Classical review: SCO, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Picture: Contributed

Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Picture: Contributed

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FOR a man who’s done so much to extend and expand the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s repertoire and activities over his 23-year tenure, this felt like a strangely conventional overture-concerto-symphony programme with which to bid farewell to retiring SCO chief executive Roy McEwen.

Scottish Chamber Orchestra | Rating: **** | Usher Hall, Edinburgh

An appropriately understated celebration, perhaps – but one that nevertheless celebrated the orchestra’s precision, power and polish, under principal guest conductor Emmanuel Krivine.

Their opening Mussorgsky Khovanshchina Overture was exquisite. There was a more tentative start to the Sibelius Violin Concerto, however, and Albanian-born soloist Tedi Papavrami took a while to warm to his rich, big-boned interpretation, forcefully projected but rather granitic and deliberate in its approach – a head-scratching contrast to Krivine’s lithe, supple handling of Sibelius’s orchestral textures.

We’re used to a degree of folksy rawness in the finale’s springing dance, but Papavrami took things further, with jagged rhythms and runs that felt simply a wash of notes. It was certainly arresting, but ultimately unconvincing.

Krivine revelled in the closing Beethoven Eroica Symphony, however, from a brisk, driven opening movement of immense power to a masterful funeral march that can seldom have sparkled with as much variety of radiant, brightly etched textures. The sense of excitement and expectation he conjured for the gradual reveal of the finale’s earworm of a tune conveyed integrity, enthusiasm, and an eagerness to share – all qualities entirely fitting for the occasion the concert was marking.

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