Classical review: RSNO, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Music director Peter Oundjian delivered a telling performance from the RSNO. Picture: ImageDirect
Music director Peter Oundjian delivered a telling performance from the RSNO. Picture: ImageDirect
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FAIRY tales and ancient song traditions contributed to this enthralling start to the RSNO’s new season along with a stellar line-up of soloists from within the orchestra’s talented ranks.

Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Star rating: * * * * *

Due to limited repertoire, the flute rarely gets a look into mainstream orchestral programmes. However, this may change after RSNO principal flautist Katherine Bryan’s captivating performance of Christopher Rouse’s “1993 Flute Concerto” which challenged audience perceptions and threw down a red-hot gauntlet to contemporary composers.

Bryan’s pellucid tones dominated the lyrical opening and closing movements, both called Amhran, the Gaelic word for song. She then launched into a frenzied march which together with a prickly-edged jig framed the central Elegia, Rouse’s response to the horrific killing of toddler James Bulger at the time of writing. Here Bryan’s beautifully calibrated phrases laced with disquieting trills and heartbreaking dissonance was sensitively supported by the bassoon, a trio of flutes and unsettling brass and string chorales.

Music director Peter Oundjian presided over the RSNO’s ravishing account of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. Inspired by the stories of the Thousand and One Nights and steeped in Russian folk traditions, the superbly orchestrated tone poem shares the spotlight around various players.

The theme that provides the bedrock for this story was beguilingly spun by leader Maya Iwabuchi while bassoonist David Hubbard led the exotic blend of woodwind textures in the middle eastern-infused second movement.

This dazzling spectacle was a fitting reposte to Wagner’s Overture to Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg which opened the concert in a majestic blaze of orchestral colour.

• Seen on 03.10.14