Manchester Camerata, Kendal Town Hall

WITH what speed does the month of October reappear! We elderly tenants of this troubled planet realise that such observations have always been part of the rich tapestry of life but, for those of us fortunate to have had the good sense and foresight to become members of the Kendal Midday Concert Club, thank goodness October does come round so speedily! It is, of course, that blessed time when the club’s concerts resume and we can eagerly anticipate yet another season of concerts that are invariably of the richest musical quality.

Last Wednesday seven representatives of the Manchester Camerata - an orchestra described as “probably Britain’s most adventurous orchestra” and the only ensemble to carry the city’s name - presented a delightful (and, yes, adventurous) programme to a near-capacity, first-concert-of-the-season audience in the town hall.

Its principal component was Beethoven’s Septet in E flat, Op 20, the performance of which cemented in our minds the notion that the Manchester Camerata must be one of the country’s most eminent orchestras, such was the quality of musicianship on view. Here is a six-movement masterpiece employing one violin, a viola, a cello and double bass, a clarinet, bassoon and French horn; each of these seven musicians clearly relished the challenges presented by this famous piece in both soloistic and ensemble situations. Although the hall’s eccentric acoustical qualities occasionally derailed their efforts, they throughout exhibited a masterful control of tonal blend, rhythmic precision, technical demands, and stylistic accuracy.

The ‘adventurous’ component was a remarkably effective and thoroughly gratifying arrangement by Franz Hasen?ehrl of Richard Strauss’s massively-scored Till Eulenspiegel. Five instruments - violin, double bass, clarinet, bassoon and horn - were all that was required to register the full impact of the Till’s sad, but immensely humorous story. The musicians completely captured its essence with a wondrous display of musicianship, ensemble work, rhythmic dexterity and technical command. At its conclusion I was thinking that perhaps I preferred this version to the original - perhaps not, though!