IoS classical review: Ligeti Quartet, St James's, Piccadilly, London
The English Concert, Christ Church, Spitalfields, London

Young artists spread the joy – but how long can it last?

One of the best British composers most Britons had not heard of, Jonathan Harvey, left a vast catalogue of work when he died earlier this month. But viewers of the fly-on-the-wall documentary Westminster Abbey on BBC2, which on Friday ended its inspection of the institution almost entirely through the prism of its choir, heard Harvey's Missa Brevis being sung – and shouted. This mix of song and speech was typical of the composer whose scoring reached far beyond the conventional.

Harvey's highly spiritual, all-encompassing and iridescent writing incorporated, from an early stage, electronic sound and, in homage to Messiaen, birdsong – hear his captivating Bird Concerto with Pianosong with orioles and buntings. The Barbican staged a well-timed Harvey weekend at the beginning of the year, and last week his Second String Quartet opened a captivating recital in London by the Ligeti Quartet at St James's, Piccadilly, courtesy of the Park Lane Group, which encourages rising artists.

Harvey wrote four quartets over three decades and this second was fruitful terrain for these accomplished young players who stretched and wound the membrane of sound in this questing and intricate piece, scudding through harmonics with chattering bows. The young composer Christian Mason, whose witty, gleaming arrangement of Huang Hai-Huai's Racing Horses galloped home in five minutes flat, must be just the sort of musical successor that Harvey would have hoped for. Ligeti's String Quartet No 2 with its ticking, swarming and bow-shredding explorations resolving on a single cobweb thread closed this impressive recital: the quartet make their Southbank debut next month, when Harvey is a Park Lane Group featured composer.

Laurence Cummings, conducting from the keyboard at Christ Church Spitalfields, demonstrated a gift for choosing the right soloist from the ranks of the Choir of The English Concert. In Bach's Advent Cantata BWV 36 Natalie Clifton-Griffith's unforceful soprano gave credibility to "Auch mit gedämpften, schwachen Stimmen …." ("Even with subdued weak voices God's majesty is honoured"). And in Bach's Magnificat, tenor Nick Pritchard's bristling "Deposuit potentes …." ("He has put down the mighty from their seats ….") was scathing enough to make the powerful blush, as it should. A more pertinent or musical reading of either piece would be hard to find. Corelli's frosted Concerto Grosso in G minor and a small helping of Bach's Christmas Oratorio filled this musical Christmas stocking, which can be opened on Radio 3's Listen Again until tomorrow.

Later, fundraisers waggled plastic pails at the west door, hoping to tap the happy Spitalfields Festival audience as it left. The fixture's year-round mission helps 30,000 local residents, particularly children, come into contact with the sort of music that would otherwise not enter their lives, and that costs money, little of which comes from the public purse.

No such problem in St Petersburg, where, as Valery Gergiev confirmed in London on Tuesday, the new £400m Mariinsky II will open in May with one of its several performing spaces dedicated to visiting children. As the conductor and artistic director said, "Tourists and musical-lovers will be there anyway. But investing in the future is a big step."

With music booted into the long grass of the national curriculum and out of Michael Gove's Ebacc, despite its life-changing powers and the wealth that the music industry brings to the Exchequer, if the next generation of Park Lane Group artists is to come from the widest possible background, Britain is going to need an awful lot of buckets.

Critic's Choice

Actor Dominic West joins pianist Lucy Parham for Rêverie: The Life and Loves of Claude Debussy at the end of a year marking the 150th anniversary of the composer's birth. The Wigmore Hall, London, recital includes insights into Debussy's life in his own words, with pieces from the Etudes and Préludes (Sun 30 Dec).

Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Arts and Entertainment
U2's Songs of Innocence album sleeve

tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men

Arts and Entertainment
Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
tvReview: Alison Steadman stars in Inside No.9's brilliant series finale Spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk