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S & H Concert Review

Carter, Knussen & Wigglesworth Claire Booth (soprano) Ryan Wigglesworth (piano) PLG, Purcell Room, SBC 9 January 2002 (PGW)


The Park Lane Group offers an annual opportunity to hear bright new hopes amongst younger musicians tackling contemporary music each January. Fuller accounts of this unique and internationally acclaimed enterprise (not a typical competition) can be seen in my reviews of the 2000 & 2001 series. I did not attend enough of the events this year to venture any comparative critical opinion, but would like to bring to notice the soprano/piano duo of Claire Booth (second from right, top row) and composer Ryan Wigglesworth (second from left, third row).

Although Claire Booth (Oxford double first Historian, ENO & Guildhall School) was not able to persuade me that the veteran Elliott Carter's Of Challenge and Of Love (1994) illuminated Hollander's poems to a degree commensurate with their difficulty, she and her partner did all possible for them (I have long had a resistance to Carter's angular and ungrateful vocal settings, and only recently enjoyed for the first time A Mirror on which to dwell, with Sylvia Nopper at Lucerne.) Claire Booth gave her programme by memory, which always enhances communication with an audience. She is a poised and assured singer of enormous intelligence and vocal skills, with impressive diction and ability to colour significant words and communicate complex texts. Best were Oliver Knussen's evocative Whitman Settings of 1991, showing deep understanding of the female voice, and Ryan Wigglesworth's own Three Coleridge Fragments, which received a worthy world premiere; Claire Booth is an artist whose future I shall watch with particular interest and I will look out for further compositions from her sympathetic partner at the piano, Ryan Wigglesworth.

Peter Grahame Woolf


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