Thursday, 3 March 2011

PLG Young Artists at the Wigmore Hall

Where do Big Names come from in the first place?  If we don't nurture the unknown and upcoming, who will be there in the future? Like any healthy organism, music revives itself by growth and renewal.  That's why it's good to support schemes like th PLG Young Artists.and others.

Since its inception in 1956, many Park Lane Group Young Artists have gone on to good things: Thomas Adès, Gwyneth Jones, Thomas Allen, Claire Booth, Mark van der Weil, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Stephen Isserlis and many others. Performance isn't something that can be done in theory. Performers need to be perform live so they get the experience of interacting with audiences.

The Wigmore Hall is an important part of the scheme because it's hallowed ground. On this platform almost everyone significant in chamber music and song has appeared. Just look at the walls with their photos and posters of concerts past. A programme with Poulenc and Bernac appeared near the lift once, for example. One day when the WH gets its archive fully sorted there should be a major exhibition. Also, the Wigmore Hall is bigger than the Purcell Room at the South Bank.  This year there are several PLG concerts running until June. Last Monday I attended the second concert in the series, with Tamsin Waley Cohen and the Piatti Quartet. There were many interesting people in the audience, including José Serebrier (who has mentored Tamsin Waley-Cohen), Anthony Payne the composer and  the singer Jane Manning, herself a PLG Young Artist once, and from whom I and many others have learned so much.

Since I last heard Waley-Cohen play Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in 2007, she's matured a lot, though she's still only 25. This time she played Bartók's Sonata for Solo Violin which exposes a violinist's real skill and stamina. It was written for Yehudi Menuhin, no less and involves demanding technique.  After a tentaive first movement, she collected herself and by the third and fourth movements acquitted herself with aplomb. She negotiated the tricky changes in the Melodia and the wild buzzing flights of the Presto with ease. A piece like this grows with a performer. One day Waley-Cohen will have the confidence to throw herself instinctively into the work. She was playing the same 1721 Stradivarius that Lorand Fenyves used when he played this very same piece at a PLG concert in 1964. Menuhin, Fenyves and so many others. This weight of grand tradition would intimidate many, but Waley-Cohen has courage.  Later she played Richard Causton's Fantasia and Air (2009) commissioned for her, and Bach's Chaconne BVW 1004.

The Piatti String Quartet comprise Charlotte Scott, Michael Trainor, David Wigram and Jessie Ann Richardson. In the first half of the programme they played Beethoven's String Quartet in E flat major op 74. Very well co-ordinated, very well balanced. To their credit the Piatti were interesting and held attention. Again, expressiveness grows with maturity, but with experience these players will develop. They've got the basics right. They ended the concert with Smetana's String Quartet no 1 in E minor.

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