Concerto – Review

Our first review for Concerto from the Leicester Mercury written by Michael Lane.

Last Saturday I had a most enjoyable, even adventurous, evening as a member of the audience of ’Concerto’ presented by The University of Leicester in the Fraser Noble Building, London Road. This was a play with music about the composer Maurice Ravel, especially his time in World War One. What made the evening special was that we didn’t just watch but also completed the Drama’s making. Its devisors and actors, Ryan O’Shea and Katt Perry arranged for us to eat apples, beat time with pencils, even shred musical scores, which gave us a feeling of dislocated engagement, as if we were in a war itself, when you never knew what would happen next.  We were constantly engaged but put on our guard at the same time, like the need in wartime to be constantly alert. Though, unlike being in a war, our invitations to take part were gently and stylishly done by Ryan and Katt, so that our acceptance made the evening an enjoyable participation. The actors, guided by Michael Pinchbeck’s writing, gave us Ravel’s biography in all its lyrical poetry of the Lost.

At the play’s centre was Ravel’s music, especially the ‘Piano Concerto for Left Hand’. This was magnificently played by Nicholas McCarthy, who has the distinction of being a professional one handed player. Leicester University Orchestra and Knighton Chamber Orchestra revealed the innovation of Ravel’s music, with its swirls and dwellings, advances and retreats from compositions before the war and how it embraced the Jazz age afterwards. The evening was unified by the most able conducting of Paul Jenkins, who brought the Orchestra together with the actors and pianist to blend moods, at times strong and desperate, at other times playful and relaxing. As an encore, the orchestra treated us to ‘Bolero’, a familiar climax to an otherwise experimental but satisfying evening. This was a fine way for University of Leicester to reach out to the city; by displaying its ambitious standards, its ability to take risks and to do so by entertaining the public.  I wish them similar success in their forthcoming season.

Image: Julian Hughes