Mussorgsky’s vivid set of fantastical flights of the imagination, Pictures at an Exhibition, in Ravel’s scintillating, colourful orchestration, should have been the ideal music for the Edinburgh International Festival’s annual spectacular farewell to the capital’s festival season.
And it even chimed nicely with the EIF’s theme of composers inspired by their environment – in this case, Mussorgsky taking inspiration from the sometimes bizarre art of his friend Viktor Hartmann.
But strangely, so descriptive is Mussorgsky’s music that there were moments when Pyrovision’s spectacular display seemed to have little to add – not helped, it has to be said, by lengthy pauses between sections that let the tension flag horribly.
However, it was still a magnificent show, and the exploding colours and textures of the display not only heightened the music’s emotions but also highlighted its contrasting themes with subtle clarity. The true star, though, was Edinburgh’s Castle itself, whose ramparts were lit up in glowing golds and whites for The Old Castle, and throbbed threateningly in red in the Catacombs movement.
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra gave a thoroughly convincing account in very blustery conditions – some of conductor Garry Walker’s speeds were a little on the brisk side, but he had the measure of the music’s grand sweep and built to some powerful climaxes. The sudden brightening of mood as the grotesque Hut on Fowl’s Legs moved into the nobility of the culminating Great Gate of Kiev, matched by glittering blues and whites in the sky, drew gasps of delight from the crowd.