Review: Manchester Collective in performance

at Leeds Town Hall, Friday 11th September 2020

“INTIMATE and intense human experiences built around live music”: this is the strapline of Manchester Collective.

An MC performance is not so much a concert, more a shared experience between artists and audience.

The Collective’s regular Leeds Town Hall gigs have enthralled audiences in the intimacy of the Crypt (underneath the Victoria Hall) and the soaring grandeur of the Hall itself.

Last Friday’s concert was the Collective’s first live performance in almost six months. The shared emotion of the occasion was palpable. Violinist Rakki Singh, viola player Ruth Gibson and cellist Nicholas Trygstad shared their personal lockdown reflections as they introduced the music.

Singh’s ravishing performance of the Alia Fantasia in A minor for solo violin by Nicola Matteis Jr opened the programme. Matteis was a virtuoso Italian violinist who came to London from Naples in the early 1670s.

The Bach Suites for solo cello are some of the most recognisable pieces for the instrument. The mesmeric effect of Nicholas Trygstad’s phrasing and tonal richness created a mystical aura in this auditorium.

Thirty-something Manchester composer Edmund Finnis produced some of the most profound moments. Finnis wrote his Brother and Sister pieces for violin and viola duet. The two instruments answering each other from opposite ends of the stage made the glistening sound world of Finnis feel all-embracing.

Last year, Manchester Collective performed Dmitri Sitkovetsky’s transcription for string trio of Bach’s Goldberg Variations in the comparative intimacy of Leeds Town Hall’s Albert Room. This evening, the instrumentalists filled every cubic inch of the Victoria Hall with just five of the Variations.

The rapturous response from the socially distanced audience left not a shred of doubt that Manchester Collective does exactly what it says on the tin. This is music making of blazing integrity: from the heart, to the heart.

by Geoffrey Mogridge