Carmen Reworked – About Manchester

Posted on April 27, 2014

Carmen Reworked
Sunday 27 April 2014
Albert Hall, Manchester

Closed, hidden and forgotten for over forty years, Manchester’s Albert Hall came alive yesterday afternoon with the sounds of classical music as Manchester Camerata performed Grieg, Mozart and Shchedrin to a packed auditorium.

For those unsure about the venue, this former Wesleyan chapel designed by the architect, WJ Morley was opened in 1906, to house a growing Wesleyan Manchester congregation.It closed its doors in 1969, maybe better known as Brannigan’s Night Club but has now been taken over Joel Wilkinson, the man behind Trof and is being renovated with the promise of becoming one of the most atmospheric music and events venues in the UK.

Until then its space is up for hire and Manchester Camerata filled its atmospheric space with music conducted by its Director, the Hungarian Gabor Takacs-Nagy.

The highlight, the second half forty five minute performance of Rodion Shchedrin’s Carmen Suite for Strings and Percussion, thirteen movements of Bizet’s opera often described as being viewed through a twisted kaleidoscope. Crashing drums and cymbals, horses hooves and bells intersperse with violin,viola, cello and double base producing a semi abstract narrative to the Carmen story leaving the listener tempted by the illusion to the harmonies. Probably not though to be taken too seriously, you get all the familiar tunes dressed up in a way Bizet would never have imagined.

When it was first performed at the Bolshoi in 1967, the Soviet Authorities immediately banned it for its perceived over sexualisation of the main character and for showing disrespect to Bizet.The standing ovation at the end showed what the Manchester audience thought of it.

Earlier the audience were treated to Greig’s Holbert Suite written in appreciation of the playwright and metaphysician on the bicentenary of his birth in 1884 and Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A, written as one of three concertos by the maestro in 1782. The pianist for the latter, a young maestro himself, Norwegian born Christian Ihle Hadland.

For the encore, a bit of a surprise with a short performance by virtuoso accordionist and winner of Lithuania’s Got Talent, Martynas Levickis and a Vivaldi Winter from Four Seasons. Maybe a fitting way to round off a concert in such an inspired venue.

About Manchester – Carmen Reworked, Reviewer – Nigel Barlow