Music review: Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

The RSNO
The RSNO
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There was a whiff of revolution in the air as the players took over this performance in a way that prompted debate about what conductors are actually there for. RSNO leader Sharon Roffman directed the band with surefooted panache and had all the musicians who could, standing to play. What a difference this made to the flow and energy in the two Beethoven works. Right from the first strident chords of the Coriolan Overture, the music sizzled with excitement in this commanding and articulate reading.

Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Usher Hall, Edinburgh *****

It was the same with Beethoven’s Symphony No5 in C minor, a familiar piece but played here with extraordinary depth and insight. With players free to move and breathe, the music moved into a higher definition as the woodwind sounded more resonant, the brass more lustrous and the strings absolutely electrifying. Encouraged by Roffman, the musicians demonstrated a gripping ferocity and fearlessness, listening intently to each other as they brought a freshness and vitality to this concert hall favourite.

And there was a chance for RSNO regulars to shine, with flautist Katherine Bryan and harpist Pippa Tunnell out in front of the orchestra for Mozart’s Flute and Harp Concerto in C major.

This is something of an odd work with its unevenly matched solo instruments and Mozart’s chocolate-box assortment of quotes from his other pieces. But Bryan and Tunnell complemented each other beautifully, the flute evoking birdsong in the slow movement and the ethereal sparkle of the harp sprinkling everything with fairy dust. - Susan Nickalls