Review: Camerata in Stafford

Posted on February 18, 2010

Review from Chris Ramsden’s Notes from Middle England blog


“Back in 2007, Gordan Nikolitch turned up at the Stafford Gatehouse with the Manchester Camerata and proceeded to conduct them while playing the violin. It was a pretty awesome sight and sound. His day job is leading the London Symphony Orchestra, and he’d obviously seen quite a few conductors from his front-row seat and decided he could do better.

He’s still principal guest director of the Camerata, but I see he’s now made a disc conducting the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra from the violin in Schubert’s fourth and fifth symphonies. It’s won the accolade of being an Editor’s Choice in Gramophone magazine; “there are myriad intricacies and a delicious lightness of touch” says James Inverne.

Well, the latest violinist to dig a tunnel out of the orchestral prison is Adi Brett, who came to the Stafford Gatehouse with the Manchester Camerata last night (though she’s had a haircut and doesn’t look much like the picture any more.)

She was in the Hallé for eight years before leaving to go freelance, and last night, like Gordan, she conducted the Camerata’s strings from the violin. Now I’m not qualified to say whether they sounded better with her than without her. But I can say the concert was an unqualified success.

She began by talking to us, which was absolutely the right thing to do with any audience in Staffordshire or Cheshire. She introduced the music, though she doesn’t yet stand up and speak as well as she stands up and plays.

The concert opened with Holst’s St Paul’s Suite. It’s named after the girls’ school in Hammersmith where he taught music. They must have been pretty good, but I heard the lady next to me telling her companion it’s a very good school, academically. No doubt something similar was said when Antonio Vivaldi led out his girls, too.

Then Adi Brett stood up to take us through Schubert’s Rondo in A for violin and strings, which can sound a little bland unless it’s carefully pointed. Here it was excellent, even if Adi Brett didn’t seem to me to have got the balance quite right yet between playing up to the audience and conducting her orchestra.

Elgar’s Serenade for Strings was strong and shapely. The Sibelius work — Rakastava, the Lover — was one I didn’t know, and I’m a keen Sibelius fan. I shall be looking it out (though I see from the internet that it should have a triangle and tympani in it as well. The Camerata seemed to manage fine without either).

And finally, the work we’d all been waiting for, Tchaikovsky’s String Serenade. With only nineteen players, and only one double bass, this was a fine, strong and nimble sound. Just lovely. Adi Brett made three curtain calls and her orchestra refused to stand up to take the audience’s applause until they’d finished fully applauding her. Watch out for her doing a Gordan sometime soon.

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