Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Exciting young musicians to watch

Late September is a hectic time on the London concert circuit. I'm writing a 'round-up' review for The Strad of five concerts this week, all of which feature superlative artists; and I've been lucky enough to hear some exceptional youngsters just starting out on their careers.

Alina Ibragimova is 19 years old and was clearly born to play the violin. She's the daughter of Rinat Ibragimov, principal double bass in the LSO, and studied at the Menuhin School and Guildhall. I first heard her about three years ago in a prizewinners' concert at the South Bank and was struck by her natural musicality, but since then she has developed into something very special. On Friday she performed the Britten concerto - a tall order for any musician, let alone someone so young - at St Luke's, the LSO's education centre in the City. She looks delicate and unaffected on the platform, but nothing stands in the way of her music when she begins to play; the violin becomes part of her and the music pours out straight from the soul. Mesmerising.

Jonathan Biss, a young American pianist who is one of the musicians featured by the Borletti-Buitoni Trust, an organisation that helps selected young artists to become established. Mitsuko Uchida is helping to spearhead the trust and on Sunday she played at the QEH with some of the award winners, including Jonathan, who accompanied fellow-winner the soprano Emma Bell in some Schumann Lieder and later played the Mozart A minor Rondo. It's a brave man indeed who plays that Mozart, a very 'revealing' piece: nothing to hide behind if you can't phrase everything perfectly, balance your counterpoint or convey the subtlest of emotions. Jonathan can, however, and does - with deep sensitivity, beautiful singing tone and real poetry. He too was born to play: his parents are Miriam Fried and Paul Biss and his grandmother was the cellist Raya Garbusova. He's studied at Curtis and even before he was snapped up by BBC Radio 3 New Generations I had heard great things about him from people in the US whose opinions I trust and value. They were right. Emma Bell, too, is someone to watch: bags of personality and a super voice with a big range and great versatility.

The rush continues. To St John's Smith Square this evening for the Chilingirian Quartet and Stephen Coombs (Faure! Yes!), then Truls Mork at St Luke's tomorrow lunchtime, Vengerov and the LSO at the Barbican tomorrow evening, the BBC Symphony Orchestra launching its season with Mahler 2 at the Barbican on Friday and the LPO and Masur doing Beethoven on Saturday. Next week the Wigmore Hall is reopening after its latest refit (and its boss Paul Kildea tells me that, among other things, they have a new chef, which can only be a good thing...). All this confirms what I've always felt: the London music scene really is incredible. I don't believe there's anywhere in the world to match it in terms of quality, quantity and variety.