YCAT 25th Anniversary Gala Concert - Wigmore Hall, 24 April 2010
featuring Ian Bostridge (tenor), Adam Walker (flute), Huw Morgan (trumpet), Thomas Gould (violin), Philip Higham (cello), Alexander Romanovsky (piano), Llyr Williams (piano), Doric String Quartet, Heath String Quartet, Sacconi Quartet
The Young Concert Artists Trust is a sort of charitable management agency that provides talented young musicians at the start of their career with the kind of support that money can't buy - advice, guidance and opportunities to perform. The long list of beneficiaries includes Alison Balsom, Susan Gritton, Joanna MacGregor, Charles Hazlewood and more recently, Elizabeth Watts. For this 25th anniversary concert, two more, Ian Bostridge and Llyr Williams, were joined by a selection of the scheme's current artists.
The first of these was flautist Adam Walker, lanky and floppy-fringed, and already principal flute with the LSO. "He looks about sixteen!" whispered the lady behind me, though what he actually looks like is a clarinettist (must be the overbite). With Llyr Williams joining him on piano, he displayed in Schubert's Introduction and Variations on Trockne Blumen a consistently sweet tone and impeccable intonation. In the same way that a single olive in a martini or on a pizza is preferable to a whole bowl of the things, I generally feel the flute is best appreciated in small doses and varied instrumental company. The Schubert began to tell on my patience long before its twenty minutes or so was up, though this is no reflection on the quality of Adam Walker's very accomplished performance.
The Schubert section wrapped up with a song from Ian Bostridge and Llyr Williams, Auf dem Strom, with the conventional horn part replaced by the cello of Philip Higham. Bostridge was in excellent dramatic voice, though sometimes overwhelmed by an enthusiastically powerful cello line.
The Doric Quartet, fresh faced with matching blue pocket handkerchiefs, joined Bostridge and Williams for Vaughan Williams's On Wenlock Edge. Bostridge's diction is less precious than it used to be, which is good of course, but without those Home Service consonants wrapping each syllable, it's also less clear. The intensity of his performance was matched by the quartet, but a lot of the words went by the wayside in the process. Still, after some odd recent forays, it's good to hear him back singing material he's eminently suited for.
Hard-working Llyr Williams finally got a solo slot with three Rachmaninov preludes. His playing was clear, evenly articulated and remarkably accurate, if rather lacking in poetry. And I was unnerved by his Liberace-esque habit of turning to grin at the audience mid-trickybit.
The best was saved till last. Two string quartets and a bunch of soloists trouped on stage for Shostakovich's first Piano Concerto. Alexander Romanovsky's bold, witty playing displayed a real affinity with the composer - I would definitely like to hear more of him. There was plenty of flair and enthusiasm from the rest of the ensemble too, with Thomas Gould's soaring violin line leading the way.
The evening was also an occasion to award YCAT's chairman Sir Brian McMaster with a well-deserved honorary membership of the Royal Philharmonic Society. In his previous life as director of the Edinburgh International Festival Sir Brian booked Jonas Kaufmann for a concert every single year, and if that's not worthy of an award, I don't know what is.