Misha's Gang and Orchestras at the Fringe
When I left the Misha's Gang's performance, I had a thought that I do not particularly like. Despite enjoying the music, I felt that this was not really a 'Fringe' show. I was troubled by this thought largely because I feel that all sorts of creativity and performance art should be celebrated in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Misha's Gang is an obviously talented group of Russian string musicians forming a chamber ensemble under the leadership of Misha Rachlevsky, a cheery man that I would like to adopt as my new grandfather. They took us literally on a musical journey, playing a selection of classical pieces by composers from all over Europe. Their repertoire was impressive as they change their programme every day, which I assume helps them to keep all their performances fresh.
What I loved about them was how clearly they enjoyed playing. I sat behind the cellos, so I could watch the faces of the first violins. Every time that something fun or impressive happened, they reacted. You could see what the music and the situation meant to them.
However, despite this, once again I have to say that the venue let them down. This was a delightful afternoon concert of fun and emotive classical music played in box theatre with thick black curtains covering the walls. The sound was hardly going to wash over you as it would do in a church or a grand hall. Whilst the small size of the room let you be close and intimate with the performers, the music seemed distant, which was a real shame.
However, the orchestra presumably chose to play here. They were responsible for picking an alternative venue and playing music that was not best heard in the space. And that disappointed me a little. The publicity, as well as their obvious enthusiasm, led me to believe that they were going to do something more with what they had. I love listening to orchestral music, but given the suboptimal venue choice, I would have been just as well to pay £1 more for a seat in the Gods and listen to the LSO playing Bernstein in the Usher Hall.
I was very glad to see that Misha's Gang perform two more shows, one focusing on musical education and the other called 'Overdrive' where they 'abuse the greatest classical composers for your enjoyment.' That sounds more like the Fringe! A show where they can take the music they play so well and really add some of their own personality to it.
Do not get me wrong, this was a very enjoyable concert. But I think I went to the wrong iteration of Misha's Gang. I want to see them again playing this same music somewhere with better acoustics, or taking a risk and letting rip in their 'Overdrive' show. In this performance, they just played it a bit safe.
As such, this has been difficult to rate but I think ultimately it is a peregrine falcon/moustached puffbird cross. The playing was impressive and at times just gorgeous, but I wanted something more.