardly requires a programme note explaining “Contrasts is a study in contrasts…”! The playing was strong and atmospheric, as it was in Timothy Slater’s obviously flexible Shadows I. Aquilon’s entertaining, and mask-enhanced, performance of Thea Musgrave’s highly inventive Pierrot gave this cohesively talented ensemble a fine opportunity to demonstrate the range and diversity of their absorbing playing. Contrasts.

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