Opera + Classical Music Reviews

Kings Place opens with a bang! @ King’s Cross, London

1 October 2008

Kings Place (Photo: Nick White)

Kings Place, King’s Cross. Note the apostrophes because this could be one of London’s trendy new meeting places.

The building is an architectural marvel, glass and marble, light and open spaces.

At the back, terraces open straight onto an attractive canal, complete with ducks and narrow boats.

In summer the bar here will be a magnet.

Follow the clicking that’s Ligeti’s witty 100 metronomes installation, down to the concert floor below. Hall One is spectacular, easily the most elegant concert hall in London.

Simon Holt’s Disparate, a world premire, inaugurated the new hall. It’s a beautiful, lovingly written piece, spoiled at first by builders still banging away. Hammers and concerts don’t mix! Full credit to Melinda Maxwell, the soloist, who held her own bravely against the noise. Inadvertently, the builders were demonstrating the acoustics. Kings Cross and St Pancras may thunder past unheard, but inside Hall One itself, sound is sharply magnified.

Holt’s programme for this concert included pieces like Castiglioni’s Intonazione, whose wit is so light and delicate it needs to be heard in intimate spaces. Endymion, many of whom are members of the London Sinfonietta, made the refinement sound effortless in this lucid acoustic. Later Ian Burnside accompanied three Lieder concerts, in which Roderick Williams was outstanding.

The most exciting surprises, though, were the concerts of Indian music in Hall Two. The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Centre is the biggest Indian arts institute outside India. It’s the Indian culture equal of the RAM, RCM, Guildhall and King’s, producing seriously distinguished musicians and dancers.

Indian culture dates back 2000 years, long before western classical tradition. Since so much new western music draws on Indian rhythm, tempi and values, this was fascinating The musicians were extremely articulate and their enthusiasm had the audience entranced. More, please!

It’s this sort of discovery that makes the concept behind Kings Place visionary. Part of each week there’ll be concerts, talks, art and activity clustered around special themes, always changing in focus. The idea is that people will come to Kings Place because it’s a fun after work meeting place, where you never know what might be on offer.

It’s about adventure. People can sample many different things, and learn something new. Kings Place is too small for celebrity performers but it will be a place for those for whom being part of the crowd matters less than having fun.

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