Sitting facing each other at two grand pianos placed back-to-back, the one nestling in the crook of the other, Katia and Marielle Labèque offered up a mesmeric set of performances at Barbican Hall. Joined during the first half of the night by composer-guitarist David Chalmin, who ascended during his piece, Particule n° 5 – Particule n° 6 de Sept, and The National’s Bryce Dessner, whose own composition, Haven, was simultaneously exploratory yet tethered, the Labèques deftly anchored every single offering.

Intricate performances of Max Richter’s The Twins (Prague), Caroline Shaw’s Valencia and Timo Andres’ Out of Shape gave the first half of the programme a crystalline shape, which was further sharpened by the Thom Yorke pieces that followed the interval. Don’t Fear The Light ebbed and flowed, punctuated by thrilling spikes, with Yorke finally pulling the audience by a silken thread as soon as he started singing on Gawpers. The encore, Suspirium, kept everyone willingly in thrall of those onstage. The automatic standing ovation might have been the only way to lure the captive audience out of their seats and away from the sanctuary of the auditorium.

Photo credit: Mark Allan

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