The publicity shot of the Eiffel Tower felt a century too late. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s ‘Paris Concert’ focused not on the belle époque but on the effervescence and opulence of the French capital decades earlier. And there were generous helpings of effervescence and opulence in conductor Laurence Cummings’s compelling accounts.
SCO: The Paris Concert ****
Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh
Music from Rameau’s Les Boréades made a bracing opener – a blast of the high Baroque amid an otherwise Classical programme – and Cummings indulged us with a flamboyant, tongue-in-cheek commentary usefully placing the music in the opera’s convoluted storyline. His Mozart Paris Symphony was a delight, full of gesture and rhetoric – seldom can its first movement’s rushing scales have had so much sheer meaning – but superbly balanced in a buoyant slow movement.
It was a shame, then, that things went slightly off the boil after the interval. A Sinfonia concertante in E flat by JC Bach was worth an outing for its unusual use of no less than six woodwind soloists – giving the SCO’s famously fantastic wind players a welcome chance to shine – but it had less going for it musically. Cummings’s closer – Haydn’s Oxford Symphony, originally written for a Parisian audience – returned to his opening vigour.
It was a beguiling evening, shining new light on the a couple of decades, and under Cummings’s inspirational direction, as illuminating as it was entertaining