Review: Nicola Benedetti and Manchester Camerata @ The Bridgewater Hall

The Bridgewater Hall hosted one of the world’s foremost international violinists Nicola Benedetti performing alongside the Manchester Camerata orchestra this weekend.

Benedetti has played at some of the most prestigious venues throughout the world, including the Sydney Opera House, so a chance to see her live in Manchester is one to be relished.

Lights dimmed once the orchestra had tuned their instruments to treat the audience to Silouan’s Song by Arvo Pärt. 

The music, somber and slow, was enhanced by the near total darkness of the hall.  It allowed the audience to feel completely connected to the music instantly.

Dimming all other senses so that the sounds could penetrate and encourage the music, it allowed the mind to wander freely without the exposure of other stimulus.

A clever start to the concert, the audience knew at once they were experiencing something intimate and special.

Once normal light had resumed, on walks the graceful Benedetti. Renowned for her sublime technique and masterful performances, dressed in a green gown and holding one of the world’s most expensive violins – the 1717 Gariel Stradivarius – Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons’ began.

The conductor, Gábor Takács-Nagy, wanted to offer something different in his approach to The Four Seasons, some of the world’s most celebrated classical music.  Going back to Vivaldi’s manuscripts he offered the audience the chance to hear the words to the seasons as well as to hear a lively and colourful performance.

With the words ‘Springtime is upon us’ Benedetti and the orchestra began ‘The Four Seasons’.

They continued: “The birds celebrate her return with festive song, and murmuring streams are softly caressed by the breezes.  Thunderstorms, those heralds of Spring, roar, casting their dark mantle over heaven, then they die away to silence, and the birds take up their charming songs once more.”

Each season was played with vibrancy.  The orchestra played with the skill that their reputation demanded.  The music speaks for itself and the performance of each induced the audience to feel the seasons in their seats.  Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter were heard and felt. A majestic display of musicianship.

A Vivaldi concerto for two oboes, bassoon, two horns and violin in F Major was next.  Here crescendo and diminuendo are used by Vivaldi to demonstrate each instrument for its merits while allowing Benedetti to show why she is one of the world’s top violinists.

Mozart’s symphony No 36 in C Major, ‘Linz’, followed. It was a performance that did justice to one of classical music’s most hallowed names.

Benedetti was awe-inspiring from start to finish.  It was a master-class in how to play the violin.  Truly captivating, she showed the ease with which she can play some of the most difficult music while the energetic and charismatic Takács-Nagy got the best out of his orchestra with his intense approach to his work.

Benedetti left the stage to rapturous applause allowing the orchestra to conclude with Mozart’s Linz Symphony, to rapturous applause.

It was a special event, where Manchester Camerata played on home turf and it treated fans of classical music to three of the world’s most well known composers, and to Benedetti, a maestro. 

The theme of the music offered on the night was dramatic but uplifting.  It created an exciting atmosphere matching the expectation that Benedetti fans would expect.

Before her performance with Manchester Camerata Benedetti demonstrated her legacy of being an active mentor. Children from Old Oak Primary in Telford and Heron Cross Primary in Stoke-on-Trent had the opportunity to perform in the concert hall with her.

The opportunity was set up by In Harmony Telford and Stoke (IHTS), a social programme designed to give children who have no access to musical instruments the chance to learn and play and hopefully carry their passion for playing music throughout their lives.

The children, excited by their surroundings, were wonderful to listen to.  They played perfectly in unison with each other.  An incredible opportunity, it also highlighted the amazing work done by Benedetti in encouraging young musicians of the future.

Image courtesy of Decca Classics, with thanks.

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