Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh
DVORAK Legends from Op 59: Nos 1, 2, 7 & 8
SCHUMANN Cello Concerto
KURTAG Movement for Viola and Orchestra
MENDELSSOHN Symphony No 3 ‘Scottish’
Another beautiful evening at the Queen’s Hall! The concert opener was Dvorak’s melodically enchanting Legends (1881), which was effortlessly executed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Dvorak infused Slavonic melodies into his narrative piece, which was originally composed for piano duet and later orchestrated. It is hard to imagine the lush chordal string passages and elegant, agile wind counterpoint played by four hands and the orchestral version is truly beautiful.
The melodies glide through the orchestra with ease and the players brought vitality and vigour to this already enlivening piece.
This was an evening of first hearings for me as I was treated to a thrilling rendition of Schumann’s Cello Concerto (1850). Steven Isserlis was truly magnificent and charismatic in every way. Schumann’s Cello Concerto was thought to be near impossible to play at the time of writing it and consequently was not played in Schumann’s lifetime. With this said, Isserlis played every passage with flowing ease and vigour. The virtuosic cadenzas were thrilling and the mastery of all on the stage blew me away.
The soloistic prowess didn’t end there as I was introduced to the Movement for Viola and Orchestra by Kurtag (1953-4), featuring the SCO’s lead violist Jane Atkins. Kurtag was a follower of Bartok and his Hungarian tradition, although he never managed to study with him due to Bartok’s early death. It is such a treat to hear the rich, dynamic virtuoso of the viola and Atkins played with engaging and robust elegance.
The evening drew to a close with Mendelssohn’s ‘Scottish’ Symphony, which actually has very little Scottish flavour, but it is a rousing piece all the same. The SCO have performed this piece many, many times, yet there was no lack of enthusiasm from the ensemble. In fact they were biting at every phrase.
A thoroughly well planned programme with wonderful soloists – I wouldn’t ask for more.
Reviewer : Ali Bell