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Adès, Carter, Copland and Ligeti
Park Lane Group Young Artists 2007
Purcell Room SBC, 7 January 2007

The annual club for young musicians eager to display their prowess in contemporary music to a specialised audience of enthusiasts opened its doors on Sunday for a week. It always has a special atmosphere, with many professionals, including British composers represented in the programmes, representatives of the music business, and student supporters of the performers. The critical fraternity was present in force.

If this 3½ hours triple-decker is a portent, 2007 may be a vintage year for PLG, which was founded across the road from Hyde Park in 1956, at 45 Park Lane, and has served highly talented young artists (many of them having become internationally famous) for 50 seasons.

The heart of the evening was the centre panel, with a deliciously refined account of Thomas Adès' Arcadiana (seven pieces for string quartet, 1994) and Aaron Copland's major song cycle. The Heath Quartet were strong advocates for the Adès, and afterwards impressive in the more daunting asperities of Ligeti's 2nd quartet, though that would better have been placed straight after the interval, before the audience began to tire.

Karina Lucas' name is one to remember. She entranced us with a great performance of Copland's Emily Dickinson cycle, rarely given in its entirety, persuading some of us hard-boiled critics that it is fully the equal of some canonic masterpieces by composers whose names begin with Schu...

She has everything, a lovely mezzo voice in perfect control through all registers, poised platform manner with sparing use of gesture at just the right moments, immaculate articulation of the delightful poems in their moods of rapture and gentle humour. No, she did not "sing too loud" so as to be "shut out of Heaven"!

Karina's lighter songs, by another Dickinson and Anthony Payne, made a nice group, which should have been placed at the end to send us home happy. I eagerly await hearing her in a full length recital.

Karina Lucas was partnered by Simon Lane in perfect style, and with sensitivity to the difficult acoustic of the Purcell Room. Alasdair Beatson, with John Myerscough (cellist of the Doric String Quartet) confirmed memories of his masterly Dutilleux piano sonata last year with clarity of articulation and judicious pedalling, but was inclined to brutal ffs in the Carter cello sonata. Nor was the Purcell Room helpful to Myerscough in creating the "hypnotic and other worldly atmosphere" of Sciarrino's Ai limiti della notte, though his control of the tremolo artificial harmonics, amongst the extended techniques deployed throughout, was impressive.

This report is published overnight in the hope that it will encourage London readers to get to some of the remaining six concerts, twice daily through to Thursday. Details at http://www.parklanegroup.co.uk/

Peter Grahame Woolf

Recommended recordings:
Adès: Arcadiana EMI Classics 7243 5 72271 2 4
Copland: see Twelve poems of Emily Dickinson Roberta Alexander with Roger Vignoles ETCETERA KTC 1100

See also Peter Grahame Woolf's more recent annual reports of PLG Young Artists New Year Series
2000; 2001; 2002; 2003; 2004; 2005; 2006.