Review: Crewe at a Crossroads

Posted on March 28, 2010

Chris Ramsden reviews Manchester Camerata’s farewell concert at the Crewe Lyceum

“How appropriate that the music which was Chopin’s farewell to Warsaw should be the Manchester Camerata‘s goodbye to Crewe.

It started with my realisation that in this, the 200th anniversary of Chopin’s birth, I was never going to hear live either of the works I consider his masterpieces, the piano concertos. I’m told orchestral players just don’t like them; they consider their part in proceedings very boring, since the spotlight is so much on the soloist.

Chopin wasn’t interested in that kind of piano concerto which Mozart so finely honed, where the piano and orchestra are in some kind of dialogue. He wrote the works as he left for Paris so he could show off. And since he was about to become a peripatetic virtuoso, he couldn’t be sure what quality of orchestra he would get as his backing group — so he made it simple.

Anyway, when I saw that the first piano concerto was to be performed at Crewe’s Lyceum Theatre by the Manchester Camerata and Martin Roscoe — whose work I admire greatly — I was there in a shot.

Only to find I’d walked into a major funding row. Along with our programmes, we were handed a letter from Bob Riley, the Camerata‘s chief executive, declaring that the group’s series at the Lyceum was ending on Friday night after twenty years, because of funding cuts by the new Cheshire East council.

In the event, the performance was much more interesting than any normal performance of the piano concerto would have been. Taking their lead from a quite common 19th century practice of making small-scale versions of work for home performance, the Camerata had commissioned a version of the piano concerto for sextet. The arrangement was made especially by the conductor and organist Darius Battiwalla.

To read the whole review click HERE