Although overtures are customarily associated with the beginning of a concert, Shostakovich’s Festive Overture was chosen to bring this year’s Scottish Chamber Orchestra Fireworks Concert to a close, and it provided a fitting finale for the Edinburgh International Festival and the city’s summer festival season.
Virgin Money Fireworks Concert *****
Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh
As the music’s brass fanfares rang out in triumph, the sky above was a riot of bursts of colour on a night that, in terms of the weather, was as near to perfect as it gets for this event.
The Fireworks Concert is a long-standing annual fixture for Scotland’s capital city, but this was the first time that Estonian conductor Kristiina Poska had been the musical helm. Taking what must be an unusually challenging assignment in her stride, she kept the orchestra rhythmically taut – essential to keep up with the choreography of the fireworks – as well as bringing out the breadth and depth of expression in excerpts from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet ballet music and, even more so, Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.
As the familiar loud bangs of Pyrovision’s fireworks magically quietened to an almost gentle silence as they floated off in golden ribbons on the evening breeze, there was real tenderness from the orchestra in the heartrending melodic lines of Somewhere. Elsewhere, in the brilliance of both Bernstein’s and Prokofiev’s scores, it was the dark menace of fights and feuds that came through in the dramatic tension skilfully generated by Poska on the podium.