Nicola Benedetti’s appearance with the Scottish Ensemble last weekend was effectively a dress rehearsal for a week of international touring to Aix-en-Provence and Turkey. It certainly had an almost-but-not-quite-there feeling about it.
Scottish Ensemble/Nicola Benedetti | Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh | Rating: ***
At its heart, Benedetti trod familiar ground – a trio of Vivaldi concerti, not dissimilar to last year’s Italy and the Four Seasons Tour she undertook with her own hand-picked musicians, which also ended with Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence, although here she was not involved in the latter, leaving it to the Ensemble alone.
But to take the Vivaldi first, here was Benedetti in classy form, issuing her trademark sweetness and light, a sound that was rapt and intense, but intimately contained within the whole ensemble.
She is a collaborator, not a prima donna, which was perfect in conveying the effervescent spirit of Vivaldi, at its thrilling best by the third of the concertos, the steamier, showier Il Grosso Mogul.
If it was beginning by then to seem like too much of the same flavour, the Vivaldi encore, pleasant as it was, proved one Venetian confection too many. Spreading the Vivaldi over the programme might have helped.
The Ensemble took centre stage in Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances, Wolf’s gauche Italian Serenade, and the Tchaikovsky. There were uncertain moments and a lack of togetherness, but enough zest in the Resphigi and thick-set passion in the Tchaikovsky to suggest it would all click into place on tour.