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Kings Place Festival - 100 performances in 4 days

Kings Place, London, 10-12 September 2010

It would need an army of reviewers to cover this catch-all little festival - nor would everyone have found it easy to navigate the festival programme...

On the Friday we attended two of the classical music events curated by Mikhail Rudy and two involving harpsichordist Steven Devine; on Saturday two Latin-American events, and a feast of chamber music with piano on the Sunday given by leading ensembles.

We took in also A Capella singing and jazz, a Junk Band, and art exhibitions around the capacious 3-level Foyer [pictured]. We finished on the Sunday, exhausted but satisfied, with two piano trio concerts followed by two major piano quintets, and lastly harp trios from RAM students.

The atmosphere was exciting, with many families enjoying all that was on offer. The walls of the foyer were decorated with magnificent large paintings by Anthony Whishaw, and William Pine's water pinesculptures fascinated the children. Those together constituted the best visual art displays we'd yet seen at Kings Place.

The musical juxtapositions were illuminating. Alexander Ivashkin was alert and communicative in Prokofiev, and especially so in Piatagorsky's re-arrangement of Stravinsky's Pulcinella music, whereas Rudy proved a stolid, dour inexpressive accompanist, and was overloud and strangely inexpressive in his own version of Petrushka (far better Yuja Wang on her new CD).

Steven Devine's recital of Buxtehude, Böhm and Bach's Italian Concerto was a balm for the ear, and a demonstration of how the quieter harpsichord was enhanced by the resonant acoustic of Hall One. Though the three Bach gamba sonatas straight off looked a heavy programme in prospect, the partnership of Jonathan Manson and Steven Devine provided the most delectable music-making of the whole day, with Manson's gamba line perfectly balanced between the treble and bass of Devine's.

The Latin American offering, involving the Millennium Quartet mentored by the Chilingirian Quartet, an offshoot of El Sistema in Venezuela, was bedevilled by failure of a commissioned quartet to arrive and changes of programme. The student visitors played with engaging energy, and were followed by three of the Villa-Lobos Bachianas Brazilieras _ perhaps too many at a time? - involving London cello students, who took part with a will and impressed more than did the genteel ladies of RAM who really needed more direction to improve their accounts of Ravel, Bax and Debussy which concluded our concerts at Kings Place.

Earlier on the Sunday we enjoyed four strings-with-piano concerts. The Gould Piano Trio gave an impassioned account of Dvorak's F minor trio, but this was eclipsed by Brahms in their second concert. Beethoven's witty Kakadu Variations preceded by a portentous introduction (surely Dohnanyi must have known this concert rarity when plannng his Variations on a Nursery Tune?), was followed by a fine account of the great Brahms C major trio.

The Goulds in turn were followed by the Sacconi Quartet with Simon Crawford-Phillips piano, in a strongly projected account of Schumann's Piano Quintet in E flat, Op. 44, followed in subsequent concerts given after only short breaks, by the Brahms and the Dvorak; quite a marathon of strenuous music-making (they are ebarking on a project to perform "all the masterpieces in this genre" - I hope they will not take for granted which those are, before exploring widely the surprisingly many piano quintets, most of them unheard, listed on pp. 463-486 in Hinson & Roberts The Piano in Chamber Ensemble, an Annotated Guide.

Peter Grahame Woolf

See also Kings Place Festivals 2008 and 2009