Manchester Camerata with Jess Gillam at Wigmore Hall

So, Manchester Camerata playing live (at Wigmore Hall tonight) was a bit of a revelation.

Technicolour sounds, warmth, depth, dynamism and an unapologetic commitment to packing their programme full of atmosphere, feeling and blistering talent. There wasn’t a flabby moment in the programme. Nothing out of place. So much energy, not only from them but from a delightfully youthful-looking and hugely appreciate audience.

Notable highlights – too many to detail in full – included a sumptuous performance of Glazunov’s Saxophone Concerto matched in technical demands by Dave Heath’s terrifyingly concise and hugely entertaining ‘The Celtic’. Soloist Jess Gillam’s technique is remarkable – stunning breath control, stamina and a consistently reliable embouchure that makes me wonder how she manages to talk when she’s finished playing.

Elsewhere in the programme the strings of Manchester Camerata worked ferociously hard creating a sound world for Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony that sounded like it was created by 50 players not the 17 on stage. Their performance was fierce, sombre, urgent and electrifying. Kudos to the violas who were out of this world.

The programme felt as though it had been sensitively put together, conjuring up a joyous atmosphere in Shiva Feshareki’s VENUS\ZOHREH, and in one that was poignant but not over-indulgent on the pathos, Daniel Kidane’s wistful pandemic-response ‘Be Still’.

The concert was brimming with content that kept me hooked throughout – an indication of a carefully curated programme designed for an audience at one with mood-shifting playlists.

And an additional delicious surprise: Caroline Shaw’s inventive Entr’acte from 2011, packed full of colours and textures that make this a concert piece every school kid needs to hear up close.

Sincere introductions from the group’s highly engaged leader Caroline Pether gave the event an unexpectedly intimate feel. Loved all of it. And I don’t say that often either.