Classical review: SCO Strings, Inverness

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THE Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s annual summer tours in the Highlands & Islands regularly include central belt venues these days – this one reaches Dunblane tomorrow.

SCO Strings

Eden Court Theatre, Inverness

* * * *

Their distinguished guest, Anthony Marwood, directed from the first violin position in a programme which featured an early milestone by this year’s centenarian, Benjamin Britten, and three pieces which experienced delayed entry into the repertoire.

That was the case with Elgar’s very popular but initially neglected Serenade. Marwood led the players through a flowing and carefully nuanced account of the piece, expressive but never overstated, and was then featured as soloist in Mendelssohn’s Concerto in D minor. Unlike the later E minor Concerto, long a staple of the repertoire, this youthful work languished forgotten until revived by Menuhin in 1951. The composer’s youthful precocity shone through in a work which, while minor by comparison with its successor, merits an occasional airing, especially when played this attentively.

Sibelius’s Suite is another later-comer, shelved in 1929 and only premiered in 1990. A relaxed, cheerful study on country themes, it proved a pleasing taster for the evening’s major work.

Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge was Britten’s homage to his former teacher, and while it foreshadows much that was to come in his music, it is a substantial achievement in its own right, and the players drew full value from its shifting moods and styles.