Park Lane Group Young Artists Concert, Purcell Room, London

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Park Lane Group Young Artists Concert, Purcell Room, London

My second review of this year's Park Lane Group Young Artists series covers the final pair of main evening concerts, plus the 6pm programme on Friday. I also looked in on the Young Composers Symposium that has run in tandem with these long-established recitals since 1998. While laudable in its intentions, this latter event is shambolically organised and needs taking firmly in hand to be of real value.

The repertoire of the recitals themselves is now sensibly dominated by music from the last two decades, with just a single work this year from before 1955. The preponderance of British music is somewhat problematic. It's good to use an established composer to provide a connecting thread throughout the week. Yet the representation of Martin Butler this year via mainly very short or sets of short pieces made him appear less substantial, and more derivative, than I think he actually is. And should foreign composers clock up just 15 performances out of a total of 59 (four of them for the recorder trio, which must have been stuck for choice)? I don't think so.

Overall, the selections – whether made by performers or the PLG – too often result in mediocre pieces offered, it seemed, more to show off performing technique than for musical substance. The pianists that I heard were especially guilty of this; and with their instrument's wide-ranging repertoire, they have least excuse.

On Thursday, the large number of people from the classical-music business in the audience suggested that they knew something I didn't about that evening's 7.30pm concert. In the event, neither the unaccompanied clarinettist Andrew Mason nor the violinist Sara Trickey (with her accompanist, Tom Poster) quite explained the special buzz. Mason, a dynamic player, made the stronger impression; he created a powerful impact immediately with Ben Foskett's new Hornet. He was equal to the demands of Boulez's Domaines, and is to be commended for being prepared to play challenging, modernist (and foreign) music at all. Trickey quickly demonstrated a lovely, unforced tone, but her demanding, all-British yet varied programme gradually revealed a number of technical insecurities.

On Friday, the Tippett String Quartet acquitted themselves well in a sequence notable for the London premiere of Simon Holt's Two Movements for string quartet: an expressive roller-coaster of a piece, very skilfully assembled, which, despite a restart due to a broken string, brought out the best in them.

Jessica Chan's accounts of her all-British selection increased in confidence and characterfulness as she progressed; Deidre McKay's time, shining offered splendidly icy timbres and the chance to prove that Chan, too, had icy control.

The singer Stefani Pleasance concluded the series with a sequence that was a classic case of using hammy theatrical ploys in an attempt to disguise what appears to be rather limited vocal equipment. All in all, not a vintage year for performance standards.

Keith Potter

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