YCAT Artists, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

Over the past 21 years, the Young Concert Artists Trust (YCAT) has managed the early careers of countless promising performers, not to mention taking on the annual South Bank Mozart birthday concert. This extended celebration of his 249th was given additionally in aid of Amnesty International.

The Welsh pianist Llyr Williams launched it, plunging with force into the restless opening of Mozart's Piano Sonata in A minor, and imparting an impressive surge to the slow movement. Was there, nonetheless, a suspicion of jangle about his sound that left one wondering whether Mozart's piano-writing and the modern Steinway are compatible? Back came the answer within seconds of Andrew West's crystal-clear accompaniments to four of Mozart's songs with the young soprano Elizabeth Watts.

One would scarcely guess she is still a student. Her voice is bright and evenly focused. As she spun a skein of perfectly shaped phrases through Abendempfindung an Laura, one already seemed to be hearing an experienced artist.

Next came the already well-established Kungsbacka Piano Trio, with the viola player Krzysztof Chorzelski borrowed from the Belcea Quartet, to give the Piano Quartet in G minor. From the storminess of the first movement by way of the serene second to the insouciant finale, this is a work of huge emotional range, yet was brought off with intentness and spontaneity.

Three members of the Belcea Quartet itself took the stage after the interval, joined by Emily Beynon, back from her current position as principal flute in the Concertgebouw Orchestra, to ripple through the early Flute Quartet in D major in which the soulful central cantilena to tripping pizzicato accompaniment proved especially delectable. Finally, the full Belcea Quartet appeared, with the Kungsbacka's violinist, Malin Broman, taking to second viola in the great String Quintet in C major.

Mozart never surpassed his grasp of harmonic movement over vast spans in its first movement, while its andante, featuring what can only be described as an extended love scene between the first violin and first viola, is his most consummate fusion of operatic and instrumental technique. Maybe Corina Belcea's first violin timbre occasionally failed quite to blend. No matter; the detailed give and take was a constant delight - sending a capacity audience out marvelling at the little man born almost a quarter of a millennium ago.

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