sun 03/03/2024

Borletti-Buitoni Trust 20th Anniversary Weekend, Bold Tendencies, Wigmore Hall review - dazzling past, present and future | reviews, news & interviews

Borletti-Buitoni Trust 20th Anniversary Weekend, Bold Tendencies, Wigmore Hall review - dazzling past, present and future

Borletti-Buitoni Trust 20th Anniversary Weekend, Bold Tendencies, Wigmore Hall review - dazzling past, present and future

From five school choirs, four soloists and orchestra to Bach on marimba

Ilaria Borletti-Buitoni, centre, with 2014 BBT Artist Kate Whitley and participants in 'Verified'All images by Simon Weir/Classical Media

Founded two decades ago by Franco Buitoni and his wife Ilaria in league with their good friend Mitsuko Uchida, the Borletti-Buitoni Trust never seems to put a foot wrong in its choices: the present and future are as dazzling as the last 20 years. As well as giving generous long-term support to over 200 artists and groups, BBT commissions new works – more than 50 to date – and has set up a Communities wing "to encourage social cohesion".

Which is how this weekend started off in Peckham’s Multi-Storey Car Park with a gobsmackingly brilliant event. Composer Kate Whitley has written eloquently on theartsdesk about this collective project involving the Multi-Story (yes, no e) Orchestra. Verified tackles the pressures of social media, the need for validation and the desolation that can follow: something for all ages involved to think about (even if it didn't seem to register with several older members of the audience feeling the need to film by holding up their mobile phones). Performing 'Verified' in Peckhan's Multi-Storey Car ParkAs with the group's previous cantata, Our Future in Your Hands, the message wouldn't work if the music weren't so good. Five school choirs from Peckham, East Dulwich, Camberwell and Bermondsey had learnt their sizable role by heart and delivered it with impassioned gutsiness (a cross-section pictured above): if you wanted to follow the meaning further, you only had to watch a girl with green braids living it with hands and body as well as voice: not showing off, but simply being in the moment.

The Multi-Story Orchestra conducted by Adam Gibbs embraced remarkable work from brass, and there was BBT star Simone Rubino on percussion, as well as three other more up-front soloists (pictured below). Violinist Hyeyoon Park soared in sympathy, and in the most extraordinary movement, "Crash", a slow-build post-addiction elegy following an improvised chaos about, in Kate's words, "the emptiness you're left with once you've poured too much of yourself away", the entry of sopranos Francesca Chiejina and Ruby Hughes, only a few yards from where I was sitting, brought tears to the eyes. Multi-Story Orchestra, soloists and choirs in 'Verified'Ultimately, the energy of the whole transcended the darker undertow. This is surely Whitley's best collaborative work yet; it should be taken up by the BBC Proms for a late-night event in the Albert, which will of course be utterly different from the car-park spectacular so well organised by the splendid people at Bold Tendencies (and yes, I have to keep repeating this, but the acoustics are amazingly good).

I had to miss Saturday's all-day programme at the Wigmore Hall at the call of Glyndebourne's Carmelites. Only Sunday morning Bach could possibly follow that shattering experience. The balance of four more world-class soloists was perfect. Who would have thought the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue could work so well on the harp? If anything it sounded even more modern in the hands of Sivan Magen, running the dynamic gamut from intimate whispers to a forceful full tone you wouldn't have thought possible on the instrument. Simone RubinoSunny uplift came in the form of the Allemande from the Third Cello Suite. I already treasure Kuniko's two-CD set of Bach transcriptions for marimba, but Rubino (pictured above) is in a class of his own, a beguiling performer to watch as well as hear. A whole Bach concert from him would be welcome, and I very much want to hear profound thinker Filippo Gorini in Bach's complete Art of Fugue. Such careful weight, so many colours.

Intonation and powerful intention were at an astounding level, too, from Geneva Lewis, one of BBT's most recent protege(e)s, in the mighty Chaconne from the Second Partita. She's the second young New Zealand violinist I've heard excel in this supreme challenge, following on the heels of Benjamin Baker. Sean Shibe and Ema NikolovskaGenerosity and careful programming informed the grand (but not too grand) finale in the evening. The Quatuor Ébène, BBT class of 2007 and now established as one of the world's greatest quartets, bookended the programme, spellbinding from the start with intense seriousness in Purcell's Fantasia a4 no 6 in F.

That complemented guitarist Sean Shibe's Dowland start, drawing us in to near-silence in that unique way of his before blazing into the light. Immediate segue into three Dowland songs, mezzo Ema Nikolovska stepping forth with full charisma (pictured above with Shibe). It's the first time I've seen her live, and what a communicator. Her chemistry with Shibe spanned three centuries of English music, giving us two of Britten's Songs from the Chinese – starting with The Old Lute and its magical epilogue – and two songs from Ades's The Exterminating Angel, "It's very late now" featuring Nikolovska's debut as pianist. Quatuor Ebene at the Wigmore HallThat was all pure magic. Schubert's Rondo in B minor brought us down to earth with too much of a bump: it's not great music, and Uchida made surprisingly heavy weather of the piano part, allowing violinist Itamar Zorman to shine only fitfully; I'd like to hear him in a different context. The Ébènes re-established the enchantment in an interpretation of Ravel's String Quartet that gleamed in every facet: playfulness, mystery and full-throttle passion in a coruscating finale. For those with any energy left, there were two more great quartets at the Wigmore Hall yesterday. But we'd had our visions.

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