PLG Young Artists 2000 Purcell Room, South Bank
Lawrence Power (viola) & Simon Crawford-Phillips (piano) 10 January;
Matthew Sharp (cello) & Dominic Harlan (piano), Christian Immler (baritone) & Dominic Harlan (piano) 12 January
This year's PLG series seems to have brought forward some remarkable string players; I was fortunate enough to catch the opening concert, which remains, at least for me, one of the strongest of the series so far.
If ever claims still need to be made about the validity of the viola as a solo instrument, Lawrence Power made as good a case as anyone; in his musicality, technique and stage presence he was quite outstanding. Featured composer Colin Matthews brought
out the smokey, contemplative side of the instrument in his short, but very beautiful piece Calmo (written for this concert) whilst both soloist and pianist, the always responsive Simon Crawford-Phillips, were alert to the delicate shifting colours of Takemistu's minature tone poem A Bird came down the Walk ; Errolyn Warren's opening work Rapture was again finely played, but far too long to sustain its rather slight material.
It is with no disrespect to the pianist to say that Power came into his own with the large scale Solo Sonata by Ligeti, capturing its quickly changing moods and swirling virtuosity with great skill. Certainly a name for the future !
On Wednesday Matthew Sharp seemed not quite able to raise himself to the same heights. This might have been due to his choice of music, his efforts to play up and entertain his obviously large group of friends and admirers in the audience, and also the rather square playing of his pianist Dominic Harlan. Towpath Variations by Django Bates just had nothing to say - it may have been many things, but varied was not one of them.
The scheduled new piece by Luke Stoneham, Ubiqutous Hums, had not been finished in time to be featured in the printed programme, though we were told that "low-tech enhancement and stretched performance vocabulary" had been considered. Humming and playing the cello at the same time might seem entertaining or meaningful on paper; in reality it was neither.
Mark-Anthony Turnage's beautiful cello and piano piece Sleep on seemed to wander around far more than I remember before. Thankfully, Matthew Sharp did show what a fine player he can be in an enormously demanding account of "Palinode" for cello solo by Colin Matthews - without any distractions of any kind and evidently concentrating on his technique, this was easily the greatest success of his recital - marvellous piece too.
The baritone Christian Immler and his pianist Paul Plummer leant some not unwelcome weight to the evenings proceedings with two extended works. Aribert Reimannn's Joyce setting Shine and Dark is a hard nut to crack for both listener and singer, not to mention the pianist who only plays the keyboard with is left hand, but spends much of his time jumping up and down to twang strings and lay things across the inside of the piano. Having said that, it is an overwhelmingly powerful piece. Immler's account of the exposed vocal line was bordering on the heroic and his diction faultless.
Geoffrey Poole came down from Manchester to hear his 5 Brecht Songs - the composer told me that these songs have not seen the light of day since their first performance almost thirteen years ago! Hopefully, this fine performance will win new friends for these intense, but also witty and charming songs - they should be heard again soon.
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