Music review: Virgin Money Fireworks Concert, Ross Theatre, Princes Street Gardens

The Virgin Money Fireworks Concert, the final event of the 2019 Edinburgh International Festival, as seen from Calton Hill PIC: Ian Georgeson
The Virgin Money Fireworks Concert, the final event of the 2019 Edinburgh International Festival, as seen from Calton Hill PIC: Ian Georgeson
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On what was one of the warmest Fireworks Concert nights in many a year, the phenomenon that is Edinburgh and its summer festivals signed off with a truly spectacular finale on Monday evening.

Virgin Money Fireworks Concert, Ross Theatre, Princes Street Gardens *****

The precise synchronisation between Pyrovision’s fireworks and the ever-stalwart Scottish Chamber Orchestra never fails to astonish, but this year sound and sky came together in the final chord of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique without even a nanosecond to spare.

In the build-up, criss-crossing shooting stars illuminated the Dies Irae theme of the witches’ sabbath, with Polish conductor Marta Gardolińska generating incisive orchestral momentum.

In the earlier fireworks-accompanied pieces too, whether Glinka’s Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila or Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Gardolińska kept the orchestra firmly on track.

An emphasis on rhythmic precision is beneficial all round for this sort of event, but with Gardolińska it was never to the detriment of telling the stories of the music, all of which were rendered in vivid colour by the fireworks. The glamorous dancers in Berlioz’s ball scene appeared in deep orange, while gold was very much the colour for the swirls, corkscrews and cascades of the Dukas. Pre-fireworks music featured Edinburgh’s own BBC Singer of the World, mezzo-soprano Catriona Morison, who brought gravitas and style, even in this highly unconventional operatic setting, to excerpts from Bizet’s Carmen and Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. Carol Main