Kings Place Opening Festival, Kings Place, London
Varjak Paw, Linbury Studio, London

They've got a shiny new platform at King's Cross, but the controller missed some points

Does London really need two new venues for chamber music? A glamorous curve of glass in the wind-whipped wasteland north of King's Cross, Peter Millican's languidly beautiful, privately financed, multi-purpose Kings Place seems as improbable in these make-do-and-mend times as Butler's Wharf did in the early 1990s. Though the pimps and prostitutes have moved on, York Way has yet to attract the cafés and shops of the South Bank. And should the regeneration of the surrounding area stall, few will relish the lonely 150 metres from London's unloveliest station to a spot better known for kerb-crawling than culture.

Phenomenon or folly, Hall One of Kings Place looks fabulous in gleaming blond wood and Gustavian blue. The veneer on its walls and 420 seats came from one tree, known to those who grew up in its shade as the Contessa – which is a little like being told that the bacon in your sandwich was once called Doris. Cocooned from the noise of traffic and trains, though not the hammers of the builders upstairs, the acoustic is brilliant, immediate, sometimes cruel in its clarity. Faults and foibles are magnified, small details of interpretive genius spotlit. Sadly, these last were passing few in the first day of the opening festival, which showed that no matter how ground-breaking the concept, an experienced artistic directors are worth their weight in 500-year-old oak.

Hiccups are inevitable in any new venue, but several of Wednesday's blips could have been foreseen. In the atrium, the sly subdivisions and cross rhythms of the 100 metronomes of Ligeti's Poème Symphonique were lost amid the high heels and greetings. Stephen Stirling's performance of Martin Butler's elegy for solo horn, Hunding, interrupted the Ligeti and was interrupted in turn by announcements that the first concert was about to begin. This too was interrupted, by hammering that provided counterpoint to Melinda Maxwell's premiere of Simon Holt's interrogative toccata for solo oboe, Disparate.

A poised account of Jo Kondo's Birthday Hocket was followed by Castiglione's splenetic Intonazione and Bartok's jazz-influenced Contrasts, sensationally played by the Endymion's clarinettist, Mark Van Der Wiel. York Bowen's Piano Trio in E minor was an unexpected Straussian treat, but this bran tub of famous modernists and obscure Romantics was not an obvious way to attract an audience. That the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and London Sinfonietta were only involved later in the week was a tactical error, and the Duke Quartet's performance of Steve Reich's Different Trains in Hall Two was appalling.

The friends in Iain Burnside and Friends' three recitals were, with the exception of Roderick Williams, just starting out. Though Fleur Wyn, Ben Johnson and Gary Griffiths' performance of Schubert's Wandrers Nachtlied II was touching, I longed to hear voices equal to Burnside's playing. This came much later, in Sophie Bevan's exquisite account of Haydn's "Wie wallet mein Herze von zärtlichen Trieben" (from the marionette opera Die Feuersbrunst), in the second of the Classical Opera Company's four concerts. As the season develops, it will be interesting to see how Millican's policy of artist-curated programmes pans out. The acoustic is exciting, the building bold, the bacon sandwiches excellent. But without strong programming, Kings Place will be very vulnerable.

Back at the subsidy-cushioned Linbury Studio, a very young audience wriggled and giggled through the last matinee of John Fulljames's lively Opera Group production of Varjak Paw. Adapted by Kit Hesketh-Harvey from S F Said's stories, Julian Philips's opera is a jewelbox of musical quotes, with a cheeky patchwork of Rhinemaiden melismas woven into the Scratch Sisters' doo-wop trios, some sparkling coloratura for Sally Bones (Alinka Kozári), and delicious writing for woodwind. Surtitles would have helped.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border