Gig review: Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

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THE SCO started the new year with a vengeance, bristling with energy as they delivered an electrifying account of Beethoven’s overture Coriolan.

Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh


Conductor David Afkham’s placing of the cellos and basses somewhat unusually between the first violins and the violas paid handsome dividends. This drove the music from the bottom up with the cellos either muttering mysteriously in the ostinato passages or packing a punch in the more dramatic sections.

Afkham brought the same care and attention to phrasing and dynamics in Mendelssohn’s through-composed Piano Concerto No 1 in G minor, ably abetted by a relaxed-looking Francesco Piemontesi as soloist. He played the streams of arpeggios and scale passages in the outer movements with effortless aplomb. However, his talents really came to the fore in the lyrical andante where he basked in the honeyed glow of the cello and viola accompaniment. Piemontesi then topped his own performance with Debussy’s shimmering Feux d’artifice as an encore.

The fireworks were not quite so dazzling in Schubert’s Symphony No 9, The Great C Major, originally deemed unplayable, or perhaps 19th century musicians just lacked stamina. With the symphony running at just under an hour, Schubert’s delight in repetition wears a bit thin by the middle of the scherzo. Despite an impressive effort on the part of Afkham and the SCO – highlights included a wistful oboe melody, fine rapping from the horns, and a blistering romp to the finish line by the strings – the symphony as a whole didn’t quite gel.