Edinburgh International Festival music review: Opening Concert: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Susan Nickalls.
After the spectacle of Harmonium the previous night, the opening concert was something of an anti-climax, particularly the underwhelming and disparate Brahms vocal works in the first half. Brimming with moody melancholy, Gesang der Parzen (Songs of the Fates) proved to be a challenge in the higher registers for the Edinburgh Festival Chorus.
The jocose Liebeslieder Walzer was more in their comfort zone, but the intimate flirtatiousness these lyrics demand was lost in this large-scale arrangement. Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny) was an altogether different story with conductor Donald Runnicles eliciting atmospheric hushed tones from the chorus in this sublime work.
However, it was the BBC SSO and Runnicles’ riveting interpretation of Richard Strauss’ tone poem Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life) that at last provided that opening night frisson. A bevy of horns, for Strauss the yardstick of heroism, launch this monumental musical journey which begins in vaulting optimism and ends in serene acceptance.
The orchestra delivered a dazzling tour de force with strident brass, disruptive woodwind, beguiling harps, and tantalising solos from leader Laura Samuel. Her calm silvery tones constantly coaxed the orchestra back from the precipice and were more than a match for the ill-timed thud of Tattoo fireworks.
Published in The Scotsman on 10 August 2015
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