Classical Young Artist Series / Park Lane Group Purcell Room, London

`The week-long programme, which unites talented young performers with music of this century, can resemble a bran tub: sometimes you strike lucky and sometimes you don't'
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The Independent Culture
The two primly dressed young ladies, late of the St Petersburg Conservatory, may not look like the Labeques, but in style and technique these two pianists are as hot as two nuclear rods. Their all-too-short recital cropped up in the middle of the Park Lane Group's annual Young Artist Series - a week-long programme that unites talented young performers with music of this century. It's now in its 40th year.

The series can resemble a bran tub: sometimes you strike lucky and sometimes you don't. My first concert was a hit: the pianists, Yana Polyanovskaya and Irina Feoktistova, both born in 1971, performed together like Siamese twins. Schnittke's delightful tongue-in-cheek "Gogol Suite" was commissioned by Yuri Lubimov in 1976 for a Gogol "spectacular" at the Moscow Taganka Theatre. The eight short movements (played impressively by heart) are "classic" polystylistic confections - "wrong note" Mozart leading seamlessly to "wrong note" Tchaikovsky. Their dead-pan delivery was masterly.

Geoffrey Poole's "The Impersonal Touch" couldn't have had a more personal premiere, delicate filigree weaving breathtakingly articulated, even if the two girls may have mistaken stylistically Poole's minimalism for Bartok.

Rachmaninov's Suite No 2, a full-blooded brother of the Second Piano Concerto, was a welcome cheat in PLG programming - it was written in 1900. But what a vehicle for the two to display their stunning technique and varied colours.

That day's later concert brought another artist of great promise: the violinist Katherine Gowers. Her confident delivery and finely focused sound deliciously underlined unlikely similarities between Polish and American works: slithering microtones in Lutoslawski (his Partita) and slithery "blues" in William Bolcom. In the same concert, the Italian- born pianist, Lorenzo Marasso, tackled works by Paul Patterson, Paul Robinson, Nimrod Borenstein and James MacMillan. Marasso's playing is full and expressive. In the MacMillan Sonata, he responded well to its overt emotion, bringing an improvisary brilliance to post-Debussian colours.

The next day's early evening concert was a case of far too much equalling far too little: fortunately, even more people managed to miss this concert. The Australian pianist Sherelle Eyles played seven pieces in a style so monochrome that Messiaen, Benjamin (George), Sculthorpe and Frank Martin all seemed chips off the same block. The later concert quirkily juxtaposed guitar and recorder - hardly two instruments for which much rivetting music has been written. But Naomi Graham is a natural performer, who calmly shoves not one but two recorders into her mouth while simultaneously singing and whacking a tam-tam.

Dutch humour surfaced in two pieces by Louis Andriessen; "Ende", which again demanded two recorders, and "Sweet", which wickedly sneaked "rap" into the proceedings. The Greek guitarist, Dimitris Dimakopoulos chose sombre repertory - Timothy Walker, Leo Brouwer, David Bedford and Ginastera - delivered sombrely. His encore by Astor Piazolla revealed that seductiveness is really not part of his make-up. A pity.

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