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REVIEW: Nicola Benedetti & Camerata, Bridgewater Hall

Neil Sowerby relishes the seasonality of the radiant violin virtuoso

Written by . Published on September 22nd 2014.

REVIEW: Nicola Benedetti & Camerata, Bridgewater Hall

HALF way through a Four Seasons that had all the spellbinding stamp of Manchester Camerata picking up where they left off last year I suddenly thought of the loss to Britain of an artist such as Nicola Benedetti if the Scots independence poll had gone differently. All quite random. Virtuosos of this quality belong to the world.

For Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, he programmed in four scene-setting seasonal sonnets from the composer to be declaimed. Don’t give up the day job, Antonio.

Since her victory in BBC Young Musician of the Year a decade ago this extraordinary young violinist has become a global superstar, transcending petty political boundaries.

She also exhibits a disarming humility and discipline in such a role, discreetly blending in among the Camerata strings despite her lead role in the perennial Vivaldi crowd-pleaser. Earlier, before the new season curtain-raiser, she had played with 30 Staffordshire primary school kids, as part of the ensemble’s ‘In Harmony’ project to bring music to disadvantaged areas.

Nicola BenedettiNicola Benedetti

Conductor Gábor Takács-Nagy is on educational missions of his own. Over his four years in charge, he has obviously loved engaging Bridgewater audiences with his speeches introducing works. Here in the season’s opener, he charmingly explained how Mozart’s Linz Symphony – the exuberant concert closer from a mainly standing orchestra – came about.

For Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, he programmed in four scene-setting seasonal sonnets from the composer to be declaimed. Don’t give up the day job, Antonio. Fortunately, the Camerata and Benedetti did wonderful justice to the work, particularly in the Winter section. The communal love shone out in her encore of one movement from Autumn.

After the break, there was more orchestral democracy in action in Vivaldi’s Concerto in F (RV 569) for two oboes, bassoon, two horns and violin – a breathless fifteen minutes weaving her joyous fiddle contribution (a slow movement especially glorious) against the skittering onslaught of oboists Rachael Clegg and Mary Gilbert, bassoonist Laurence Perkins and horn duo Naomi Atherton and Johnny Harris.

All a far remove from the concert’s opening work, Silouan’s Song, from Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, a Camerata favourite. Performed in near darkness, it was a five-minute meditation on the words of the Russian monk, “My soul yearns after the Lord and I seek Him in tears”. So Camerata to kick off a concert in search of contemplative silence – and then proceed to celebrate all the joys of the world around us.


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JaneOctober 29th 2014.

Camerata should be Manchester's orchestra in residence. Brill!

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