Music review: Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Edinburgh

Queen's Hall, Edinburgh. Picture: Neil Hanna

Queen's Hall, Edinburgh. Picture: Neil Hanna

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VAST landscapes, both physical and emotional, were evoked in this enthralling and diverse programme of music by Nordic composers.

Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

*****

In the world premiere of Verdigris, commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Lotta Wennakoski pays homage to Sibelius in an elemental work that bristles with otherworldliness. Gusts of glissandi and the thwack of bows on strings were just some of the effects used to create an atmospheric sound-world which effectively caught the spirit of Sibelius.

This sparky dynamism continued in Nielsen’s Violin Concerto with the synergy between conductor Tuomas Hannikainen, soloist Pekka Kuusisto and the orchestra producing something quite special. Kuusisto’s personality shone through from the opening Bach-inspired flourishes, through to the macabre, dance-infused finale. His rich full-bodied sound was mirrored by the orchestra with some lyrical contributions from the brass and playful exchanges with the woodwind section.

Hannikainen’s precision and attention to detail in this action-packed concerto contrasted with Kuusisto’s improvisatory-sounding cadenzas, fluttering trills and enigmatic double-stopping. It was evident from Kuusisto’s foot-stomping encore of Finish and Swedish polskas that traditional music is an integral part of his remarkable musicianship.

Sibelius’s The Maiden in the Tower hasn’t had much traction as an opera, but Hannikainen’s arrangement of it as an orchestral suite, receiving its UK premiere, has transformed it into a formidable work for the concert hall. Both pacey and racey, the score is so sumptuous and programmatic the vocal lines seem much more suited to the various orchestral instruments, as demonstrated in this effervescent and thrilling performance.

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