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Three world premieres in memorable festival climax.

Northern Chords Gala Concert at The Sage Gateshead A CONCERT boasting three world premieres is a very rare thing, but that was the case here on Sunday night as the Northern Chords chamber music festival reached its memorable climax.

The young Gateshead-born cellist Jonathan Bloxham, who is the brains behind Northern Chords, explained to the Hall 2 audience that the festival had worked with composition students at Newcastle University.

Three short pieces had been selected to be performed by the Notos Quartet, the ensemble which opened proceedings with Frank Bridge's Phantasy Piano Quartet.

We heard Notus by Faidonas Prokopiou, Hurdling by Helen Papaioannou and Applause by Juan-Manuel Loaiza.

After Prokopiou's gentler, more lyrical opener, the other pair introduced a more frenzied approach to classical music, Papaioannou with unconventionally long pauses and changes of pace, Loaiza with hand clapping and a lot of purely visual bow waving. It was like an open mic slot for classical musical with quality control. Interesting and invigorating.

The concert also saw the culmination of the Northern Chords Young Musician of the Year contest with last year's joint winner, violinist and National Youth Orchestra member Gi Dong Park, from Billingham, declared the winner.

The 13-year-old's recital got the nod from the judges over that of cellist Chloe Brooks, of Young Sinfonia.

It must have been a close call because both were exceptional. Both, also, attend the Weekend School at The Sage Gateshead.

The young musicians assembled by Jonathan for Northern Chords perform with an earnest intensity, but the concerts have been characterised by good humour.

An engaging host, Jonathan made light of minor mishaps - such as the missing sheet of music which held up the final piece, Dvorak's piano quintet - and ensured the warmth clearly felt by the musicians for each other extended to the audience.

While an extra piece of music was printed off, pianists Omri Epstein and Antonia K|ster performed an impromptu piano duet.

The concert also featured a piano recital by the widely experienced Walter Delahunt who, while senior to his colleagues, has clearly embraced the Northern Chords philosophy.

Anthony Sargent, general director of The Sage, endorsed the festival, saying it "makes a very special commitment to young artists, composers and performers". It will be back next year with a recital by the precocious Gi Dong Park.

David Whetstone
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 3, 2012
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