Marielle and Katia Labèque lead a hypnotic programme that included Max Richter, The National’s Bryce Dessner and Timo Andres
It’s probable that much of the audience at this sold-out show bought tickets simply to gawp at Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, who appears in the final half hour of the programme, but that might downplay the extraordinary celebrity of the pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque. These French sisters seem to have been a fixture on TV screens for ever, playing Mozart, Schubert or Bernstein at assorted Proms, or performing glitzy Gershwin duets on mainstream shows such as Wogan or Pebble Mill at One.
Incredibly, they’re now in their late 60s but – having worked through baroque, romantic, fin de siècle impressionism and 20th-century modernism since the 1970s – they are immersing themselves in an increasingly youthful repertoire. Their 2013 album, Minimalist Dream House, saw them playing compositions by Aphex Twin, Radiohead and Brian Eno alongside minimalist classics by the likes of Terry Riley, Philip Glass, Michael Nyman and Arvo Pärt.
Tonight’s programme serves as a sequel, with more minimalist compositions by a range of youngish composers. In places, you’re tempted to conclude that the Labèque sisters might be wasted on minimalism: getting two flamboyant technicians to play like machines is like getting Rembrandt to paint your shed. They rattle through an ultra-fast, ultra-simple miniature by Max Richter like someone cranking the rolls on a player piano at high speed. Plonk, plonk, chug, chug. What a waste!