Visiting the Purcell Room yesterday after its long refurb, I was overjoyed to find it is all still there – including this 1960s Danish furniture-style spiral staircase up to the soundbox which I have never once seen anyone climb in all the 50 years I have attended concerts here. Also revitalised but still very much itself was the Park Lane Group’s January series of young artist concerts, which has spent a couple of uncomfortable years in cavernous and cold St John’s Smith Square during the Southbank shutdown.
This PLG concert had been incorporated in the Southbank’s very welcome SoundState Festival. For me it was an ideal new music concert in being just one hour long with no interval. With free tickets, free seating and free programmes, three other causes of faffing about were also magically removed from the experience. Another welcome absence, with just one simple stage reset, was all that new music furniture shifting which can easily add half an hour to a slow concert.
As I watched the hall become completely full, I felt excited that a song cycle by me (The Voice of Desire, confidently performed by Marta Fontanals-Simmons and Lana Bode ) would be opening this prestigious concert. The second act of the hour was the Lipatti Piano Quartet with three fantastic pieces by Joe Cutler, Alex Woolf and Mark Turnage, the last (Three for Two) a particularly engaging reinvention of the medium. We left the hall to find the foyer jammed with people about to attend a whole evening of Rebecca Saunders in the neighbouring QEH. Several days of continuous 21st century music in a major venue; if only it happened more often.