PROBABLY all of us have heard of Stradivarius and his violins, but a 'piccolo violin'? This mini-instrument, approximately half the size of its sibling is, according to Petr Prause the artistic director of the Festival, 'the jewel of the Royal Northern College of Music’s (RNCM) historic instruments'.
It is glorious piece of music and the Cathedral was a wonderful place to hear it played so well. The very loud applause was well-merited.
It was played by the soloist Lucy Gould, in the Brandenburg Concerto No 1, during the RNCM’s Bach weekend. It was a fine performance, Gould outstanding on the mini-me violin, although things became a little raucous when the French horns flared and squawked (perhaps a little more rehearsal might have been in order). The challenging tempo changes of the concerto, particularly the final movement were, however, well negotiated by the ensemble as a whole.
Far more satisfying was the Brandenburg 3 (in the first half). Petr Prause, a cellist, himself led from the stage, and this exceptionally popular chamber work took off at a terrific clip and never faltered. The harpsicordist, and lead violin and viola were also exceptional and the rhythm and pace were perfectly matched. It is glorious piece of music and the Cathedral was a wonderful place to hear it played so well. The very loud applause was well-merited.
Bach beating out a tune on his organ
Interspersed around the two Brandenburgs (all six were played over the three days of the festival), were an assortment of arrangements of selections from The Art of Fugue - of course remixing is not new and not the preserve of DJs. Played by brass and wind quintets and quartets, these small, gleaming arrangements were performed very well by the groups of RNCM students usually with precision and flair.
The RNCM is being 'transformed' at the moment (everything is transformed nowadays, rather than being re-built, or re-upholstered), so this annual festival took place in the also recently transformed Cathedral and the still-under-scaffolding St Ann's Church.
The Cathedral's much heralded underfloor heating is not yet fully functional: it is being turned up very very slowly, to avoid cracking the tiles. Those in the know had brought blankets and fur hats. Hopefully the green room was a lot warmer, as Bach must be pretty difficult for cold digits.
Confidential is going to take more notice of the classical concerts and events in the city in 2014.
With two major resident orchestras, three music schools (Chethams, the RNCM and the University of Manchester), many visiting companies, half a dozen venues and many free concerts, there is no doubting its popularity - the Cathedral was packed on Sunday afternoon incidentally and sales throughout the weekend were high.
If you want to catch a free lunchtime concert there are many to choose from - University of Manchester Martin Harris Centre (most Monday and Thursday), RNCM (currently being held in the Holden Gallery of MMU), Chethams, Bridgewater Hall.
The saints survey the RNCM concert
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