Posted on May 22, 2010

Chris Ramsden reviews PARIS, VIENNA, LONDON at Stafford Gatehouse Theatre

Paris, Vienna, London, Stafford, Dominican Republic… it reads like the international credits of a very peculiar fashion chain. 

But this was the geographic story of last night’s performance at Stafford Gatehouse by the Manchester Camerata. Chief designer was conductor Douglas Boyd, with a cheeky little number run up by pianist Kathryn Stott out of pure Mozart.

We started in Paris, where 21 year old Mozart went to take the city by storm. His mum went with him to protect him from himself and women. 

In the event, she died from drinking bad water (and you wonder why the French drink so much of the bottled stuff) and his music didn’t get the acclaim he was seeking.

One of the record companies runs a series called “music at the time of Mozart” to give a hearing to all those lesser and mostly forgotten composers who were around during his lifetime. I dare say that if his Paris symphony, number 31, had been all he wrote, he’d be taking up just one disc in the series re-named “music at the time of Haydn.”

Oh, all right, some very interesting things do happen in the third movement, and I must go back and listen again. But on the whole, it’s Mozart in bright, sunny, divertimento mode.

Just half a dozen years later he was the toast of Vienna, and a wholly different kind of composer. The piano concerto in D minor, number 20, K466, is now in the dark but lively world of Don Giovanni.

It opens like a huge black cloud over the orchestra (and I could have done with even more biting cellos and double basses from the Camerata.)

The second movement is marked Romanze — not so classical, then. And the third movement is a rollicking rondo as the clouds clear.

Kathryn Stott played the concerto with precise elegance, drawing us in to the Romanze so deeply that the audience, which had been hacking and spluttering in the hothouse air of the Gatehouse, fell completely silent.

This was the only concerto of Mozart’s Beethoven kept in his repertoire; mostly, Haydn was his inspiration. I’d never noticed before just how much the Pastoral symphony owes to the final movement of Haydn’s last symphony, number 104, the London, which was the Camerata’s final geographic stop of the evening.

The first performance on the 4th May 1795 at the King’s Theatre made Haydn 4000 gulden, about the same as Mozart earned in the entire year of 1791.

Douglas Boyd and the Camerata put in a lot of effort to make sure we thought it had been worth every penny.

This, the final concert of the season, came with an extra bonus item in the form of Cojeulo Spirit, an octet written by Dominican composer José Guillermo Puello, who’s currently doing a masters in composition at Manchester University. It had a tricky and captivating Latin American rhythm, with a plaintive violin solo breaking out occasionally above (it could almost have been a melody, if such things weren’t banned in the 21st century.) I quite liked it.

As we know, the Camerata doesn’t go to Crewe any more, but Douglas Boyd announced that it will be coming to Stafford for the next two years, thanks to grants from the borough and county councils and the arts council.

And this concert was under the banner of the Stafford Music Festival, which ends today. Altogether, it’s a town with tunes.

It’s also, as I’ve mentioned before, got far and away the best interval ice cream from a local farm. It was therefore totally unnecessary to attempt to increase sales by destroying the Gatehouse’s air conditioning and turning it into a giant sauna.

To read more about Kathryn Stott click here

To listen to an interview with young composer José Guillermo Puello visit out Podcast section

Read the whole review here