Manchester Cathedral with soloists of the Camerata with Iyad Sughayer :
Haydn The Seven Last Words and Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time
And so we come to the end of this experiment of a three concert collaboration between the Manchester Camerata and the Keyboard Charitable Trust.
Initiated last november with Alexander Ullman in February Emanuel Rimoldi and now in May the Jordanian Palestinian Iyad Sughayer.
All three remarkable young pianists from the Keyboard Trust “stable” chosen to play with the soloists of the Manchester Camerata in a series under the name of Upclose~The Next Generation.
An idea of that extraordinary man of the arts in Manchester chairman of the Camerata,Geoffrey Shindler.
The idea to give the opportunity to some of the finest young pianists of their generation a chance to expand their horizon and musical experience and enter the world of chamber music with some of the finest players in the country from the Camerata.In specially thought out programs in three of Manchester’s seemingly endless venues for the arts.
The newly refurbished and prize winning Whitworth Art Gallery;Home a brand new Arts Centre recently opened on the site of the old leather factory and tonight Manchester`s beautiful cathedral reborn after the terror and destruction that was wrought on this noble industrial city in the second world war.
Geoffrey Shindler’s “baby” has been conceived and received so well by the artists and public alike that plans are already under discussion for a new exciting season next year.
The young artists from the Keyboard Trust have already been selected and cannot wait to be part of such an extraordinary adventure with the players of the Camerata in some of the magnificent seemingly never ending venues for the arts that Manchester abounds.
Whether new or renovated spaces, a day does not seem to pass in which the enlightened city fathers together with private enterprise have put Manchester once again on the world map.
Originally an example of the great industrial revolution and now an example of how the arts in its many forms can be encouraged to flourish and nourish these nobly generous warm hearted “northerners” at the very soul of this green and hardy island .
The program of this last concert especially chosen to reflect this special venue so close to the hearts of so many of these extraordinarily resilient people.
Two pieces inspired by ecclesiastical texts in a place to reflect,be inspired and to escape for some invaluable moments from the pressures of life.
In fact it was the total silence and almost palpable concentration that surprised everyone,even the astonished audience in a remarkable performance of Messiaen`s moving masterpiece Quartet for the End of time. The work that was chosen to close this extraordinary concert .
It was as though we could sense a period of horror that we had both experienced but through a never wavering faith had come out of triumphant.
Was that not the very inspiration and message for perhaps the greatest of them all J.S.Bach?
The work written by Messiaen as a prisoner of war in a Nazi internment camp and first performed for 400 prisoners and guards in the camp outside in the pouring rain
Inspired by a passage from The Book of Revelation it is made up of eight movements for four virtuosi instrumentalist in an extremely complicated juxtaposition of four,three,two and even one soloist at a time depicting the sort of profound emotions where only music can arrive.
In fact the deep concentration and palpable atmosphere created was evidence enough that music can enter where words are just not enough.
Adi Brett`s enormously expressive violin playing on her wonderful sounding Guardagnini violin of 1752 (kindly on loan to the orchestra by Jonathan Moulds ,one of the UK`s most inspirational philanthropists) found an extraordinarily sensitive partner in the cello playing of Hannah Roberts remarkably seeming to play without looking at the score such was her total absorption in the music.
As was the extraordinarily expressive clarinet playing of Fiona Cross.
All this held tightly together by an ever vigilant Iyad Sughayer on his first revelatory visit to this extraordinary sound world of a true believer .
Amazingly pieced together in only two concentrated rehearsal days it says much for the enormous professional and musical skills of all concerned.
In fact it was Iyad who was moved to write for the first time of the moving experience on his first professional encounter with Messiaen.
Thus,of course,via the generosity of these players from the Camerata happy to share their talent ,experience and skills with a younger inexperienced colleague.
Generous yes,but also aware that there is always an on going dialogue between true musicians and the youthful innocence of this young jordanian palestinian virtuoso pianist injected his own enthusiasm and respectful reverence in a joint offering that was so freshly in evidence today.
The sublime final violin utterings gently accompanied by the piano with which this work movingly ends.The extraordinary intensity as the violin soars into infinity at the end brought aching minutes of silence such was the atmosphere created.
The movement for solo clarinet played with remarkably subtle virtuosity where every note seemed to express the inexpressible.
Hannah Robert’s moving duo with the pianist in which not once did she look at the score. Eye and heart contact is what she was seeking and found with Iyad in this sacred of all places.
Great feats of real virtuosity in the more violently rhythmic movements made one realise what being professional really can mean.
A great lesson imparted to these aspiring young musicians from the Keyboard Trust and hats off to Geoffrey Shindler and his innovative team that has truly made Manchester`s Camerata as described by The Times ” Britain`s most adventurous orchestra”.
Haydn`s Seven Last Words was written in 1786 ,commissioned by a cleric at the church of Santa Cueva in Cadiz for the season of Easter and is based on the last words of Christ: Forgiveness,Salvation,Relationship,Abandonment,Distress, Triumph and Reunion.
Here played in a juxtaposition divided between solo piano and string quartet.
Our players were joined by Rakhi Singh violin and Ulrich Eichenauer in exemplary quartet playing in which individually expressive voices were welded into one completely absorbing musical conversation.
Their dynamic range was quite extraordinary and was matched by some exquisitely refined piano playing from whom I learn was a local boy done good.
For Iyad had been sent to Manchester by his parents at the age of fourteen to Chethams Music school .A school which aims to give gifted children a complete education but where musical needs are understood and nurtured from a very early age.
Along the lines of the Purcell and Menuhin Schools that are so essential for giving the necessary early grounding should these obviously gifted young children wish to pursue their early talent later in life.
Lucky Iyad who has been under the guidance of the ever vigilant Murray McLachlan who has been and still is a guiding light for young musicians.
Strange coincidence that his own mentors were Norma Fisher and Peter Katin.
Norma as a child guided by Sidney Harrison as I too was in my home town and his of Chiswick.
He was the first to give piano lessons on television- to Peter Croser- in the days when one used to have to look into this newly arrived box where programs were shown in black and white for a few hours each evening . His next door neighbour was Eamon Andrews the famous television presenter of This is your Life.
One of the only places that one could hear Peter Katin at the end of what had been a remarkable career was in my theatre in Rome where he would come to play and give masterclasses every year well in to his late seventies when he was long forgotten by his once adoring public from the stable of Madam Tillett- in fact part of that very select group of Moura Lympany,Shura Cherkassky and Rosalyn Tureck.
Iyad now perfecting his studies in London with Martino Tirimo at Trinity Laban is regarded as one of the Middle East`s most promising young artists.
Strange juxtaposition of movements divided between the piano and string quartet~never the twain should meet one could say.
A pity but thankful for such beautiful stylish playing even though not entirely convincing me that this was what Haydn intended.
Such playing that mesmerised the audience and one very enthusiastic member was in rapt discussion with Geoffrey Schindler in the interval both endorsing the sublime beauty of what we had just beheld and the extraordinary playing from all concerned.
A well earned glass of beer at the old pub conveniently placed next to the Cathedral and so to the early slumbers that befalls this gloriously active city ready for who knows what treats in store tomorrow.