Edinburgh International Festival classical highlights

Russian National Orchestra. Picture: Contributed
Russian National Orchestra. Picture: Contributed
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Ken Walton shares his highlights from the classical music programme at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival

Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra

Magdalena Kozen� and Malcolm Martineau. Picture: Contributed

Magdalena Kozen� and Malcolm Martineau. Picture: Contributed

Among British conductor Daniel Harding’s many posts is his musical directorship of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. They feature in one of most appealing concerts, a programme that couples Mahler’s Ninth with Beethoven’s sprightly Piano Concerto No 1, featuring the brilliant Daniil Trifonov as soloist.

Usher Hall, 19 August

Russian National Orchestra

A Russian orchestra under the direction of a Ukrainian conductor? The two appearances by the Russian National Orchestra, right, under Kirill Karabits just go to show how music can rise above politics. They link up with pianist Mikhail Pletnev for concertos by Mozart and Rachmaninov, but look out especially for Scriabin’s lustrous Symphony No 2.

Usher Hall, 20 and 21 August

Daniil Trifonov& Friends

If Russian star Daniil Trifonov’s “friends” are anything like as dynamic as he is, then this Rachmaninov will be something to write home about. He’s joined by his teacher, fellow pianist Sergey Babayan, in Rachmaninov’s two suites for two pianos, before teaming up with world-famous violinist Gidon Kremer and Lithuanian cellist Giedrė Dirvanauskaitė in the endearingly passionate Trio élegiaque No 2 in D minor.

Queen’s Hall, 22 August

Magdalena Kozená & Malcolm Martineau

In previous EIF appearances, the Czech-born mezzo soprano, right, has been a charismatic presence. Her performances, while animated and loaded with outgoing personality, bear complete integrity and sincerity for the broad range of music in her repertoire. She is joined here by pianist Malcolm Martineau in songs by Dvorak, Wolf, Strauss and Fauré, finishing with Schoenberg’s somewhat mischievous cabaret songs.

Queen’s Hall, 15 August

Gewandhausorchester Leipzig

Herbert Blomstedt conducts the world famous Gewandhausorchester Leipzig in two programmes of classic repertoire extending from Bach’s E major Violin Concert to Bruckner’s epic Fifth Symphony, from Beethoven to one-time Gewandhaus conductor Felix Mendelssohn. This is an orchestra soaked in centuries of central-German tradition. Sir András Schiff adds his own distinctive touch as soloist in Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto

Usher Hall, 26 and 27 August

Isserlis & Levin

Last year’s EIF included a focus on Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas. This year, the spotlight shifts to his complete works for cello and fortepiano, a two-concert mini-series in the safe hands of cellist Steven Isserlis and Harvard scholar and pianist Robert Levin, who have made these works a hallmark of their dynamic partnership.

Queen’s Hall, 23 and 24 August

Rotterdam Philharmonic

Last time in Edinburgh they gave us a knock-out performance of Mahler’s Sixth. The Rotterdam Philharmonic, right, and music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin are back this year with his unfinished Tenth Symphony (here convincingly completed by Deryck Cooke). But don’t let that overshadow mezzo soprano Sarah Connolly’s presence as she joins the orchestra in newly orchestrated versions, by brothers Colin and David Matthews, of songs by Alma Mahler, Gustav’s wife. They are the intoxicating product of a musical mind that was every bit as evocative as her husband’s.

Usher Hall, 25 August