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Kings Place Festivals 2011 & 2012

10-12 September 2011

These successful annual weekend festivals (with wide-ranging Classical, Jazz, Folk and world music concerts etc) are informal shop-windows to help boost attendances at Kings Place, London's newest major concerts venue.

Attendances at Kings Place have remained variable, and during Sunday's Chopin/Schumann recital William Howard [below L] urged his (small) audience to buy tickets for his next one to follow; contemporary music by mainly British composers. Whether that had any effect we'll never know; the audience for that indeed attractive and unfrightening programme was even smaller.

I found Howard's Chopin Impromptu & Ballade unremarkable - I had been immersing myself for a week in Cyprien Katsaris's Chopin Master Classes in Shanghai, and his wonderful Chopin Memorial recital filmed at Carnegie Hall, both those revelatory...

Howard's second recital was in fact far the better of his two; good to hear again Judith Weir's witty exploration of keybord touch The Art of Touching the Keyboard (1954) and Piers Hellawell's Piani, Latebre. Seven of Skempton's eleven minimal miniatures were too many for me. Most of the composers featured were present and took their bows - an exception was the Czech Pavel Novak [L], whose rich, expansive Preludes & Fugues I had admired on CD.

The previous evening Ivana Gavric had confirmed good impressions from her CD, with performances of Janacek chamber music and his Sonata 1.X.1905. Assisted by members of Aurora Orchestra, Thomas Gould and Oliver Coates impressed in the violin sonata and Pohadka, as did Timothy Orpen (clarinet) in his movement of the oddly-scored Piano Concertino. During the interval, Aurora's brass and tympanist entertained us upstairs in the cafe area with the fanfare from Janacek's Sinfonietta.

Nicholas Mulroy's robust tenor was ideal for the major cycle of 22 songs about the young man who went off with the Gypsies. He sang them in the original Czech, and enjoyed it "as music", but it was a disaster for some of the many who didn't know the cycle nor the language...

Kings Place Hall One had once again opted for the fashionable darkness, making it impossible to follow with the programme with its good notes and English words. (What hope for critics who might like to follow scores in concerts?)

Photos were discouraged in the auditorium (which suffers in quiet passages from obtrusive ambient noise from lights or air conditioning ?) so I offer illustrations from the foyer activities during the weekend.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Kings Place Festival 2012
16 September 2012

There was once a buzz of enthusiasm from a large crowd enjoying the different goodies on show this year. In the foyers I enjoyed some more Indian dancing and a Gypsy/Kletzmer group giving Brahms clarinet quintet with accordion and santouri, would you believe? But a solemn minimalists+plus London Sinfonietta concert of Crane & Fitkin was too much for me. You can't please everyone; but Kings Place does try. Their very rewarding combined art show of Sculptors' Drawings with the adjacent Pangolin Gallery had plenty to admire or irritate...

Especially welcome was a "taster" of the regular Chamber Studio Master classes for string quartets. It was salutary to hear rather good run-throughs by the Leporello and Wilhelm String Quartets of movements by Schumann and Britten, only to hear their performances rigorously dissected and hopefully reconstructed by Paul Watkins and Peter Cropper, the latter scarcely allowing a single bar to pass without comment and attempts to improve their intensity; there is not a single unimportant bar or note in a great quartet, was his message. Cropper's ebullience certainly inspired the audience, as was his appreciation of improvements achieved in a rigorously limited 3/4 hour welcome to the challenged young ladies of the Wilhelms; I look forward to hearing both groups in concert.

(Normal Sunday classes at Chamber Studio allow greater depth in 1 1/2 hour sessions and are highly recommended for audiences to attend - free !)