Star rating: ***
There is not much new music in the programme directed by the three "emergent leaders" responsible for this week's free lunchtime recitals, starting today, that being the job of the academy's Plug season. But Summerfest made its mark for composition in this introductory concert on Friday with a smashing piece by Marcos Fernandez Barreros for the trio of directors. Against a pulsating score like the soundtrack for a Western movie, Bede Williams's trumpet obbligato fitted the style, but at the same time it was involved in a more intimate conversation with Ani Batikian's violin and Fraser Gordon's bassoon. Very approachable music with echoes of Korngold or Vaughn Williams, Toccata's structure was nicely developed and shaped.
The piece followed James MacMillan's Three Dawn Rituals rather well, although its gamelan-inspired score, with prepared piano and vibraphone, jazz rhythms and high-frequency piccolo and E flat clarinet make it fairly atypical MacMillan. Unusual pieces such as this will certainly make the marking of the composer's half- century more interesting.
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In parts, its underscore was like a very fast continuo, so its programming after Bach's Brandenburg Concert No 1 was interesting, just as the closing of the concert with Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks was deliberately intended to mirror that piece's inspiration of two centuries earlier. The plain fact is that this generation of players are patently more comfortable with twentieth century music. The Stravinsky was boldly played and confidently conducted by Williams while the Bach, directed by Batikian from the violin, wobbled badly in the Allegro third movement and suffered from poor balance throughout - with her solo violin all but lost in the mix - before recovering in some fluid playing of the minuet and trio.