NO QUESTION about the influence of Debussy and Ravel on Savourna Stevenson’s Concerto for Pedal Harp, which received its first performance as part of last night’s Scottish Ensemble concert, featuring harpist Catrin Finch as soloist.
Scottish Ensemble with Catrin Finch
Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh
More interestingly, Stevenson has cast her three-movement concerto in unashamedly Romantic mode, more reminiscent of the BBC light music of the Forties or Fifties. For besides the lush French-style harmonies and pulsating Spanish dance rhythms are luscious Mantovanian string flourishes and cooler, lustier reminiscences of Piazzola.
It’s a wonderfully busy piece, served up with extraordinary vitality and singeing warmth by Finch and the thick-set strings of the Ensemble.
But the composer’s self-confessed indebtedness to the French Impressionists was not lost in a programme otherwise populated by Debussy and Ravel. The opening Debussy Marche écossaise set just the right mood of suppurating warmth, if a tad nervous in presentation.
No such issues in Debussy’s Danses sacrée et profane, or Rudolf Barshai’s fill-out string version of Ravel’s String Quartet in F. Finch was again the magnetic linchpin.
And boy, doesn’t the Ravel work just as well in this fuller arrangement. What you get – and what the SE players provided in spades – is a sensitised heightening of the extremes. Warm sounds for a cold summer evening.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west