Where are they now?

Michael Gurevich Mendelssohn on Mull 2006, 2008 and 2009

Michael is a Dutch violinist with a wonderful career who has made his speciality chamber music, and specifically the music of Haydn.

Michael came to Mull three times as a Young Professional – in 2006, 2008 and 2009. This was during the period when Levon Chilingirian was our Artistic Director.

It meant that he was part of the memorable happening that the Trust commissioned in 2009 from the American composerStephen Montague. He was asked for a work to celebrate Mendelssohn’s bicentenary, and, given his record, I think we knew that it would be far from conventional. Stephen’s most famous piece is a concerto for taxi-cab horns, staged inrush hour in Mexico City – there is a YouTube video, where Stephen can be seen conducting it, in maestro’s uniform, at an increasingly dangerous intersection.

Stephen created an event in Duart Castle, where performers were masked, and tasked with different jobs all over the building. There was a Bartok quartet led by Levon in one corner, and a choir on the battlements, whose singing echoed down the staircase. There was a culmination in the grand hall involving improvised playing and chanting, and none of our audience or our performers will ever forget it. Perhaps a neat string ensemble piece as part of one of our concerts would not have had the same effect of celebration of our endeavours on Mull.

Michael was asked to perform Paganini Caprices, in one corner of the castle, dressed as Paganini. If you know what Paganini looked like, you’ll know that they could not be mistaken for each other, but the effect of whirlwind virtuoso solo violin music was an intriguing element in the melange that was the event curated byStephen Montague, with Levon Chilingirian’s enthusiastic assistance.

Nowadays, Michael is very eminent in the world of chamber music. He is a member of the London Haydn Quartet, with Catherine Manson, John Crockatt, and Jonathan Manson. They perform on historically aware instruments, and Michael shares with the others a passionate dedication to examining all the technical and musical aspects of how music was heard and played when these works were written. Of course the instruments developed during the 19th and 20th centuries, so some crucial aspects of Haydn’s sound world are different when played on instruments suited for the repertoire of the last 100 years.

The London Haydn Quartet’s ongoing set of recordings of the complete works of Haydn for quartet are hardly an exercise in historical scholarship, though, as their performances are often rated highly for their wit and humour and sheer beauty of tone and ensemble. The Doric Quartet are devoted to Haydn too –indeed, they have told us that Haydn is their favourite composer, and they are embarked on a complete set too. There are in the region of 83 Haydn quartets, by the way, depending on what you count. I think the playing of the two ensembles can be strikingly different, but this is surely a tribute to this superb composer’s achievement – both the setter of the standard for string quartet, and its most difficult and challenging exponent.

We are delighted that Michael is an integral part of this important ensemble, among much else in his busy career, and we hope he remembers his time on Mull, working with Levon.

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