Chamber Music @ Lakeside Nottingham, 4****: William Ruff


Jayson Gillham and Manchester Collective

October 4 2018

Lakeside, Nottingham


Review: William Ruff


Chamber music combining passion and innovation

Chamber music returned to Lakeside on Thursday evening – but not as you know it. The first sign that things would be different was the absence of programme notes.  Manchester Collective believes in direct human contact, so not only was there a bright and breezy chat beforehand but also plenty of interaction over an interval drink.

The group is young, energetic, and passionate about what they do.  They explore, innovate and break down barriers.  They get rid of formal dress, they believe in spontaneity and their creative use of lighting ensures that everyone is sharply focused on the music.

They were joined by young Australian pianist Jayson Gillham who started their ‘Romantic Hero’ programme with Robert Schumann’s Waldszenen (Forest Scenes) leading the audience gently (at first) into the heart of the Romantic imagination, into nature both beautiful and unknowable.

The work consists of musical fragments, snapshots of experience which build into a very personal reaction to an imagined landscape.

Jayson managed the rapid mood shifts with aplomb, as when the extrovert, energetic ‘Hunters on the Lookout’ gives way to the sadness and unease of ‘Lonely Flowers’ and ‘Place of Evil Fame’.

Nigel Westlake’s Piano Trio seemed to be near the heart of what Manchester Collective is about. This Australian composer creates an extraordinary sound world, combining lots of influences (Bartok, Stravinsky, Messaien etc) to create music which is his alone.

It would have been challenging enough to play even if the composer had remembered to provide page-turning opportunities for the performers.  So the cellist resorted to a foot-operated iPad and the violinist just used her foot…

They ended with an eager, bright-eyed performance of Schumann’s Piano Quintet, as joyful a way of demonstrating the power, intimacy and life-enhancing nature of chamber music as any I can think of.

Jayson Gillham (piano) with Manchester Collective


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