Classical review: Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Edinburgh

Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Royal Scottish National Orchestra

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AT FIRST glance there seems little to connect the distinct musical worlds of Dean, Britten and Dvorak in this programme. However, the themes of killing, war, home and history create a sense of unity between the three pieces.

Royal Scottish National Orchestra - Usher Hall, Edinburgh

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Brett Dean’s Dispersal, a euphemism used to describe the massacre of indigenous Australians in the 1800s, may only be five minutes long, but it’s a firecracker of a piece in every sense. It certainly had the RSNO on the edge of their seats in this 0 -100mph ride as they negotiated hair-pin rhythms and explosive bursts of percussion which finally subside into a slow-motion unwinding of grief.

A similar sense of disquiet pervades Britten’s seldom played Violin Concerto Op 15, a haunting commemoration of loss of life in the Spanish Civil war. There was an exquisite synergy between the orchestra, Thomas Søndergård, principal guest conductor, and soloist Vilde Frang. Her approach exuded just the right balance of dreamy lyricism and gut-wrenching emotion and she wore the virtuosity demanded extremely lightly. Frang is for the most part in her own world on this journey while the orchestra provide a Spanish-infused textural back-drop.

Dvorak’s Symphony 
No 9, From the New World saw Søndergård and the orchestra revealing in a work teeming with “New World” tunes from negro spirituals to native Indian melodies and folksong as well as paying homage to rich “Old World” traditions. Clearly enjoying themselves immensely, they swiftly launched into Dvorak’s lively Slavonic Dance Op 46 No 8 as an encore.

Seen on 02.05.14

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