Appearing at Milton Court the day after her performance of Salonen’s Violin Concerto at the Barbican, Leila Josefowicz enclosed three short utterances from the 20th century with two works by Schubert. After a shaky start to the evening, Josefowicz turned out an impressive performance full of fire and flair, excelling in Stravinsky’s Duo concertant. Pianist John Novacek made a strong contribution, while allowing Josefowicz to steal the show.
Coupling Busoni’s arrangements of Bach with Beethoven’s quasi una fantasia sonatas, Op. 27 and using some late Liszt to introduce Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Paul Lewis’s programme ranged from inward contemplation to thrilling drama. Despite his elegant lyricism and nuanced readings, the recital was slightly marred by some surprising technical flaws.
The most significant thing about this double bill of contemporary operas was that it happened at all. With companies like the English Opera Group, Kent Opera and Almeida Opera having disappeared, the opportunities for emerging composers to kick-start their operatic careers were few and far between. A new collaboration between Aldeburgh Music, Opera North and The Royal Opera will fill this gap, commissioning three sets of chamber operas over three years. With top-notch resources at their disposal, this framework is invaluable for the development of young composers and offers them vital experience. These two operas were the first products of this new initiative, displaying mixed results: while Francisco Coll produced a taut, memorable work, Elspeth Brooke’s venture proved less successful.