Camerata in Love
Stoller Hall Manchester
Rebecca Bottone,Ilya Kondratiev,Caroline Pether,Hannah Roberts. …..and an unexpected visit from Callum Mclachlan.
Now in its second year the inspired and inspiring collaboration between the Keyboard Charitable Trust and the Manchester Camerata opened its second year last night in the magnificent new Stoller Hall that is a great and much needed addition to Chethams Music School.
This remarkable school that like the Purcell and Menuhin schools further south have been responsible for the early training of so many talented young children .
A training sadly lacking for so many years in England that allowed too often in the past, an unfair advantage from young early trained musicians from the Eastern countries. This is now no longer the case and it is no coincidence that there has been an explosion of english trained talent on the International Music scene in the past few years.
One of three orchestras in this enlightened (literally) city.
The Camerata is the only one to maintain the cities name according to Geoffrey Shindler,their honorary chairman who was so proud to inform me.
The Halle created by Sir John Barbirolli whose statue stands outside the relatively new Bridgewater Hall that it shares with the BBC Philharmonic.
Manchester an industrial city that had been treated so cruelly in the second world war and even recently suffered a devastating bomb attack from terrorists right in its very heart only a stones throw from the Cathedral and Chethams.
The brave and resilient Mancunians with that noble working spirit of the north have come back stronger and more determined than ever.
A city full of new concert halls,theatres,art galleries and astonishing commercial centres incorporating the old with the new.
Last year the Keyboard Trust collaborated with the Manchester Camerata in three different venues with three young stars from the KCT stable . The Whitworth award winning Art gallery with Alexander Ullman the only British pianist ever to have won both Liszt International Competitions in Budapest and Utrecht
Home a cultural centre that has grown out of the old leather foundry with Emanuel Rimoldi,winner of Tromso Top of the World International Competition .
Manchester Cathedral,devastated in the war and brought back to life as a symbol of this brave City with Iyad I. Sughayer,recent winner of the Trinity Laban Gold Medal. It was an inspired choice of programme with Haydn`s Last Words on the Cross and Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time. Geoffrey Shindler and many in the vast audience were deeply moved and had tears in their eyes.
It cemented a relationship that was the brain child of Geoffrey Shindler passionately believing in “The Next Generation “and sponsoring it from his own pocket too.
But then the hardy folk from the “North” have never been afraid to bare their souls with actions rather than words.
And so the new season with Ilya Kondratiev , Chapell Gold Medal Winner at the Royal College of Music and a top prize winner too in the Budapest Liszt Competition,joined two of the magnificent players from the Camerata to form a piano trio in a concert dedicated to Valentine`s day under the charming title “Camerata in Love” .
The idea of bassoonist and now enlightened Head of Artistic Development and Programming,James Thomas.
At the head of a young team of passionate music promoters in the name of the Camerata under their chief in command Bob Riley.
All with that warmth and intelligent common sense that is so much part of these extraordinary “down to earth” folk.
A programme made up of Romances for violin.and piano with Caroline Pether`s superb violin and the renowned cellist Hannah Roberts.
A Salut d`Amour ,of course,could not be missing and neither could Il Bacio sung by the daughter of Bonaventura Bottone the renowned coloratura soprano Rebecca Bottone.
All this only a prelude to the” sturm und drang” of Brahm`s passionate youthful masterwork the Trio in B major op.8.
The beauty of the sound of Caroline Pethers violin filled the hall with all her subtle and intelligent artistry that she had already revealed in the final rehearsals that afternoon.
The Beethoven Romance n.2 in F op.50,too rarely heard these days and given a suitably warm and loving performance as was befitting an evening dedicated to love and lovers.
A full orchestra provided by Ilya Kondratiev on a Steinway D on full stick.
Never overpowering the violin this fine musician was listening always attentively as the refined and sensitive driver of this Ferrari of all instruments.
Hannah Roberts followed with the Romance in A major by Faure .
A refined and passionate performance playing without the score that gave full reign to her complete participation .
I remember Perlemuter asking me to tell the public in Rome before he played some nocturnes by Faure of how the director of the Paris Conservatoire would pass the music down to him in the house they shared with the ink still wet to try out on their piano.
His music shows just that intimate love of Hausmusik that was so much part of all the performances this evening.
Little could we have expected the bomb shell that a little blond haired lady was about to treat us too.
Rebecca Bottone,figlia d`arte of the renowned Bonaventura Bottone and Jennifer Hakin treated us to three show stoppers indeed.
Vilja from Lehar’s Merry Widow sung with a subtle charm reciprocated by our young russian pianist in a duo of give and take that kept the Valentine audience spellbound.
“O mio babbino caro”from Gianni Schicchi did its trick as it had done in the many memorable performances I heard in my student days of Caballe.
Just as beautiful and sustained and quite as moving as I remember those performances.Backed by some beautiful sounds from the piano.
They launched into Arditi`s Il Bacio with all the energy and transcendental technique of the greatest coloratura sopranos for whom it was written.
An amazing performance in which Ilya and Rebecca tried to out do each other in funabular trickery.
An amazing high C showed just who won!
A standing ovation and time for an interval in what was really just the Hors d’oeuvre to our Valentine treat.
I well remember Michael Aspinall the well known – infamous one might almost say-“Gentleman Soprano” who performed it regularly in Rome with the Adelina Patti embellishments .
Sutherland and Caballe used to come and cheer his performances and recognised his absolute authority in the repertoire of the Golden Age of singing.
Having started as a joke at the British Council in Rome dressed as “Britannia” and impersonating to the letter Dame Clara Butt’s inimitable performances he found he could earn enough money from his performances worldwide to help with his musicological studies in the archives of S.Carlo in Naples and elsewhere.
He appeared a few years ago dressed as Britannia at his old Grammar School in Manchester much to the amazement and amusement of his fellow old boys.
Now in his 80th year he is a much sought after singing teacher in Naples with many illustrious students of his singing in the Opera houses around the world.
Elgar’s sublime Salut d’Amour op 12 opened the second half in a trio version arranged by Hannah’s composer husband.
Elgars hymn to love with some intricate counterpoints with some suggestion of the violin and cello concertos.
Elgar’s song to love so beautifully played by all three as the melody passed from one to another in a real amorous tete a tete .The intellectual refinement of the counterpoint was a little bit lost as the violin and cello soared into the perfect acoustic of this beautiful hall.
The main work on the programme was still to come with Brahms passionate and youthful early Trio in B major op 8 .
Played with red hot passion in an exciting and stimulating performance with three players who had only played together for a the past three days .
The beautiful opening on the piano echoed hauntingly by the cello ,passionate and refined.
When the violin enters in unison with the cello and the melody soared with such intensity one could see the almost aching agony on the faces of these dedicated artists.
Barbirolli used to answer any criticism of Jacqueline Du Pre’s red hot performances with the comment that if you do not play with that passion when you are young what do you pare off in old age .
Alas with Jacqueline Du Pre we were never to know.
So cruelly taken from us at only 28.
The Scherzo played with real rhythmic energy the piano answered so perfectly by the cello.
The Trio section sang in stark relief to the impish energy either side.
Some wonderful jeux perle playing from the piano gave an exquisite sheen to this movement.
The serenity of the slow movement was almost as a relief from the intensity of the outer movements .Choral like in its religious calm.
Hannah’s cello slipped in almost unnoticed on the last chord and lead to a tumultuous final movement full of the typical dance like energy that was to mark so many of Brahms’ final movements .The cascading final notes of the piano echoed by the passionate chords from the cello and piano brought an ovation from an audience overwhelmed by a really exhilarating performance.
Manchester the city where music abounds and in the Summer months becomes a mecca for the greatest musicans from around the globe.
The Chethams Summer Piano Festival devised by Murray McLachlan bring the greatest talents in a breathtakingly unique programme which last year included Peter Frankl,Dmitri Alexeev,Craig Shepherd,Leslie Howard ,Carlo Grante,Leon McCawley,Norika Ogawa,Dina Parakhina,Norma Fisher and many many more besides All the Beethoven Concertos played by a selection of these great artists.
Murray McLachlan an ex student of Norma Fisher at the Royal Northern College of Music where she has now transferred her London Masterclasses celebrating it’s 30th year and bringing even more illustrious music to this remarkable city.
Murray McLachlan with his family of musicians too and we were delighted to be able to listen to his very talented eighteen year old son Callum play so beautifully Chopin op 35 and Beethoven op 7 in a pause between rehearsal and concert.
The Hills certainly are full of the Sound of Music which by coincidence is playing at the Palace Theatre and only goes to mirror a fraction of the exciting things that are happening in this remarkable city.
Enlightened indeed ….it is positively gleaming