To a packed Usher Hall, the ever-amiable EIF director Jonathan Mills delivered his opening speech, highlighting the themes of this year’s season, from war-theme plays to South African extravaganzas, celebrating 20 years of that nation’s independence. Together, he called this year’s offerings would, ‘defy the immediate circumstances of their creation.’
Then came the first half of the concert, the first offering controlled with one of the world’s two best conductors, Oliver Knussen (the other is the 90-year old ). This was Arnold Schoenburg’s FIVE PIECES FOR OCHESTRA OP 16, a wonderful piece of quite modernist music that is over a century old. We are presented with quite an otherworldly sound, the third piece in particular reminiscent of walking through a swamp, with bubbles of music rising to the surface. Schoenburg called this piece ‘summer morning by a lake.’ The music somehow paints colours in the mind as this eerie soundworld immerses one’s thoughts in dreaming.
The second piece was Scriabin’s PROMETHEUS, THE POEM OF FIRE, & indeed the music
flows as if one were reading poetry, as a series of short musical flourishes making for a splendid composite whole. At the front-centre of the stage, Kirill Gerstein dramtically waved his arms & danced his fingers over his gleaming ebony grand piano. Deeply engaging, this pre-great war slice of Scriabin’s avant-garde mind was performed beautifully by the orchestra, the highly watchable Royal Scottish Orchestra. With the excellent acoustics of the Usher Hall to cast their melodical medley up into, the music was a joy to hear
Reviewer : Damo Bullen