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from Wilton's Music Hall to Kings Place - from Pirates to Gormley/Aitchison via Mozart

Whilst a huge Varese celebration was underway at South Bank Centre, Musical Pointers covered some remarkable fringe events in London, a centre of diversity as ever.

The Pirates of Penzance on Saturday April 17 was true to Gilbert and Sullivan even though the cast was entirely male, with Alan Richardson soaring into the leger-lines as an affecting Mabel.

Alexa Woolf writes: - - The Pirates and Wilton's Music Hall; could there be a better match between two cultural gems of a past era?

Wilton's, close by the Tower of London, is a charming if somewhat crumbling relic of a bygone age. It has been preserved and progressively restored with love and dedication and given a new lease of life against all odds. Now, under the direction of Frances Mayhew it boasts loyal audiences
for residencies (the Kreutzer Quartet's since 2007) and for diverse programming of high standard, including memorable opera seasons through the last decade.

The Pirates have survived with ease since 1880 and are embedded in the national psyche, a work of popular culture regarded with great affection. Sasha Regan directs an all male cast with sensitivity, the gender reversal heightening a subsversive stereotyping of female characters with insightful and gentle humour. Alan Richardson's Mabel is spell bindingly exquisite, his high notes of bell-lke clarity. Lizzy Gee choreographs the cast to use the small stage and the auditorium with inventivenedss and balletic precision. A heart warming show, one not to be missed.

Reviews: 1 - Financial Times: an object lesson in the art of successful G&S: don’t monkey around with the inherent silliness; instead take it seriously but not earnestly. A dozen or so pretty boys don’t hurt either.
Reviews: 2 - Aided by Robyn Wilson’s set of wooden crates the result has a slight “let’s put the operetta on here ” air about it and is rather charming. There are plenty of inventive visual touches (even the policemen’s moustaches get their own choreography) and the almost entirely white costumes (Frances Jones) give the whole thing a sheen of rather pleasing guilelessness. The performances are similarly artless (in a good way). A special mention goes to Alan Richardson as love-interest Mabel - - It was all so smile-inducing that we more than happily tripped back into the auditorium for the second half.

Mozart at Wilton's


Also at Wiltons, on Sunday the resident Kreutzer Quartet was augmented for an exceptionally spectacular Mainly Mozart evening, given on stage in front of the mountain upon which the Major General's daughters had been climbing and frolicking.

This concert (introduced with his usual erudition by Peter Sheppard Skaerved) was far more innovative and interesting than the established summer Mostly Mozart festivals which regularly go to The Barbican, where they have often disappointed.

The Eb horn quintet was enhanced by having a double bass, and the D major Divertimento 'Nannerl' received a wholly delightful performance.

The ad hoc band, partly recruited from the royal Academy of Music, was at full strength for the great Sinfonia Concertante, with Peter Sheppard Skaerved and Morgan Goff perfectly matched as the two soloists, even though their platform manners were so very different each from the other. It is good to have seen that this concert was being recorded.

The Kreutzer Quartet's unswerving dedication to music new and newest has them usually including something special even within a mainly classical programme. homegrown and from abroad, On this occasion we had a UK premiere for the Swedish composer Rolf Martinsson's Symbiosis (q.v. the Gelland Duo's recorded performace reviewed by Musical Pointers). Peter Sheppard Skaerved was for this matched by a superb guest violinist Aisha Orazbayeva, whom we all are eager to hear again. Also included alongside Mozart was Jim Aitchison's 2 Fugue Refractions, a substantial solo for Peter's solo violin, and a link which helped persuade us to follow the Kreutzers from Wilton's to Kings Place next day.

Aitchison at Kings Place

The Kreutzers moved to Kings Place for a concert developed from their work with composer Jim Aitchison. There was some preliminary improvisation in the foyer and inside the hall [pictured], before the performance of his Memory Field with Nicholas Clapton countertenor, given in Hall Two rearranged in the round for an audio-visual presentation, with images of Aitchison's inscrutable scores and of Anthony Gormley sculptures.I found it did little to help me connect with this relentlessly modernist music; so I defer to Fern Bryant, who was there with us:

" - - I was disappointed listening to Jim Aitchison’s Memory Field at Kings Place; disappointed because I had been lucky enough to hear it before, when it was performed in Anthony Gormley’s studio. Aitchison’s work is consistently complex and enormously ambitious.

Like Laocoon, he wrestles with the big issues of life and death, and his compositions aspire to ‘the trajectory of an expansion’. This is difficult to achieve in the small white box of Hall Two, even with the enhancement of some (though not enough) striking photo projections. And although the lack of seating should have allowed us to feel less restricted, in truth almost everyone huddled against the walls. I was also saddened by the turn-out, only about thirty enthusiasts. Aitchison is an important composer. Why weren’t there more people present? Granted, it was a Monday night, but something seems to have gone badly wrong with the PR for this event - - ".

You can see a substantial video excerpt of Memory Field, as given in Anthony Gormley’s studio, on the Kings Place website:



Peter Grahame Woolf

See also Varese 360 at South Bank Centre