Tuesday 15 January 2008

Park Lane Group - Friday 11/1/2008

Apologies for this late posting, but I've been busy promoting my CD with radio stations.

On Friday 11/1/2008 we attended the last of the Park Lane Group's 2008 season at the Purcell Room and the Southbank. The recital was shared between the duo of Eulalie Charland (violin) and Maiko Mori (piano) and the duo of Peter Sparks (clarinet) and Matthew Schellhorn (piano),

Charland and Mori opened with Judith Weir's Music for 247 Strings, the title referring to the combined no. of strings on the piano and the violin. The intention of these 10 short pieces was to make the violin almost the 3rd hand of the piano. They featured much contrary motion and Mori's hands were frequently at the opposite extremes of the piano. In contrast to Weir's epigrammatic and concise piece, Philip Cashian's Wynter Music for violin and piano was passionate, technically demanding and delighted with frequent references to jazz rhythms. Both pieces drew fine playing from Charland and Mori.

The stage was then taken by Sparks and Schellhorn. They first premiered Nicola Lefanu's Sea Sketches, 10 little fantasy pieces which were written for Peter Sparks. They start from quiet, atmospheric music with the piano offering sustained echoes, then gradually storms develop in wonderful unspoken narrative. As someone born beside the North Sea, I could empathise completely with this wonderful piece especially in Schellhorn and Sparks's performance. At times Sparks seemed to be trying to get the utmost quiet out of his instrument and was beautifully matched by Schellhorn.

They followed with Harrison Birtwistle's Linoi, written originally for Alan Hacker in 1968. Birtwistle explores the extremes of range of the bassett clarinet and accompanies the instrument with lyre like music created by getting the pianist to play inside the piano. Shellhorn showed remarkable dexterity in this, giving a fine pairing to Sparks's brilliant clarinet playing.

A further Judith Weir piece Sketches from a Bagpiper's Album was played in Weir's original version which requires each of the 3 movements to be played on a different clarinet. The results help to articulate the implicit story of the life of James Reid, a bagpiper in Bonnie Prince Charlie's army. The music was always Weir, economic and brilliant, but she embedded in it many references to the music of the bagpipes, notably the pibroch like references in the final Lament.

Sparks and Schellhorn concluded their set with the premiere Peter Wiegold's Aulos. In this, fast and furious passages inspired by Bacchanalian dance, alternate with quieter moments reflecting the stillness and coldness of the night. The result is almost a rondo and concludes with a puzzling coda where the clarinettist has to wander off the stage.

Finally Charland and Mori returned with Hugh Wood's Poem and Graham Fitkin's Bolt. Poem was a remarkably lyrical piece, its spiky romanticism felt as if a Big Romantic Tune was struggling to get out, but just failing.

The Fitkin, by contrast, was rhythmic and mostly very insistent. It came at the end of quite a long programme and seemed to outstay its welcome, though that might have been my fatigue and I would welcome hearing it again.

All 4 performers produced some brilliant playing in some very challenging music. The earliest piece in the programme was in some ways the most challenging - the Birtwistle written in 1968. Thus neatly encapsulating the way that music has become more diverse in the last 40 years.

Charland, Mori, Sparks and Schellhorn are definitely players to watch. Schellhorn has a number of projects underway for this year including a Wigmore Hall recital in May. Watch this space.

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