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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


By Steve Cooke

Following the inspirational Arlo Parks and Damon Albarn at this year’s Manchester International Festival, in the cavernous Manchester Central, the festival created a venue within a venue for The Patience of Trees.

Sat in the round facing a stage referencing the rings of an enormous tree trunk we could be in a tepee made of bamboo strips in a clearing in a forest.

The Manchester Camerata musicians slowly enter from all sides. They use their instruments to create delicate sounds that enhance the ambience.

They are led by their leader, violinist and conductor, Hugo Ticciati, playing a barely audible melody that gradually grows into an exhilarating performance of The Patience of Trees, a new concerto for violin, strings, and percussion by Bulgarian/British composer Dobrinka Tabakova.

Commissioned by MIF and played here in public for the first time, a beautifully atmospheric violin concerto written for Hugo Ticciati.

The four sections represent the elements – Earth, Water, Fire, Air – the central motif, in Dobrinka Tabakova’s words ‘the tree theme,’ repeats magically throughout the piece. She fully achieves her aspiration to reconnect us with nature, as we wait to be reconnected

We are then treated to one of my favourite minimalist pieces, Steve Reich’s New York Counterpoint for amplified clarinet and tape. The piece, played by clarinettist Fiona Cross, vividly captures the throbbing vibrancy of Manhattan.

The Camerata then give us the world premiere of Paul Saggers’s Vulpes Vulpes. An energetically percussive piece depicting the elements of the life of a fox: from urban cub to hunted beast.

Todo Era Vuelo en Nuestra Tierra (Everything was Flight on Our Land) by Julieta Szewach is the final premier of this richly rewarding evening. The tension between our humanity is explored enchantingly with Hugo Ticciati slowly circling the stage to take us out into the darkness.

The evening closes with Dobrinka Tabakova’s gorgeous piece for oboe and percussion, Frozen River Flows. Her emotive ‘short delicate meditation’ brings a magical evening to a close.

An evening enhanced by the computer tablet, enabling scores to be displayed on subtly illuminated screens, thereby expanding the range of lighting effects available. Andy Purves’s make full use of this opportunity with a lighting display that enhances the evening’s ambience with piercing shafts and bars of light contrasted with subdued, shadowy, forest-like effects.

The audience are on their feet for a sustained ovation, much deserved by all involved.

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