Music review: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Ilan Volkov
Ilan Volkov
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With sumptuous Russian music dominating this BBC SSO programme, the breeziness of Edmund Finnis’s The Air, Turning made for an ideal opener. Conductor Ilan Volkov gradually built up the full spectrum of string sound, from the bottom bass notes to eerie violin harmonics, which was then finely smudged with woodwind and brass colour.

Usher Hall, Edinburgh ****

Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor, Op 18, may be a repertoire favourite, but there were plenty of surprises in this insightful interpretation by Vadym Kholodenko, stepping in for an indisposed Yevgeny Sudbin. The ravishing orchestral score can often turn the first movement into a battle with the soloist, but Kholodenko more than held his own, notes tumbling like water in this light, refreshingly unsentimental, account. His direct engagement with the flute and clarinet highlighted the underlying tenderness of the adagio, especially his ghost-like pianissimo theme. Kholodenko’s immaculate technique and musicality were well-matched in his encore, Rachmaninov’s Prelude in G major Op 32 No.5, delivered with poetic delicacy.

Master orchestrator Rimsky-Korsakov pulls out all the stops in Scheherazade, based on stories from The 1001 Nights. Volkov and the orchestra were in fine fettle as they conjured up tempests and shipwrecks for Sinbad the Sailor whilst rippling glissandi on clarinets and flutes created a more romantic atmosphere for the prince and princess. The recurring motif in this symphonic suite is the voice of Scheherazade, beautifully evoked on the violin (leader Laura Samuel) and harp (Helen Thomson), as she spins tales of enchantment to save her life.