Review: York Late Music, Duncan Honeybourne/ Dr K Sextet, Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York, May 4

THE latest Late Music saw Duncan Honeybourne expertly exploring British piano miniatures at Saturday lunchtime, while the Dr K Sextet examined Oliver Knussen’s legacy in the evening.

Honeybourne repeated wholesale his recent disc for Grand Piano. Best among a mixed bunch were Christopher Headington’s whirligig Italian Dance (1950), John Longmire’s Regent Street (1962) combining jazz and chorale, and Peter Racine Fricker’s capricious Two Impressions (1981).

David Power’s Eight Miniatures (1998-2001) were always imaginative, but Peter Reynolds’s airy Cippyn (2016) was handicapped by its rudimentary electronics.

Dr K’s tribute to Knussen included his own Upon One Note, inspired by Purcell, which proved a lively theme and variations in reverse, while his Masks for solo flute, alternately skittery and contemplative, was coolly handled by Ilze Ikse.

David Lancaster’s quintet Strike (2014) was at its best when edgy and staccato, with effective repose at its heart. Joseph Richards gave a dazzling account of Philippe Hurel’s marimba solo Loops IV. There was a palpable aura of lament about Stef Conner’s The Ruin, inspired by early Anglo-Saxon poetry.

A York St John University student, Richard Crawshaw, enjoyed a brief moment in the sun, with his rhapsodic response to a chapter in Wind In The Willows, for violin, flute, marimba and piano.

Three pieces from The Sound Of Gesture, by Stevie Wishart, were virtually a violin concerto – fluently played by Alice Barron – but were almost undone by the inertia of its conclusion. Heather Ryall’s lively clarinet made Jörg Widmann’s Fantasie constantly intriguing. Thomas Simaku’s Stepping Up transcended its opaque programme note to become fascinating in the hands of pianist Alex Wilson.

Nicola LeFanu’s Sextet (1997) engagingly evoked wild flowers in Ireland, with cello (Alice Murray) and bongos pleasingly assertive. Dr K are highly persuasive advocates for new music.

Martin Dreyer