Mitsuko Uchida & friends, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Click to follow

The Borletti-Buitoni Trust may reflect the plutocratic union of one of the world's biggest pasta firms with Italy's Marks & Spencer, but its purpose is to nurture talented young musicians who don't want to play the commercial game. As patron, Mitsuko Uchida has stipulated that the money should finance tuition, new works and recordings. Here, she and four protégés would showcase its results.

Llyr Williams played Liszt's La lugubre gondola in its first and second versions. The title reflects the circumstances of its composition, as Liszt contemplated Wagner's death in Venice while brooding on his own. Williams's touch was firm in the rocking undertow of the first version; in the second, he emerged as a fastidious painter in sound.

Bartok's Contrasts sprang from a request by the violinist Jozsef Szigeti for a piece he could perform with the clarinettist Benny Goodman. Though full of cheery nods towards New York, it's more deeply imbued with Bartok's Hungary, and with the Gypsy modes that preoccupied him. Enter violinist Soovin Kim, and clarinettist Martin Frost: a perfect balance of opposites, acting as each other's melodic mirror-image.

For Messiaen's Quatuor pour la fin du temps, Uchida was in the driving seat at the piano. In this work, each soloist gets his moment, as in jazz, with the piano playing a supportive role. Christian Poltera's cello sounded like a long-breathed human voice, and Kim's violin was ineffably sweet, while Frost dazzled. His pianissimos were on the edge of audibility: they seemed to surround us, and at times he made a long-held note sound like an entire journey. Messiaen's Liturgie de cristal here evoked a landscape sparkling with frost, and this Frost was its presiding deity.

Comments