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Park Lane Group Young Artists 2013
Purcell Room, 7-11 January

Reviews and photos by Peter Grahame Woolf; review of the accordion recital by Roland Williams

This year's contemporary music series began auspiciously with a brilliant master class on Colin Matthews' newest string quartet, no 4.

The audience was small, but we were riveted by David Alberman's detailed teaching the Gildas Quartet [L, new personnel] how to phrase and more fully characterise the music, with audible improvements.

Alberman debated with the composer about details in his score and indications for the players; they remarked how wonderful it would have been to do so with a Mozart...

By the time we came to the Gildas Quartet's "play-through" (actually a fine performance) we had began to become familiar with the language and manner of this very attractive work.

It plays for approx. 20 mins and hopefully will soon appear on Matthews' NMC label, whose releases will soon, I trust, extend to DVD - the string quartet is a very visual medium.

Tuesday 6.15 had Richard Causton introducing his original and complex music for violin, in dialogue with Sadie Fields, a marvellous RAM doctoral student, and Tadahi Imai who played the piano (including preparing it with blu-tack !) for Causton's intriguing Seven States of Rain.

This session imprinted Causton and his music on our minds and memories in a way that straight concert performances of those pieces in mixed programmes might not have done.

This all-round best of the early evenings (but not best attended) continued with star performances by 19 yr old Bartold Glowacki (Polish accordionist now at RAM, well reviewed by us in London) the world premiere (at very short notice) of Causton's Ricercar commissioned for this occasion, paired with the dazzlingly inventive Aurora Percussion Duo from the Royal Northern College of Music, who played on the floor as well as thundering Zivkovic/Stevens' Meccanico for shared bass drum, bongos & Chinese gongs with stunning precision. *

The Accordion in the Contemporary Music Scene

Owen Murray’s small Accordion Department at the Royal Academy of Music has pulled it off again.  In the Park Lane Group’s young artist concert series Bartosz Glowacki, a young Polish student shared an evening programme on 8th January in the Purcell Room at London’s South Bank Centre with the percussion duo Aurora, Delia Stevens and Le Yu.

Bartosz played a big accordion programme by front line contemporary composers; Luciano Berio’s Sequenza XIII ‘Chanson’, a new work by Richard Causton, Ricercar for solo accordion, Prelude No13 for solo accordion by Edward McGuire and Jeux d’anches by Magnus Lindberg.  Each of these works was remarkably well-played by Bartosz and two of them in the presence of their composers, Richard Causton (recently appointed Professor of Music at Cambridge) and Magnus Lindberg (Finland’s foremost contemporary composer).  Bartosz drew a splendid response from the audience and the enthusiastic congratulations of the composers.

Most remarkable of all perhaps was the review Bartosz obtained from the music critic of the Guardian newspaper: “….for me the coup de foudre was Bartosz Glowacki. The poetry and intensity of Glowacki’s playing proved compelling.  Whether in Berio’s baroque-inspired Sequenza XIII (‘Chanson’) or in the sinewy, nervy energy of Magnus Lindberg’s Jeux d’anches, the young Pole created a poignant and distinctive sound world….”

The music critics of the "quality press" in the UK are usually taken as the ‘high priests’ of conservative good taste in music and are not noted for their liking for the accordion.  Perhaps the effect of a succession of the small numbers of very talented students at the Royal Academy is gradually beginning to shift attitudes in the UK’s very large and serious music culture.

Roland Williams

Magnus Lindberg (R, talking with Sandy Burnett) had his day on Wednesday.

He described the daunting task of composing nowadays for the piano, with its overwhelming history.

Two Lindberg sudies for today in a grand Lisztian manner gave Prach Boondiskulchok an opportunity to belie the unfavourable acoustic of the Purcell Room, and he give us quality pianism to remember long.


But I could not swallow Lindberg's grandiose piano trio, given loud by the Busch Ensemble, with a direct quote of the chordal beginning of Tchaikovsky's 1st piano concerto !

It may sound better next week in their lunchtime concert in the large St Martin's in the Field church?

Lindberg worked hard and long to write a major work for the guitar (not his instrument) and Paul Norman did him proud with mano e mano (15 mins).



Magdalena Wajdzik soothed us with a highly sensitive and completely assimilated account of the delightful Ravel Waltzes played by memory (published 102 years ago - did that break PLG's rules for the series ?) - whatever, it was an oasis in the week's obligatory 'contemporary music' repertoire.



On the Thursday Judith Weir had Jane Manning (its original dedicatee) to discuss interpretation problems in her hugely popular early monodrama King Harald's Saga with Susanna Fairbairn (a notable Trinity College, Greenwich graduate) who debated with them on very equal terms.


Each of the four early evening events was completely different in manner and equally rewarding; a pity that it proves so hard to get audiences early evenings, which ought to suit many on their ways home after work?


The evening ended with more of Weir's piano music (Sally Wigan) and refreshing quintets for the mixed Nephele Ensemble (flute, harp & strings); Timothy Salter's one of his most successsful productions we'd heard (but was its finale a bit too short?) and a Quintet (1989) by Jean Francaix who famously was disinterested in contemporary avant-gardists and continued throughout his long career to provide perfectly crafted works which "did not question the traditional listening habits of the public" and continue to delight us all.


Friday evening brought a viewing of an important film "Towards and Beyond" about Jonathan Harvey, who left us after long illness in November.

It was to have been introduced by Barrie Gavin, who had made it, but he was
indisposed after an accident, as John Woolf MBE, PLG's Director explained.

The 70 min film, shot at and around Harvey's home on the Sussex Downs, is really excellent, introducing us to Harvey's thinking and latter day Buddhist leanings which no doubt helped him to face and come to terms with his final illness.

The Purcell Room concerts featured more from Paul Norman's guitar and the Ligeti Quartet (Harvey's No 2 and the Quartet's eponymous 2nd), both superbly prepared, plus a jokey Noel Coward breakfast scena for string quartet [L] which pleased a near capacity audience with many recruits from the RAM.


That had been preceded by a concert in the foyer Front Room, for which we were late.

But not too late to catch snaps of the Jaquin Trio [L], and afterwards the Tempest Flute Trio, dressed more suitably than many of this week's performers, to end my photo-montage sequence, by kind arrangement with PLG & SBC !

Peter Grahame Woolf


* for fuller day by day reports see Classical Source