MANCHESTER CAMERATA Bridgewater Hall
BY the time Manchester Camerata’s season-opening concert took place on Saturday, its title had expanded from just ‘España’ to ‘España, Beethoven and the Beatles’. The reason for the third part of that trilogy only became apparent during the evening, but the capacity to hit multiple targets simultaneously is a Camerata feature these days, and they do it very well.
So the Bridgewater Hall audience was introduced to their community work with a pre-show performance, and to their ground-breaking work with dementia patients through a short film in the hall itself.
The music-making began with Rossini, whose overture to The Barber Of Seville, ostensibly Spanish in location, is really about as Italian as you can get (as music director Gábor Takács-Nagy explained in his introductory chat). It was lively and transparently-textured, a factor that rubbed off in all the subsequent orchestral playing.
España itself followed – the overture by Chabrier, re-arranged by Simon Parkin for chamber orchestra in a way that brought birdsong to the range of colourful effects and kept the percussion players (all two of them) extremely busy switching from one piece of kit to another (and sometimes deploying two at once). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a maraca used to hit a kettle drum before.
He needed two chairs on stage – one for himself and one for his little amplifier, which certainly helped to make every note of the solo audible over the orchestra, though I’m not sure how much Rodrigo would even have expected that.
Still, it was a lovely and lively interpretation of the piece (extremely so in the case of the oboe part in the first movement), with the orchestra producing some delicately tiny pianissimi, and Craig Ogden’s playing superb as ever.
Then the first explanation of where the Beatles were to figure in the concert: his encore was Takemitsu’s solo guitar version of Yesterday, which is just a little different from the original but equally enchanting.
Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ symphony (no. 6) followed, played by Takács-Nagy and the Camerata with all the imagination and dramatic effect they could muster: it’s exciting to hear how thunderous the storm can sound even with limited numbers in the orchestra (as would have been the case originally), and never was the sense of devout communing with nature quite so well evoked as at the end of this reading – Beethoven as a musical Wordsworth.
Then the second Beatles number, as the strings of the orchestra played Eleanor Rigby as their encore to the whole programme. It certainly sent everyone home happy.