Howard Skempton is, perhaps uniquely, an English composer of the persuasion we used to call "experimental" who has made the transition to more mainstream acceptance entirely without compromising his original vision. Skempton is 60 this year, and it is appropriate that the Park Lane Group Young Artists New Year Series has made him its featured composer.
The five-day, 10-concert run included five works by him, of which the first was a world premiere, Alveston, named after a village near Stratford-upon-Avon, is a celebratory little piece for four trumpets, nicely tinged with wistful charm, and elaborated with simple yet sophisticated use of repetition. Unfortunately, we had to wait nearly four hours for it to arrive.
Those hours were filled with the usual frustrating panoply of chaotic, disjointed PLG programming: 16 works altogether, from Tippett to Kagel and beyond, including nine pieces for those admittedly hard-to-programme trumpets. These were played by an all-female group called Bella Tromba. Though they improved as they went along, at least until lips understandably started to give way, the playing of this enterprising quartet proved too often prosaic and undercharacterised. Paul Max Edlin's new The First Four Trumpets proved to be just colourless mainstream modernism. Giles Easterbrook's new Ancient Battlefields was risible and embarrassing.
You had to feel sorry for Daniel Browell, the solo pianist shoehorned into this interminable parade of fanfares and soundings of the last trump. He played a rather good new piece by Philip Venables, The boy with the moon in his eyes, and some George Benjamin with flair, energy and poetry; and 10 Inventions by André Tchaikowsky - "wrong-note Romantic" effusions that had no business in such a context - with a variety of colour and wit that had eluded him earlier.
In the earlier recital before all this, the Canadian violinist Katie Stillman and the pianist Simon Lane offered alert, sensitive and mature performances in a nicely planned programme of late 20th-century works that benefited hugely from its avoidance of the later ludicrous excesses.Reuse content