SCOTTISH CHAMBER ORCHESTRA *****
QUEEN'S HALL, EDINBURGH
MUSIC from Eastern Europe - particularly Hungary and Poland - was the main focus for the SCO's Bartk anniversary concert. Curiously, even though the composer's Music for Strings Percussion & Celeste was the oldest work on the programme - written in 1937 - in many ways it was the most radical. Bartk's superb orchestration is the key to this vibrancy and the combination of conductor Joseph Swenson, who teased each subtle nuance out of the music, and an orchestra on top form made for a riveting performance.
The world premiere of Joe Cutler's Cinnamon Street was equally compelling. Although born in London, Cutler studied in Poland and, while he writes with his own distinctive voice, his continuation of the Eastern European tradition is not in doubt.
For the most part, the brass dominated the strings setting a dynamic rhythmic pulse for a work that quietly dazzled with it's bold colours and deft musical fluency. It's a tribute to Cutler's considerable talents that the piece was never in danger of being eclipsed, despite being in such illustrious company.
Lutoslawki's Chain II is another 20th century masterpiece, with the composer exploring pitch, time and structure in a way that's challenging for both performers and audiences. Violinist Isabelle van Keulen delivered an electrifying and inspiring reading that was utterly gripping.
Listening to Concert Romanesc, the last composer you could imagine writing in such a conventional manner is Gyorgy Ligeti. Full of lyrical Romanian folk melodies and dance rhythms, this music is a world away from the tightly structured avant-garde soundscape the composer usually inhabits, with only a few discords in the last movement hinting at his future musical path.