Monday, April 22

Quatuor Danel – Manchester Jewish Museum

The University of Manchester’s internationally acclaimed string quartet in residence, Quatuor Danel, brought their lively repertoire to Manchester Jewish Museum’s historic synagogue with two quartets from composers of Jewish descent, who despite living a century apart, shared a complex yet strong relationship to their Jewish faith, as well as writing pieces in memory of lost sisters.

Following an introduction from The University of Manchester’s resident Mendelssohn expert, Professor Thomas Schmidt, the first piece was Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No.6 in F Minor, Op.80, which was the composer’s last major piece, completed just two months before his death in 1847. It was written in tribute to his sister, the composer Fanny Mendelssohn, who herself died earlier that year.

Mendelssohn is often considered an intellectual composer, but the playing here perfectly captured his anguish that led to his own physical and mental collapse and eventual death. With an unusual and very raw style, Quatuor Danel’s relentless recital showed no signs of letting up in this unbelievably sad piece that is often referred to as a Requiem for Fanny: you could feel as well as hear the turmoil of loss as we were taken on this this very emotional and moving journey through personal grief.

The second piece was Mieczysław Weinberg’s String Quartet No.16 in A-flat Minor, Op.130. In 1939, Weinberg and his sister Esther fled from the Nazi invasion of Warsaw to the USSR, and whilst Mieczysław went on, Esther turned back: the two would never see each other again. The Weinberg’s Quartet No.16 was written in memory of his sister in 1981. Today’s concert would have been his 103rd birthday.

The opening hinted at Jewish undertones – a touch of Klezmer perhaps – with its vigorous movement building to a brooding intensity before disappearing. A briefer uneasy sense of foreboding was followed by the bleak lament of grieving. In closing there is a sense of hope as the dancing Klezmer style reappears, but it is tinged by underlying darker tones which make for an uneasy warning.

The ensemble – Marc Danel; Gilles Millet; Vlad Bogdanas; Yovan Markovitch – was superb and perfectly balanced with each player demonstrating impeccable technique which was enhanced further by the intimacy of the venue and its delightful acoustics: sometimes magic happens, and tonight’s very moving performance really hit home.

Founded in 1991, the Quatuor Danel is a French string quartet, and has been at the forefront of the international music scene ever since, with important concert performances worldwide and a row of groundbreaking CD recordings. They are famous for their bold, concentrated interpretations of string quartet cycles with their lively and fresh vision on the traditional quartet repertoire delivering them much deserved praise. Russian composers have a special place in the quartet’s repertoire, and they were the first quartet to record the 17 quartets by Mieczysław Weinberg. Further information is available at https://www.quatuordanel.eu/

Tonight’s event was the last Synagogue Night for the year, of what has been a series of live, intimate theatre, art and music events in Manchester Jewish Museum’s beautiful Grade II* listed Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue.

By planning my evening and arriving early, I was also able to take advantage of the wonderful, wholesome and vegan friendly fayre on offer, made fresh on site, healthy and very affordable.

Manchester Jewish Museum is a place to experience and explore how we are different, together. In doing so it looks to spark reaction and change and to make real the knowledge that there is more that binds us together than separates us. For more information https://www.manchesterjewishmuseum.com/

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 8th December 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★

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