In the summer of 2011, the first Cottier Chamber Project was up and away, with perspectives emerging on a daily basis.
The project, running as part of Glasgow's West End Festival, was ambitious, and entirely the vision of one man: freelance horn player Andy Saunders. The whole concept of such a festival was based on something he knew that we in the outside world did not: that all of the working musicians in Scotland, whether they were in orchestras, established ensembles or the freelance community, wanted to play chamber music, above and beyond their day jobs.
They knew, better than anyone, the breadth of its repertoire for their own instrument in combination with others. But they lacked a platform. Of course, there were a few official chamber music outlets through the big outfits, including the RSNO and SCO, but there was no wider platform for them to show their wares and introduce them to new audiences. So Andy Saunders created one, scraped the budget together, fixed the venue and opened the doors to the musicians. And, famously, they flooded in from all walks of musical life, all hungry for opportunities to play, including big-name soloists such as pianist Steven Osborne and leaders of the orchestras. So off it went, amazing and breathtaking.
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During that exhilarating first festival, I asked a musician what he thought of its potential. "It's taken off and we'll be doing it again next year." Great, but I was wondering something else: apart from the concerts, is anything being planted here? Is anything being rooted? Will there be shoots? Will they flower? I did know from conversations with Saunders that he had ideas, including composer focuses, of which there were already a few hints. But now, with the fourth Cottier Chamber Project opening on Friday, June 6, we can witness the first full flowering of the expansionism that has been developing over the past few years. Frankly, it has burst into bloom on a number of fronts.
Wherever you look in the 2014 programme - on top of the basic diet of 42 concerts from 24 ensembles featuring 122 musicians -you will find fresh things, each signifying the increasing self-confidence running through the project and the musicians who fuel it. There is a massive blossoming of themed series: that's confidence. There will be a 10-concert, free lunchtime series in the Hunterian Art Gallery, devoted to unaccompanied Bach, including Sonatas, Partitas and the six Cello Suites, with soloists coming from orchestras, the freelance community and, with Alexander Janiczek and violinist Cecilia Bernardini, from the international stage.
There will be the Cottier's first venture into chamber opera (more confidence) with Shostakovich's completion of a work by one of his students, killed during the siege of Leningrad (a war theme is never far from the surface this year).
There will also be the addition this year of a second venue (yet more confidence) in St Silas's Church, near Kelvingrove Park, which will house a range of events.
And, electrifyingly, this year the Cottier Project will launch its first long-range series (now that is real confidence) with a three-year project to perform all 15 of Shostakovich's String Quartets with five groups - the Maxwell, Fejes, Daniel's Beard, Edinburgh and Glasgow String Quartets - sharing the honours. And there are mini-thematic series, too, with violinist Catherine Manson and pianist Alasdair Beatson playing five of Beethoven's 10 Violin Sonatas.
But the confident expansionism evident in all this extends beyond the repertoire and the concerts. Cottiers Theatre will be graced with the addition of a new piano, loaned by a West End resident and supporter of the project. For the first time there will be dance, as well as an education project in association with The Herald where Hillhead Secondary pupils, coached by critic Kate Molleson, will review the opening weekend. The best will be published in the paper, and others will appear on the website. And there will also be film, folk music and world music elements. It's all there to play. And the troops are assembling.