PLG Young Artists, Purcell Room (4/5, 3/5)


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The Independent Culture

Where would we be without the Park Lane Group’s annual platform for budding musical talent?

Look at the list of performers and composers it has launched, and you’re looking at the history of fifty years of British music. Its canny move centre-stage at a time when other classical companies are in hibernation ensures it gets attention, and this year’s innovation of composer-led evenings doubles the appeal. First up – who else? – was Tom Ades, presiding over a master-class on his ‘Traced Overhead’, followed by an evening of works by him and his chosen composers.

And there the spotlight fell on some outstanding young players: flautist Rosanna Ter-Berg, pianist Leo Nicholson, and the Muse Piano Quintet, whose own pianist took the breath away. Even if you didn’t know her name, you’d guess her provenance: the ferocity of Yulia Vorontsova’s attack, and her intensely disciplined sweetness, could only have emanated from Moscow.

First Ter-Berg and Nicholson zapped us with Jolivet’s ‘Chant de Linos’, a test-piece for flute examinations with dizzy virtuosic requirements. They followed this with Edwin Roxburgh’s oddly-named ‘Flute Music with an Accompaniment for Flute and Piano’ and David Matthews’s ‘Duet Variations’: in the former Ter-Berg extracted shakuhachi-style harmonics from her instrument, and in the latter she drew out the tensile strength in the musical lines; ending with Patrick Nunn’s three-minute piccolo solo ‘Sprite’, she made a theatrical exit.

Meanwhile the Muse quintet brought out the muscular playfulness of Gerald Barry’s ‘Piano Quartet No 1’ and dealt brilliantly with Ades’s ‘Piano Quintet’. This intricately-layered work has a surprisingly traditional structure, with a sonata-style repeat including a few bars which might have been by Brahms, but its thematic transformations become ever more adventurous, leaving joyful tintinnabulations in the mind. 

The young stars of the concert curated by composer John McCabe were Olga Stezhko, a pianist from Minsk, and clarinettist Harry Cameron-Penny with his pianist Jonathan Musgrave. Stezhko made luminous sense of Prokofiev’s dour Piano Sonata No 4, and brought more authority to a McCabe study and to Emily Howard’s tricksy ‘Sky and Water’ than they deserved. Meanwhile Cameron-Penny and Musgrave displayed singular virtuosity in the four works they had chosen, but these too weren’t worth the trouble. By all means give us new – or newish – works, but not from the bottom drawer.