I HAVE been attending the Edinburgh International Festival since 1966 and Friday’s was the least “ festive” opening concert I have ever witnessed. Difficult works by Schoenberg and Scriabin were followed by a rather dreary choral work by Debussy. It was significant that there were many empty seats before the opening concert and many more after the interval when people voted with their feet. This is highly unusual, as the event usually sells out.
In his opening speech, EIF director Jonathan Mills talked about the First World War, the Empire and the Commonwealth and its impact on the programme. However, he never mentioned the biggest decision facing Scotland: the referendum.
The good news is that this Mills’s last programme and the festival is big enough to survive what in my opinion is the worst director in the 67 years of the festival. Hopefully the new director can get back to producing an opening concert that is truly festive rather than one which alienates the audience.
I recall the 1982 opening concert – Verdi’s Requiem with Jessye Norman, Margaret Price, Jose Carreras and Ruggero Raimondi, conducted by Claudio Abbado. The critics declare it to be the greatest live recording ever; 30 years on people still discuss it. No-one will talk about Friday’s opening concert other than to mention how bad it was.
Wharton Square Edinburgh