Royal Scottish National Orchestra (Glasgow)

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Thurs 26th Feb.

Haydn: Symphony No.49 La Passione
Mozart: Piano Concerto No.20 in D Minor, K466
Beethoven: Symphony No.6 Pastoral

Conductor: Sir Roger Norrington
Piano: Lars Vogt


I attend orchestral concerts infrequently, which means every time I do attend, I am always surprised by the sound. I don’t suppose for a minute that anyone reading The Mumble was born before we had concerts on the radio and on television, let alone on vinyl. Right now we have podcasts, downloads, streaming audio, so if we want to listen to a symphony or a piano concerto we don’t need to go to a concert hall. If you recognise that as the world you live in, then I suggest you take the first opportunity to get to see our national orchestra in action. Pick a programme that includes something you know already – the Pastoral is a good choice – and buy a ticket. The reason is that you will be instantly struck by the sound. It’s different. It is a totally acoustic experience, with absolutely no electronic intervention at all. The musical sounds come at you from new directions, so that you hear the contribution of the various instruments with incredible clarity. You suddenly realise that this is what a symphony or a concerto is supposed to sound like.

The venue helps. The GRCH is a good place, from the gift shop where they sell stuff such as the ‘Chopin bag’ (ouch!), to the foyer with its space for large-scale paintings (see the link at the end of this review), to the piano by the café bar on which a visiting concert-goer can belt out Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C#m for patrons, to the auditorium itself. The last two times I have attended a concert there the programme has consisted of works which required physically re-setting the orchestral seating between each item. This concert started with Haydn’s Symphony No.49, which needs only a comparatively small ensemble – two oboes, two French horns, strings, and a single bassoon. I can’t say I am very familiar with the work, but what I did notice was that it engaged me instantly and held my attention all the way. Norrington, being no spring chicken, conducts sitting down, often without a baton, and his direction seems minimalist. Despite this his control over the orchestra is total and precise, and the feel of the symphony was such that I wanted to push the beginning of ‘Romanticism’ back the period in which it was written. Norrington ended the fourth movement by giving his last directive gesture to the orchestra whilst simultaneously standing, turning, and giving it to the audience. “Yes,” he seemed to be saying, “ you have been involved in this.”

Sir Roger Norrington
Sir Roger Norrington

For the Mozart, the slightly larger orchestra was gathered into a horseshoe shape around the piano, with the soloist’s back to us, and with the woodwinds standing stage right. Roger Norrington directed from the far side of the piano, facing outwards. This layout surprised me, but perhaps that is because it differed from what I’ve come to expect from televised concerts. Lars Vogt has a terrific touch on his instrument, and the performance was excellent. The second movement, Romanze, is one of these pieces of music that ‘everyone knows’. For an encore he gave us another – a waltz by Johannes Brahms, Op.39 No.15 in A#Maj.

For the Beethoven, the orchestra grew to two-and-a-half sizes larger than it had been for the Haydn. One would have thought that the experience would have increased in proportion, but in fact the size of the orchestra didn’t seem to matter. Our immersion in the music was total for the Haydn, the Mozart, and the Beethoven. The solo touches in the second movement of the flute, oboe, and clarinet, becoming respectively the nightingale, quail, and cuckoo, were enough to draw special applause from the audience at the end of the concert. I am going to add one single quibble, with the proviso that I am a layman without musical learning, and that is that the first movement was taken at half a notch too quick a pace, giving it almost a feel of being rushed. However, I’m aware that here I’m arguing (with the greatest of respect) with Sir Roger Norrington, and at the end of the day I’m bound to lose that argument.

Reviewer : Bookseeker

By the way, you can see the paintings in the GRCH online here. Seeing them is well worth a visit, particularly the Ken Currie

Australian Pink Floyd

Usher Hall (Edinburgh)

February 19th

The Australian Pink Floyd for me was always going to be a tribute band… How wrong was I!!!!!! With a set list to have the most avid Floyd fan tingling with excitement, from the first chord of Astronomy Domine you just knew this wasn’t just a tribute band!! This was as good as the real thing. With a laser and light show that simply took the breath away, to a note-perfect performance the original band would have been proud of, this was musical theater at the very top end of the scale!

This show had it all. Adding their own Ossy twist to the visuals on the giant circular screen behind them, which I couldn’t keep my eyes off by the way, they dropped in a bit of Waltzing Matilda. I cannot wait to get a chance to take it all in again, & If you haven’t yet experienced the Ossy Floyd then make sure you do.   FIVE STARS


Reviewer : James Wallace

Tom Green Septet

Eden Court  – One Touch Theatre

Fri 20th Feb 2015


Tom Green is emerging as a music talent to be reckoned with, being the first Trombonist to study post grad Jazz at The Royal College of Music, London and the Winner of 2013 Dankworth Prize for Jazz Composition. Throughout the set he introduced his compositions, the aptly named Winter Halo was inspired by a trip in the desert, gazing over a halo round the moon. As Winter Halo began, with delicate atmospheric sounds from the sax played by Tommy Andrews and Sam James on the Piano, you could imagine gazing at the moon and stars! Whereas Sticks and Stones the first song on their début album Skyline dives straight in with a punch and sharp downward spiral, Green told how he wrote it at a time when he had been let down and described it as “rhythmical angst”  These insights into his creative process and how he translates his experiences gave a context to the music.

The great thing about Tom’s arrangements is he allows improvisation from all of the members of the the septet and this shows how talented and accomplished each of these musicians are. I enjoyed Mesha Mullov-Abbado’s funky solos on the Double Bass and James Davison gave gave an incredible solo on the Flugel horn. You could tell they were passionate about their music and loved what they were doing by the smiles and nods of appreciation between each other during the gig, and this enthusiasm was contagious and spilled out into the audience. I really cant fault their performance as they played such a tight set, although I felt some of the intimacy was lost in a theatre setting. They finished on a high and we felt privileged to hear the World Premier of a newly written piece Choral as an encore. I felt very uplifted as we left. The Tom Green Septet provided a exhilarating journey of Jazz!

Reviewer : Zoe Gwynne

The Band

Tom Green – Trombone/compositions

James Davison – Trumpet/Flugel

Sam Miles – Tenor Sax

Tommy Andrews – Alto/Soprano Sax

Sam James – Piano

Misha Mullov-Abbado – Double Bass

JJ Wheeler – Drums

Mitsuko Uchida

Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

Feb 5th


Ah Mitsuko! The impossibly stylish Grammy award-winning pianist Mitsuko Uchida graced the Queen’s Hall with a fearless rendition of Ravel’s Concerto in G in conjunction with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. The piece begins with a whip-crack, and the jazzy first movement was an opportunity for the Japanese-born but naturalized Brit (and a Dame to boot) to showcase some virtuosic pyrotechnics at the keyboard. The long, irresolute lines of the second movement brought out all her warmth and musicality, the effect only slightly spoilt by the inevitable outbreak of coughing (though to be charitable it is a cold Edinburgh winter). The hacking had thankfully subsided in time for the solo encore. It sounded (to this untrained ear) like a Mozart, perhaps in A Minor, anyway it was utterly gorgeous and the only downside was that it didn’t last forever!

But live music performance is ephemeral in a way that makes it different from all other art forms: a poem can be reread, a painting lingered over at the viewer’s discretion, but each note of a live performance is immediately fading away into nothingness. The effects of melody, harmony and rhythm are governed by their relationship with sounds that exist now only in the memory of the listener. Perhaps this is what can give it such terrible poignancy – each performance of a piece is a unique, timebound event. You can’t step into the same river twice, said Heraclitus. Not even into the same river once, replied a wise pupil.

This concert took the audience on a journey through twentieth century France with three very different stylists. From the luscious love-and-death high romanticism of Faure’s Pelleas et Melisande, to the listen-to-this-new-sound-I’ve-heard of Ravel heralding the jazz age (the concerto was written after a tour to the US in 1928), to the uncertain, totally alienated and seemingly structureless (again to this untrained ear!) soundworld of Boulez’s trilling Memoriale reassure us as we headed out into the night we were suddenly returned to a world of balance, reason and optimism with Haydn’s ‘Clock’ Symphony. One always feels with Haydn as if one is being guided gently downhill to somewhere that you really quite wanted to go, perhaps a nice picnic, by a lake, with pretty girls, sunshine and good cheese. Splendid!

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra under the baton of principal conductor Robin Ticciati played with all their usual verve and precision, the soloists (in particular flautist Alison Mitchell and bassoonist Peter Whelan) were superb and the evening as a whole was just a treat. Coming up the SCO are at the Assembly Rooms on Sat 14th Feb for a family afternoon concert, Chamber Sunday at the Queen’s Hall on the 22nd and again at the Queen’s Hall on Sat 28th for Brahms’ Serenade. Go and see them if you can.

Reviewer : Tam Heinitz

Music & Moving Images: Martyn Bennett, Elegies and Inspirations

Manipulate Festival

Traverse Theatre


2nd Feb


There has been a lot of publicity surrounding Martyn Bennett of late. I recently watched a beautiful documentary about the making of his final album ‘Grit’ which has really inspired me to find out more about his work so I was intrigued to see what creative gems would unearthed by the event billed as Music & Moving Images: Martyn Bennett, Elegies and Inspirations. It was however not quite what quite what I had imagined it to be. The night opened with a selection of films that had been made by students at Grey’s School of Art in Aberdeen in response to a selection of music by local bands. It had been screened in Aberdeen the night before, with the bands playing live at the event. This unfortunately was not the case in Edinburgh and without the musicians the imagery felt like a bad VJ loop that went on for far too long. The films appeared to be an experiment in the use of after effects and basic animation techniques. As a whole it felt long-winded, underdeveloped and lacking any substance or depth. A dissection of the films followed which left me realising that this was a student production where there seemed more emphasis on the process and technique than on the end content, which as an audience felt very frustrating.

Snowflake 4 - Xanthe and Lewis

The final two music videos by Neil Kepmpsell were visual explorations of pieces of music, this time by Martyn Bennet. The first ‘Hallaig’ incorporated the poem by Sorley MacLean describing the loss of a highland community. It is a dark and sobering arrangement and the imagery used is quite hypnotic, again using layers and texture to create echoes of ghosts of the past in this remote landscape. It’s quite beautiful (you can watch it on the link below) and was to me the only film I got anything from . His more recent film, Mackay’s Memories develops these themes further. In this film the techniques and style were interesting but it appeared very dated and heavy on what now look like quite cheesy special effects.

A long discourse took place afterwards with much back slapping and chin rubbing that felt very self-congratulatory and was almost oblivious to the audience. There was almost no time for questions or interaction from the audience and the concepts that I had imagined would be explored regarding the relationship between moving image and music was left for us to make up our own mind. I felt the title of the show was very misleading, riding on the creative wake of Martyn Bennett when in fact it held little (or for the majority of the event no) reference to the musician, and other than two music videos, shone no new light on his unique and creative approach to his art. I am very aware that films such as these are open to very personal interpretation but I felt the structure and presentation of this event was over zealously marketed as something that it wasn’t.

Reviewer : Glenda Rome


Calexico / Kris Drever

Old Fruitmarket

1st Feb


Review 1 : Gayle Smith

I must admit going to a concert or some other live event is my idea of the best way to spend a Sunday night. This Sunday, I was looking forward to a concert with a sense of anticipation you only get when catching up with someone you haven’t seen for an age or seeing a new band or performer for the first time. On this occasion I was going to see a band I had never actually seen or even heard of, but somehow I knew I would enjoy Calexico and their style of music which I perceived to be latin in influence. This event would also bring my Celtic Connections 2015 to a close. This automatically meant I  had a deep sense of sadness as I always do when we finally reach the last night of the festival I like to call the Celtic family gathering. To me if Celtic connections is about anything it’s about a community a family who may not know all  the names of every relative the family is far too big for that but get together every year when the music calls us home. This time I made it to Old Fruitmarket with plenty of time to spare. This was due to the fact I had been for a girlie pampering session  in the Parkhead area just a few yards from home of a certain well known Glasgow football club with whom you could say I had a connection. The fact I was lucky as l got a bus in to town also helped.
On arriving I found the venue to be very busy and Calexico to a very popular band with many people seeing them for the 10th time or more. On entering the arena I got gabbing as is my way to Linda and Julie a mother and daughter from Northumbria and discovered that the daughter Julie had seen the band so many times she had lost count. This must be like me and Yuptae, Rachel Sermanni, or Lori Watson of whom I am a massive fan.  Julie assured me I would enjoy a brilliant night and have an experience I would never forget and how right she was. It was a fantastic night of entertainment from a band of highest quality not to mention an amazing support act.

Hey wait a minute, I’ve just realised I said not to mention an amazing support act. Well I think I had better mention them because believe me they were brilliant. This is not the first time I had seen the Kris Drever Band, truth be told I have seen them many times over the years and  knew the quality of the band and their work unlike many others in the hall as they were not the billed support but were asked to stand in for the original support only the morning before the gig as BC Camplight had visa issues. Being the good guy he is, Chris readily agreed to the request as get this he was going to the gig anyway as he had been in a fan of Calexico since his schooldays. Introductions over it was time for Mr Drever and the band to do what they do best namely entertain an audience who were in the mood for good quality music. That is exactly what they got from a band who are in my opinion a headline act fit to grace any festival with songs and musicianship of the highest calibre.

Kris started his set with Beads and Feathers before moving on to one of the highlights of the evening and playing a new and as yet untitled song which he says will be called either Don’t Tell Me or Don’t Tell Me That. I know this because I chatted to Kris on facebook yesterday and suggested Don’t Tell Me as that seems to be the narrative which runs through the song. However rather than any negative connotations which people who jump to conclusions would find in this number,I found it to be inspiring in the sense that I listened to the lyrics in the song   and found it was speaking to me and saying that rather than moan about the problems in society why not be the change you want to see in the world. At the end of a set which was all too short Kris finished with the brilliant Harvest Gypsies. This song is a biting social commentary on the way we treat others, particularly seasonal migrant workers who travel to countries to take the jobs the locals won’t touch. The lyrics tell the story of a group of people who are all too often marginalised within societies, whilst the melody gives it that moody, haunting, air which let’s you know there is a real story to be told here.

After Kris and the band finished his set and were able to take their place in the audience it was time for the main event of the evening. From the moment Calexico took the stage I knew I was in for a musical extravaganza with something to suit every taste and believe me I wasn’t wrong. This was my first time seeing Calexico and it certainly hope it won’t be my last. Whilst not as raucous or as foot stomping as the Chair whom I saw last week at the same venue this was also top quality and they took us on global world tour with music from their native Arizona and tunes from Algeria various parts of Latin America, Spain and I also detected the French influence in the jazz of old New Orleans as the mariachi music for which there fans tell me they are renowned.


A Calexico concert is not just a global event in terms of musical cultures, it is also a fusion of musical styles from the country/country rock of their native USA, Jazz, and Latin American. As I said to one audience member this band have more musical styles than there are dances on strictly come dancing. I have to say my favourite songs of theirs came from the country rock tradition. Did I spy a wee bit of an Eagles influence in their set? I think I did and that for someone brought up listening to the Eagles in the mid to late seventies that is no bad thing. This was a night that passed quickly.  Too quickly in my book as I could have coped with a lot more of this highly entertaining band. To me a Calexico concert isn’t so much a concert in the traditional sense, it’s more of an entertainment experience and it is something I will I hope experience again. This band believe in giving value for money and when the time for the curtain call came, they not only came back for an encore they played about four or five extra songs and left their fans including this new one with beaming smiles on our faces. As is traditional for me i chatted to members of the audience to find out where the fan base had come from. Well I can’t help being a geographer and a good demographic study is the perfect way to end an enjoyable Sunday evening.

Apart from the lovely Northumbrians I spoke to at the beginning of the evening I met fans from  Bathgate, Fife, Lanark, Orkney, Shetland, as well as Canada, England, Ireland, Italy and the USA. This was an event with a truly cosmopolitan favour on stage and off. An event which had me thoroughly entertained from start to finish I have to say though, much as I enjoyed an excellent headline for me the highlight of the evening was Kris Drever’s performance of Harvest Gypsies. The lyrics of this song leave me truly mesmerised every time I hear them. It really is a warning to the world to change the way we view others and maybe in the words of Robert Burns to see ourselves as others see us or at least to try and if we can do that we may have a world where dreamers can dream musicians can play, singers can sing, poets can be inspired, and together we can all share our stories in whatever way we’ve been gifted.

Review 2 : Dave Ivens

“That’s good, I was going to be here anyway,” joked Kris Drever as he took to the stage at The Old Fruitmarket. Having to stand in at the last minute for BC Camplight’s visa-induced no-show his trio ran through a short but engrossing set showcasing his fabulously clear vocals- a couple of numbers being decided on the spot. The instrumental interplay with fellow guitarist Ian Carr at times evoked the best days of John Renbourn and Bert Jansch.


Kris Drever must surely be regarded as a major talent now on both the Scottish and international acoustic music scene. Even though several other Final Night Celtic Connections events were taking place simultaneously in various other venues, Calexico came on stage to huge applause from a practically sold-out audience of all age groups.

The seven-piece band led by founder members Joey Burns and John Convertino set the tone for the evening with several numbers from their as-yet unreleased album Edge Of The Sun which prominently featured the twin trumpets of Martin Wienk and Jacob Valenzuela- a live-wire performer who kept the crowd entertained throughout. Using their multi-instumental talents Calexico were able to conjure up everything from from Bossa Nova to reggae with Mariachi, rock and Ameicana in between. With so many diverse musical strands on offer however, the band seemed sometimes to lose focus a bit-particularly on a long-winded rock anthem version of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart. In contrast, the other cover of the night, the Love classic Alone Again Or,worked brilliantly well with the trumpet duo capturing the originals’ sparkling Spanish-tinged arrangement perfectly.

Another highlight was an almost acapella version of Fortune Teller featuring Joey Burns over sparse acoustic guitar. The encore saw the band whipping up the crowd in to a Tex-Mex frenzy with much whooping and hollering,then,after a couple of group bows they were gone, leaving the crowd shouting for more and bringing another fine season of Celtic Connections to a close.

Reviewer : Dave Ivens

Edinburgh Blues Club Anniversary show

 Edinburgh Blues Club
With special guests Mike Whellans and Dave Arcari
Friday 30th January 2015

The Edinburgh Blues Club (EBC) is a Social Enterprise established to create a specialised environment for the support of a monthly blues event in the fabulous Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh to guarantee that the people of Edinburgh city do not miss out on class touring blues acts.  The EBC is maintained on a membership subscription basis, where members pay £10 per month in return for access to all EBC events and newsletter.  Tickets are also available to the general public via Ticketweb, Tickets Scotland and Ripping Records. This night was held to commemorate the first anniversary of the club to a majority mature audience.

First up is Dave Arcari, who bursts on stage with great energy, jumping about, exciting the stunned audience. Sporting a mystical, billy goats, silver tipped beard he roars through the set with hard-hitting gravel-laden vocal.  This man has totally instantaneous energy, there’s no doubt about that.  The guitarist and songwriter blues sounds incorporates a mix of trash country, punk and rockabilly come pre-war Delta blues.  Arcari has showcased eight internationally-acclaimed solo CD releases and has an impressive tour dairy to match.

As well as showcasing Arcari’s trademark National steel guitars, he constantly changes instruments from banjo to regular guitar and cigar box, which maintains a hive of excitement.  His legs stand wide as he strums on any instrument to hand, skipping from rocky to mellow chilled blues – all good feet tapping stuff.  He claims to be ‘loosely a blues guy, but likes to mix things up a little’. Arcari explains the BBC invited him to record a Johnny Cash song (even though he confesses he ‘sounds fuck all like Johnny Cash’ – he chose ‘Blue Train’ which has been in his set ever since.  Interspersing each song with his no messin’ tales and honest banter, he warns the audience that he expects a mosh pit at the end of the night when he was returns for the ‘graveyard shift’.

Next act up is Mike Whellans who confesses he won’t be ‘jumping and jiving about’ like Arcari but he makes up with the fact he is an astonishing guitar picker, equally at home on 6, 12 string or electric guitars, base drum, high top and is an amazing harmonica player and of which he plays all at once.  One of the few remaining one-man blues band in Scotland, Whellans performs to a regular sell out at the Fringe and is a popular draw at blues and folk clubs within Scotland, Scandinavia and beyond. Born in the Borders at the end of World War Two, Mike commenced his musical life in the late 1950s playing his father’s drum kit, and by the age of 14 was playing in local dance bands.

Whellans beholds boundless energy commencing on the guitar and harmonica; he demonstrates brilliant rhythm and melody.  The old male leather clad Blues fans at the bar come alive at the bar tapping their feet to Whellans harmonica solo.  This man, with this short stature and black cap has big lungs for such a wee guy!  With his ‘colourful’ tales between songs he regales about his regulars bringing their wives to his gigs, as they could not believe a man could multi-task!  Another past member of the audience once accused Whellans having a tape recorder up his keester! Whellans is clearly a talented man who is able to layer multiple instruments creating a full band piece.  He takes a mellow love song and changes to tempo, turning it into a thigh-slapping tune.  Just when you think you have seen it all, Whellans astounds the intimate Voodoo Room audience with some of the most impressive mouth percussion beat box.  Is there no end to this mans talent?
Putting any young un beat boxers to shame, he creates unimaginable noises, from a helicopter to a steam train, then interjected with the percussion with harmonica highlights – superbly animates with it. The speed and power with his lungs is outstanding.  He cheekily encourages to audience to experiment with his beat box vocals experiments on your female partner when at home.  Despite his mature age and loosing his plectrum at one point (he was sitting on it) he can play some mean blues!  He even gets the audience involved with some ‘shim shank shimmy’ chorus.  Now living in Lauder, he plays at an Italian bar, I find it very hard to believe this, he is clearly is destined for better things.

Dave Arcari returns with his impressive manicured sculpted beard for his second set. I noticed as the night went on Arcari’s wide legged stance seemed to get lower and lower, an impressive accomplishment by any yogi’s standard!  Some people call Arcari the devil of blues, accepting no regulations of typical blues and just going on his own style!  The energy Arcari possesses is remarkable, the man doesn’t stand still and his facial expressions and laughter are scarily haunting.  The night ends on a duo with Arcari and Whellans, a first for this pair, with Whellan on the harmonica and floor box and Arcari singing, they play like they’ve been in duos for eternity. Holding the stage as their own.


I urge you to make your way down to EBC asap because there is no end to the talent here and if it can turn this ‘non-blues-fan’ to stomping and shimmy-ing in her seat, then I bid you to go along and give it a go!

Reviewer : Sarah Lewis

Blazing Fiddles

Royal Concert Hall Glasgow

Jan 30th

My idea of a good folk concert is one where the main artists bring on their friends and other musicians and are generous in respect of the time they give them. Blazin’ Fiddles do exactly this. Bruce MacGregor, introduced the concert by pretending to give a news report on Celtic sports imagining the movement of well known stars from one field of sport to the likes of shinty and Gaelic Football. As a spoof item it warmed the audience and set the scene for what must be one of the best concerts of Celtic Connections. A capacity audience in the Royal Concert Hall were treated to reels and toe tapping tunes from the fiddlers and then the stella performance of first class acts such as Adam Holmes, Rachel Sermanni and Aoife O’Donovan, all stars in their own right. It was glorious! Adam’s rich and throaty voice, singing his own compositions, was seamlessly followed by Rachel’s wistful songs and Aoife’s sweet American voice often adding gorgeous harmonies to each others’ pieces. This and the Inverness Gaelic Choir who backed those on stage as well as singing beautifully in the old language.
Sets were woven into a programme that had no dull moments and at no point did anyone hog the stage or allow egos to intrude. Balzin’ Fiddles were superb and during the last set, people in the audience spontaneously stood, giving a standing ovation whilst clapping along to the reels.
The encore featured a set combining the three soloists in one of the most effective and emotive renditions of Rabbie Burns’ Ae Fond Kiss, I have ever heard. It would as my granny use to say ‘hauv brought a tear tae a gless een.’
If you get a chance to see a Blazin’ Fiddles Concert anywhere on the planet, make it a must see.
Reviewer : Marc Sherland

Song of the Earth

Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO)

Haydn, Symphony No 70 in D; Mahler,

‘Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth)’

City Halls, Glasgow,

January 30th 2015


Big public art needs elaborate sponsorship these days, which explains how in the programme for this concert at the City Halls the page facing the one giving details of what was to come had a brasserie promo with a mighty lamb shank on a bed of couscous. Along with promotion we can also expect a bit of hype; so as well as details of the music and artists, we were offered a headline that promised us:’SORROW BEAUTY FOREVER’. Some of that we did get in what followed; maybe not

in the proportion or degree intended, but enough to get us out the door happy with what had taken place and what we had heard. Haydn’s 70th Symphony, is a bit ‘odd’ – as the young man sitting next to me observed, encountering it for the first time. For the SCO, Haydn is meat and drink – here more bonne bouche than lamb shank – and the orchestra and conductor Robin Ticciati managed everything with aplomb, and with a special charge of energy too. I had been struck with the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed look of everybody at the start, before I noticed the film cameras upstairs and down. The musicians it seemed were out to impress, and they did: handling the ‘oddities’, like the switching from D Major to D Minor and the development of a full-on fugue in the finale, with panache.

There are plenty shifts in the Haydn to keep everyone on their toes: the minor-major contrast can occur within a movement as well as between the movements themselves, and the variations in tempi and dynamic present distinct challenges. The opening ‘Vivace con brio’ was as lively and spirited as declared on the tin, the ‘Andante’ – with the bass melodic line giving depth of tone – had sweet and good edges too, like a skater on clear ice. Depth and range and elegance were also there in the ‘Menuet’, so it had dignity as well as diversion. The final movement began so quietly my neighbour said he had missed Ticciati’s upbeat, but the drive and energy picked up, and this strange mix of titillation and attack worked through to the close.

‘Pretty’ was the judgement of a young student I quizzed about it in the queue to the interval bar, and she was right; but it had its own insistent appeal and challenges too. Back in for the Mahler, and for me considerable expectation. In a welcoming programme note, Karen Cargill, an Associate Artist with the SCO, who was to sing as mezzo-soprano in Das Lied von der Erde, pointed back nearly 70 years to the first Edinburgh Festival performance of the piece, featuring Kathleen Ferrier and Peter Pears, with the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Bruno Walter. Well, you can’t set the bar higher than that – even though Karen Cargill had sung the same work with the SCO two years previously, and would have gained confidence as a result.

I think at that performance the SCO had also used the arrangement of the work by Glen Cortese, so the conductor and orchestra had form for that too. To my ear, it didn’t start especially well. Whether it was the arrangement or direction things went a bit helter skelter. More significantly, the tenor Simon O’Neill was himself swallowed in the early exchanges in the drinking song – and his first sharp climb to ‘klingen’ (where the line promises sorrow with laughter resounding in our soul) came up short and harsh. My maybe too severe note mentioned a ‘copper pipe effect’, but there were moments in this first section where bits jarred when they should have blended, and I was wincing more than once. Things went more happily in the reflection on youth, ‘Von der Jugend’, and the fifth section with its carousing in spring. The singer was always more comfortable in the lower registers, and he did enter the particular mood of the songs when his technique allowed. Still., allowing for the fact that Mahler brings both voice and instruments right to the edge, the quality of O’Neill’s range and tone was disappointing in an artist of his reputation.

Karen Cargill’s contribution was marked by some uncertainty at the start too, before she and the SCO moved into the lyrical dimensions – for instance the gentle, legato elements in ‘Von der Schönheit’. If the dynamic rose, she went with it, and was never in consequence washed away. ‘Das Lied von der Erde’, however ‘chamber’-like the orchestration, and even with special arrangement, does create difficulties of adjustment for the singers and players; however, the solo or paired instrumentation (contrapuntal and at times in free cadenza style) was striking, with oboe, flute, individual strings and percussion and so on weaving in beautifully.

As she relaxed, Karen Cargill developed a lovely vocal control, and in ‘Der Abschied’ she entered the song fully, carrying us through to the heartbreaking conclusion with absolute engagement. The orchestra’s playing and direction too was subtle and responsive, within the full panoply of sound and in the pianissimo. Robin Ticciati, held us forever in the moment after the last note fell; but he can not really be criticised for that, if that was what he actually felt. I enjoyed it. I love the piece  hard not to – and though I got not everything here (the ghosts of Ferrier and Walter, once invoked, are not that easy to ignore) there was certainly more than enough to be going on with.

Reviewer : by Mr Scales

Rat Pack Vegas Spectacular

Edinburgh Playhouse

31st Jan


It was time for the eagerly awaited show that is the “Rat Pack Vegas Spectacular” at The Edinburgh Playhouse, that gives us a glimpse into the lives of Dean Martin, Sammy Davis , Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe. As the show began, each tribute act sang their way onto stage, introducing us to the magic that was old Vegas. With an incredible brass section and band the trio delivered classic after classic with excellent vocals, sprinkling smooth humour inbetween & showing off their theatrical sides, especially when alcohol was involved. I would not be surprised if Dean Martin was born in a bar as he never seems to have been away from it during this show.

Personally, I would have preferred more glam and glitter, with a bigger cast, & thought the production needed a little more “Boom and Bang.” Still, it was all entertaining enough,  the second part of the show giving us My Way, New York, New York,  King of the Road, You make me feel so Young, Ain”t That a kick in the Head, Get me to the Church on Time and many more…  The dancers held their own, with great costumes and moves, while the band continued to deliver a captivating sound and Old Las Vegas .

Marilyn Monroe gave us a touch of ‘Diamonds are a girls best friend’ and singing Happy Birthday to a couple in the audience, with the entire performance ending with New York, New York – a right choice, forcing the crowd to get to their feet, as I did myself, I enjoyed the dance and left the Playhouse feeling good about life – & wishing I could have seen  these Icons of music at first hand. !!!!

Reviewer : Spud