Classical review: Scottish Chamber Orchestra, St Cuthbert’s Church, Edinburgh

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IT MIGHT have been the title adopted for the SCO’s latest CL@SIX concert at St Cuthbert’s that drew such a large audience to fill the pews at tea-time last night.

After all, The Lark Ascending has been voted Classic FM listeners’ favourite piece four years running, as well as topping the BBC polls as the UK’s favourite Desert Island disc.

With violinist Alexander Janiczek in charge, hearing Vaughan Williams’ crowd-pleaser live could only reinforce its popularity. The final moments, as the solo line floated up through the church’s open acoustic, were an exquisite study in violin perfection.

If the orchestral accompaniment earlier was gently beating rather than taking flight, its slowish speed allowed familiar phrases to be heard anew.

Yet, it was the music on either side of The Lark Ascending that really confirmed Janiczek’s deep affinity with the SCO and, indeed, their public. Schubert’s Symphony No 5 is a truly wonderful gem of the classical repertoire that gained enormously from the Janiczek/SCO combination.

The 19-year-old composer’s lightsome score glinted with joy, as Janiczek directed its carefree momentum from the violin. Cellos positioned to face the audience were heard in full bloom, while single flute led the wind in easy-sounding turns of phrase.

A Mendelssohn rarity – Overture, Son and Stranger – was another example of a young composer’s remarkable abilities. Written for a family occasion in celebration of his parents’ silver wedding anniversary, this short’s piece’s sweet tenderness was positively reflective of its purpose.

Rating: ****