Chamber Music at Cottier’s

The Cottier Chamber Project is the largest chamber music festival in the UK, and I was keen to experience some of their first solo venture

It might be something you stumble upon by accident or it could be something recommended by a friend that’s taken you a while to latch on to. But once you do get a taste of Glasgow’s Cottier Chamber Project, you’ll wish you’d experienced this cunningly-conceived festival a lot sooner.

It’s reckoned to be the largest chamber music-only festival in the UK and continually attracts the world’s top artists, some performing together for the first time.

The Project began in 2011 as part of Glasgow’s West End Festival. This year is the first time it’s gone solo, so to speak, and it has taken flight with an enormous amount of success.

Andy Saunders is the Artistic Director, a free-lance horn player who plays regularly with the RSNO, SCO, BBC Scottish and Scottish opera orchestras.

He’s very much hands-on, supervising programme printing, distribution but with an eager and enthusiastic team behind him he can concentrate on growing the festival and firmly establishing it as one of the major arts programmes of the year.

Concerts alternate between the Cottier Theatre in Hyndland Street and the Hunterian Museum, deep in the heart of Glasgow University, with a couple reserved for the Western Baths and the Grosvenor Cinema. Recently, I attended concerts in the first two venues. The verdict: 5 stars!

Spine-tingling performances!

The first was under the Lunchtime Lieder bracket, with Schubert’s Schwanengesang performed by baritone Francis Church and pianist Jeremy Silver. The dry and rather hot ambiance of the Hunterian did little to daunt Church as he gave a deep, fulsome and expressive delivery of Schubert’s last set of songs, from words by Heine and Rellstab, with assured and sympathetic accompaniment by Silver.

However – and with the greatest respect to these two gentlemen – what followed at the Cottier Theatre was something that little bit more special, with two of the world’s greatest musicians combining for the first time. Canadian violinist James Ehnes and Scotland’s own master of the keyboard Steven Osborne produced spine-tingling performances of sonatas by Brahms and Beethoven, enjoyed by a packed, standing-room-only hall.

Such performances come along rarely and should be savoured, and I’m sure everyone will have relished this quite unique occasion. This performance would be followed by the same in London’s Wigmore Hall, but the fact Andy got them at the Festival first is testament to his persuasion and to the Project’s pulling power.