Week 1 Concert Highlights

Euan Murdoch is travelling Around the World in 60 Days and blogging about it…


After just one week in London it’s hard to imagine a more dynamic music scene anywhere else in the world. I’ve enjoyed 11 concerts in five superb venues and haven’t really scratched the surface of what’s on offer here. I do not intend to review every concert but thought that I’d share a few of the highlights.

From top to bottom: St Lawrence String Quartet rehearse at Wigmore Hall, Vienna Piano Trio, Southern Sinfonia.

From top to bottom: St Lawrence String Quartet rehearse at Wigmore Hall, Vienna Piano Trio, Southbank Sinfonia.

My earlier posts commented on the first two performances. Special moments from the SLSQ (St Lawrence String Quartet) concert last Monday still remain as vivid now as when I first experienced them. Wednesday’s Wigmore concert featured the music of contemporary British composer George Benjamin and his teacher Alexander Goehr. A range of excellent performers including the viol consort Fretwork, the amazing Tabea Zimmermann – surely one of the best viola players around, mezzo Susan Bickley and the composer himself at the piano. This programme looked great on the page but didn’t hang together well for me. However the real highlight was a virtuosic viola duo by Benjamin that closed the pot-pourri of the first half. What a great piece and what a fabulous performance! The programme note described Viola, Viola (1997) as ‘an orchestral piece for two violas’.

On Thursday and Friday, I attended lunchtime concerts at LSO St Luke’s featuring the Vienna Piano Trio. This is a very special space, a state-of-the-art performance facility built within an historic church and these concerts were part of the venue’s 10th anniversary celebrations. I particularly enjoyed the fantasy of their Ravel trio and the effervescent Trout quintet, the centrepiece of an all-Schubert programme.

During the week I spent time with the Southbank Sinfonia – ‘Britain’s orchestra of young professionals’ – and attended their all-Mozart Rush Hour Concert at their home, St John’s Waterloo. Their performance featured chamber music and a symphony. Both were stylish, fresh and vital under the direction of Simon Over. They’ve created a special atmosphere for the audience that is welcoming and vibrant. My other orchestral experience was at the Barbican where the highlights were Steven Osborne’s performance of the Tippett Piano Concerto and Shostakovich 8 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Wigmore Hall SnowingTo cap off week one, I camped out in the warmth of Wigmore Hall over the weekend while it snowed heavily outside, four concerts in two days! Two of these featured Ebene Quartet from France, a young group that I’ve heard so much about and they more than lived up to my expectation. They are an excitement machine and their encore Misty was nothing short of sensational.

Given the appalling weather, being indoors is the only option and from the look of the forecast, I’ll be spending more time next week inside concert halls around London too. Yes, it’s hard work but someone has to do it!

– Euan, 24.03.2013

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