Review: Cabaret Concerto , Bury St Edmunds Festival, The Apex, Monday May 23

Cabaret Concerto , Bury St Edmunds Festival, The Apex, Monday May 23

A brilliant young string quartet, songs by Jacques Brel, Ibert and Ravel, and then a compelling dramatic story incorporating witty and moving narrative, songs and instrumental music….all this should have been an attractive offering to the Bury Festival audience, but it was a disappointingly small number of us who gathered more or less on the stage at the Apex on Monday evening.

The sheer quality of the event left me speculating about the apparent lack of interest – perhaps the rather austere and unflattering photo of Matthew Sharp on the publicity didn’t help. Perhaps the sombre title ‘Death’s Cabaret’ seemed to presage too gloomy a programme for a damp Monday evening. Well, let me tell the absent Bury audience that they should be kicking themselves for having missed this performance, every element of which was extraordinarily impressive and effective.

The Sacconi Quartet have acquired international recognition, and it was easy to see why as they played Debussy’s evocative String Quartet in G minor, his only composition in this medium. Then Matthew Sharp joined the instrumentalists and sang three French songs, my favourite of which was the exquisite ‘Song to Dulcinea’, with music by Ibert.

A charismatic presence on the stage, Matthew Sharp is renowned as a solo cellist, bass-baritone and actor, and the ‘Death’s Cabaret’ which formed the second half was commissioned to recognise his talents. By turns narrating, playing the cello and singing (superbly accompanied throughout by the string quartet) he tells a story of love and loss, of dream and reality, of life and death.

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This was, we were told, a world premiere, and with the writer and composer in the audience, it was a spell-binding triumph.

Wynn Rees

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