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Review: West End Festival

Alison McGillivray

Alison McGillivray

Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow

Michael Tumelty

YOU have to hand it to Andy Saunders and his wee team of helpers in the Cottier Chamber Project: there's a mindset there that doesn't let a problem stand in the way of a solution. In the first weekend wifi hotspots were required in St Silas. Saunders dropped to his knees: done; as if by magic. By the end of last week with the free lunchtime Bach series drawing crowds exceeding all expectations, another issue loomed: not enough seats available in the Hunterian Art Gallery. So on Sunday, Saunders and a colleague went off to Ikea and bought 100 flat-pack stools (£3 a head, or, rather, a bottom) while another two of the team stood by at base with the screwdrivers.

So by the time the wondrous Alison McGillivray came on with her five-stringed cello to play Bach's Sixth and last Cello Suite yesterday, we all had a seat from which to marvel, and I do mean marvel, at the rich feast of harmonics and upper-register singing tone afforded by the extra string: I almost imagined the jangle of sympathetic, resonating strings; or was it real? It certainly sounded it in the fabulous acoustic of the Enlightenment Collection.

The Prelude was dazzling, almost athletic (though gently so) in McGillivray's hands, while the Allemande had a spacious, expansive and leisurely character, and the great Sarabande, following the light, pacey dance of the Courante, was stately and profoundly-expressive, with absolutely no dragging, just a quiet certainty of direction and subtle momentum. The gorgeous Gavotte led fluidly to the magic Gigue, with breathtaking swing and drive. Brilliant. Tomorrow, the solo violins take over.

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