- The Manchester International Cello Festival has just ended. See http://www.cellofestival.co.uk/ for details. I believe the festival is biennial, so the 10th should be in 2009. (However, this now seems doubtful (May 10th) as Kirshbaum is said to have stated that this was the last cello festival to be held in Manchester - which seems rather a pity. Dave2010 )
I went to the concert on 5th May which had four cello pieces accompanied by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in the Bridgewater Hall conducted by Gianandrea Noseda. Before the concert there was a short panel session with Michael Kennedy, Gary Hoffman, and Alice Neary. This included also a short excerpt from Donald Tovey's cello concerto which sounded very pleasant, but was also said to be inordinately long. (See http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000JJ3RFC/ciaouk-21/ref=nosim )
Colin Carr was the first off in the live concert for Bridge's Oration. This was an unknown piece to me, but Colin played it very eloquently. Then Natalia Gutman played Britten's Cello Symphony - a rather hard piece to get to grips with. After the interval Ralph Kirshbaum gave a lovely performance of Elgar's Cello Concerto, which musically was arguably the high spot of the concert. Besides having a lovely instrument to play on Kirshbaum also had the advantage of playing a piece which most of the audience knew and liked. Finally Yo-Yo Ma came on to play Walton's Cello Concerto, which perhaps not everyone knew, but which was nevertheless captivating, with some really beautiful sounds. It was interesting to hear the four different cellists playing, and personally I felt that Natalia came off the worst because of the very ungracious writing for the cello and orchestra. I suspect that all of these cellists could have given us very good performances of the Elgar or Walton concertos. In this concert I did leave feeling that Kirshbaum did the most persuasive job, and was slightly surprised at Ma's playing, which was generally very sensitive, but with very limited vibrato, but also sounded a bit understated.
The concert finally ended at about 10.30pm, only to be followed by a performance of Schubert's String Quintet in C, in which Ralph Kirshbaum joined the Michaelangelo String Quartet. This was one of the Concert Plus series - fantastic value. The Schubert was played beautifully, though unfortunately by then it was fairly clear that some members of the audience had stayed out beyond their bed times after a very long concert. It was difficult to concentrate, but nevertheless it was a lovely performance.