Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra / Mariss Jansons

Edinburgh International Festival Scotsman review (music): Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra / Mariss Jansons at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh. Reviewed by Ken Walton

The chemistry between Mariss Jansons, a remarkable musician and conductor, and the superstar players of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is one of considerable mutual respect and understanding.

The first thing that grabs you – and it was there right at the start of Shostakovich’s Symphony No 1, which opened the RCO’s concert on Wednesday – is the electrifying precision of woodwind and brass attack, the unified glow of the strings, and a unanimous musical conviction that marks this partnership out as one of the true wonders of the modern orchestral world.

That said, this was a reading of the Shostakovich – effectively a student work – that, for all its thrilling finesse and pinpoint perfection of the solo playing, played down the underlying theatrical dynamic.

It’s a journey that shifts from two movements of grotesquery and desperation to more comforting signs that the composer is getting to grips with the symphonic challenge. If this performance took a slow approach to the former, it made up for that in the exquisite shaping and vivid colouring of the final movements.

The all-Ravel second half, though, was spot on. Jean-Yves Thibaudet brought eloquent, beguiling showmanship to his solo role in the Piano Concert in G, imposing his playful character on the music’s flirtatious twists and turns, but equally embedding himself within the overall ensemble.

The concert ended with the second suite from Daphnis et Chloé, its colourful, exuberant narrative the perfect vehicle for Jansons and the RCO to play their most expressive cards. It was wild, iridescent and dazzlingly picturesque: the orchestral machine at its best.

Originally published in The Scotsman

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