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Classical review: BBC SSO: Mozart’s Requiem, Edinburgh

Picture: Complimentary

Picture: Complimentary

  • by KENNETH WALTON
 

Any reluctance to be dragged indoors from yesterday’s afternoon sun was soon dispelled by a BBC SSO concert, under Donald Runnicles, that was both sell-out and knock-out.

BBC SSO: Mozart’s Requiem - Usher Hall, Edinburgh

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It featured only two pieces – Elgar’s Cello Concerto and Mozart’s Requiem – but musically there was never any danger of being short-changed.

American cellist Alisa Weilerstein’s reading of the Elgar centred wholly on the poetic – the natural expressiveness of the opening filled with dreamlike expectation, a sense of quiet exhilaration in the scherzo passages set alight with nimble flirtatiousness, the Adagio beautifully weighted by a darkened pallor, and the finale making its conciliatory point with impassioned lyricism.

The SSO played its part to a T, Runnicles tuning in with instinctive perception, and inspiring an orchestral response that latched onto every nuance of Weilerstein’s lilting interpretation.

The same unity of intent gave this version of the Mozart Requiem – American musicologist Robert Levin’s expanded proposition to a work famously unfinished by the composer – a powerful outing. I

It has been performed (and recorded) before in Scotland, but this performance offered a whole fresh perspective through the exceptional precision, power and homogeneity of Christopher Bell’s National Youth Choir of Scotland.

There are few places you’ll hear this level of choral perfection. The Dies Irae was spine-tingling, the fugues like crystalline jewels, every moment one to savour in a performance that had virtuosity – not least the SSO trombones – oozing from every pore.

 

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