This performance marks a special anniversary for the Manchester Collective, it is five years since their first Manchester concert. It is also almost two years since this reviewer saw them on the cusp of the pandemic in the atmospheric White Hotel venue. This evening’s surroundings – a Grade II listed former church where the Hallé Orchestra rehearses – are more refined but equally atmospheric. This venue has Corinthian columns rather than corrugated iron shutters but as ever the Manchester Collective present a programme that duets with the architecture to provide further resonances. A Little Requiem was performed in Bristol the night before but it feels tailor made for this venue, which – like us all – has returned to life following a period of lockdown.
A Little Requiem sees the Manchester Collective expanding its ranks to incorporate woodwind, brass, even a harmonium alongside the company’s string core. The resulting timbre and musical textures are wonderful; breathing life into a collection of work which, though ‘a little about death’ are predominantly hopeful and optimistic. ‘Berceuse éléguiaque’ by Ferruccio Busoni – subtitled ‘the man’s lullaby at his mother’s coffin’ – swirls around the audience to unconventionally begin the proceedings. Victor Lim wrings every nuance from the Harmonium, which whilst it may be a pain to tour is an absolute delight to hear. The meeting of minds between the Manchester Collective and Busoni – who believed that the performer and the audience were more important than strict adherence to the music – is clearly evident in this evocative performance.
The first half ends with Aaron Copland’s expansive ‘Appalachian Spring’. Initially a ballet, commissioned by Martha Graham the piece works equally well in this setting. Indeed, the Manchester Collective’s engaging performance style sees the musicians moving, often in sync and almost choreographically, throughout the piece. The performers are clearly in tune with one another as they bring this optimistic, hopeful, almost filmic piece to vivid life. Their performance is so striking that it even manages to blow the Manchester Collective’s signature stage lighting! Anna Hashimoto’s clarinet performance is exceptional, seamlessly interweaving with Fiona Fulton’s flute and Elena Comelli’s Bassoon. As the programme notes promise the duet between Hashimoto and music director Rakhi Singh is an absolute delight.
The second half is dedicated to composers George Crumb and Joseph Horovitz musical friends who have recently passed. Alex Groves’ ‘Curved Form (No.4)’, a solo piece for piano opens this half. Deftly played by Adam Swayne the piece lives up to its title, creating an incredibly tangible sense of shape in space. This then melts into the evening’s finale, Henryk Górecki’s ‘Kleines Requiem für eine Polka’, a work that embraces the exuberance and despair of grief. The Manchester Collective relish the contrasts presenting a work that seems to speak to the current moment. Unfortunately, an evening exploring endings has to end but A Little Requiem demonstrates the dexterity and diversity of the Manchester Collective. https://manchestercollective.co.uk/
Reviewer: Clare Chandler
Reviewed: 12th February 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★