Classical review: Scottish Chamber Orchestra

MITSUKO Uchida is famous for her incisive, highly-nuanced interpretations of the classical repertoire, particularly Mozart.

Pianist Mitsuko Uchida performed works by Ravel, Haydn, Faure and Boulez. Picture: Contributed
Pianist Mitsuko Uchida performed works by Ravel, Haydn, Faure and Boulez. Picture: Contributed

Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Usher Hall, Edinburgh

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Therefore, it was fascinating to see a lighter side to the pianist in Ravel’s jazz-infused Piano Concerto in G as she revelled in the sparky interactions with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. A whip crack sets the pace of the Gershwinesque first movement which has the piano and orchestra trying to outdo each other in the razzle-dazzle stakes. Churning out waterfalls of twinkling notes, Uchida gleefully parried the orchestral contributions with conductor Robin Ticciati deftly maintaining an edgy equilibrium.

In the slow movement, Uchida gave a masterclass in beauty and poetry, shape-shifting between unsettling dissonance and the intense lyricism of her dance with the cor anglais, making the contrast with the ebullient finale all the more brilliant.

The Ravel was flanked by Faure’s Pelleas et Melisande Suite, with Ticciati and the SCO articulating every detail of this fantastical musical realm, and Boulez’s Memoriale (…explosant-fixe…Originel) with Alison Mitchell, SCO principal flute, featuring in both. In Boulez’s meditation, for solo flute and ensemble, on the idea of capturing movement in a single image – after the Surrealists Andre Breton and Man Ray – Mitchell’s gorgeous shimmering textures and butterfly-light fluttering-tonguing shone all the more brightly against a muted backdrop of strings and horns.

Messiaen or even Debussy would have made a more appropriate destination for this fascinating journey through French contemporary music than Haydn’s Clock Symphony, for all the stylish warmth and wit of this razor-sharp performance.