It is hard for a composer to hope for more than perfection, so an Olympic gold should be offered to those who took part in the weekend of McCabe’s Complete Piano Music (nearly 50 works) and chamber music concerts, at the Royal Northern College of Music, over the weekend of 15/16 February 2014. Students from Chetham’s School of Music, and Manchester University also took leading roles, and together with the RNCM musicians the standard of performance took one’s breath away. It would be invidious to pick out individual performances from such a glorious array, pianists, and also string players, brass, woodwind, guitar and singers all demonstrated not only the highest technical abilities, but also an innate and immediate depth of understanding of the music. The performances were so good that one can only hope that these young musicians can find a suitable and rewarding niche in the professional world, especially the pianists, for whom it is perhaps more difficult to get launched. If only our shallow, uncultivated and celebrity-centred world would show more interest in the skills and dedication of these brilliantly gifted young people.
The weekend was crowned by a chamber concert by Peter Sheppard Skaerved (violin), the Kreutzer Quartet, Aaron Shorr (piano) and RNCM Principal Linda Merrick (clarinet) with wonderful performances of works ranging from solo violin (Maze Dances), a quartet work (Caravan) to two quintets (The Woman by the Sea, with Aaron Shorr, and La Donna, with Linda Merrick), which were outstanding in every way. Clearly music, and music teaching, is thriving in Manchester, and the RNCM is an outstanding Conservatory in this respect.
Another recent event also gave great joy. The trumpeter Simon Desbruslais played McCabe’s Trumpet Concerto – Primavera with his usual panache and brilliant technical abilities at a concert in Guildford, where the Surrey Mozart Players also played their socks off, under the vibrant conductor Kenneth Woods.