Concert Review

PLG Young Artists 2000 Purcell Room, South Bank Centre 11-15 January 2000
Roman Mints (violin) with Katya Apekisheva (piano)

For their annual series this year, Park Lane Group auditioned 200 musicians in their 20s, and selected 33 for this annual platform, to play before a knowledgeable audience of professionals including composers, publishers, agents and keen non-professional followers of the new music scene. It is always quite a party!

The very first day produced a charismatic violinist of enormous potential, bidding fair to become a future star and household name, as have done so many PLG Young Musicians before him. Roman Mints takes his place in my book alongside the talents of two great PLG violin soloists of yesteryear, Stephanie Gonley (see S&H review of her with LSSO last Friday) and Mieko Kanno (less well known only because she has remained loyal to contemporary music as her specialism).

Moscow born and trained Roman Mints appeared as a somewhat satanic figure in black, his red hair tied in a ponytail. He exuded confidence as he launched into Sofia Gubaidulina's Der Seiltanzer (tightrope walker) in which the violinist escapes from the domination of the piano into flights of fantasy and virtuosity. The piano writing is no less original, beginning on the strings themselves, developing increasingly menacing bass sounds played with a glass tumbler, these growing to fortissimo by using the serrated bottom of the tumbler and metal thimbles, before the pianist finally settles at the keyboard. The violinist ascends to tremolo double harmonics, all achieved with sure ease by Mints, and abetted by his excellent pianist Katya Apekisheva. He brought to mind Paganini, and were he not restricted by PLG to contemporary music, an ideal foil to precede this piece would have been the Devil's Trill sonata of Tartini!

Further violinistic skills were demonstrated in a very assured and interesting solo with taped violin sounds, pre-recorded and computer manipulated, by a gifted young Russian electro-acoustic composer, Artem Vassiliev. This piece encompassed conventional baroque violin figurations in a fresh guise, leaving no doubt that Mints could provide a mean Vivaldi Seasons if called upon to do so. Vassiliev stayed on stage afterwards to turn over for Katya Apekisheva, who had sufficient opportunity afterwards to suggest that she is a pianist of comparable calibre. Chaconne with Chorale and Moto Perpetuo by Colin Matthews (this year's featured composer) made a vivid impression before Mints and Apekisheva finished their contribution by despatching Lutoslawski's late Subito with shared verve and virtuosity; performances of this calibre make difficult contemporary music speak to doubters.

For the rest of the week the Purcell Room will resound with performances by some of the next decade's most exciting musicians; two concerts each evening, at 6 p.m. and 7. 30.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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