Music review: Scottish Chamber Orchestra

THERE'S always a bouncy exuberance in the SCO's step when conductor Richard Egarr comes to town and this concert was no exception. The opening salvo of chords in Haydn's Symphony No 93 grabbed the attention from the get-go, paving the way for the whimsical allegro. Egarr doesn't miss a trick when it comes to Haydn's hijinks especially in the waltz-like allegro with the trumpets injecting rapid-fire flashes of subversive brilliance.

Cellist Philip Higham
Cellist Philip Higham

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh ****

Stepping out from behind his principal’s desk, Philip Higham took centre stage in CPE Bach’s Cello Concerto in A minor. The two outer movements were full of dynamic, but excessively repeated, rhythmical statements played by the small string ensemble with Egarr on harpsichord. They framed the virtuoso cello passages – Higham’s fingers scurrying up and down the fingerboard – which brought some much needed sparkle. Higham is a fine cellist but his understated performance, while full of tonal warmth, would have benefited from a bit more soloistic oomph. His encore, of Jean-Louis Duport’s gently pulsing Etude was gorgeous.

The air was electrically charged as Egarr and the SCO romped through Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony with an impressive crispness and precision. After the magisterial opening, sighing strings whipped up a storm, occasionally interrupted by calming woodwind chorales. In the scherzo the plangent tones of the clarinet passed the tune, Charlie is my darling, around the other woodwinds. A crooning duet between the bassoon and clarinet gave everyone a breather before the orchestra, firing on all cylinders, launched into the rousing, march-like finale.