BBT – Wednesdays at Wilton’s


(Wilton’s front door photo James Perry; Wilton’s interior photo Mike Twigg)

The Borletti-Buitoni Trust and a new residency at one of London’s buried treasures

A week ago, Wilton’s Music Hall was home to an intimate Duran Duran charity gig. This week the grand old venue, one of East London’s little-known charms, looked down on young classical musicians starting out, recipients of a fellowship from the Borletti-Buitoni Trust given their chance to shine.

The hall is a wonderful performing space, a former 18th century ale house converted to a music room and concert hall, and now in the throes of a renovation that looks set to preserve its character while offering new, vibrant performance opportunities. The hall itself, with a high roof and balcony supported by what looks like parts from an old pile-driver, has acoustic properties ideal for piano or guitar – which was illustrated in an hour-long concert to launch the BBT‘s Wednesday’s at Wilton’s series.

Composer-pianist Kate Whitley made a strong impression – and as co-founder and artistic director of Multi-Story, which gave a performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in a disused car park in Peckham, she is clearly an imaginative force. Whitley writes direct, unflinching music that can hit you between the eyes (two of her 5 Piano Pieces, for instance) or expose a melting heart (the song This is my love poem for you, from the poetry of Sabrina Mahfouz).

Her Three pieces for violin and piano, meanwhile, stood next to an equivalent set by the György Kurtág – a brave move that, it not entirely successful, illustrated the grand old Hungarian composer and his extraordinary musical compression, writing in one note what others could hardly manage with one hundred!

Performers and audience are treated as equals on these nights, and it was helpful that Whitley gave good context and musical examples to her pieces beforehand. We also had a sneak preview of the second concert in the series from guitarist Sean Shibe, who took on the tragic tale of Spanish composer Antonio José, executed by firing squad in his early thirties. Shibe played two movements, a winsome Pavane Triste and vigorous Finale from his Sonata for Guitar.

With concertgoers, performers and building ideally matched, this looks like the start of a meaningful friendship in East London – and you would be firmly advised to take the chance to see the musicians of the future in such a friendly and inspiring environment.

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