Music review: SCO, Enrique Mazzola and Vilde Frang, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Spanish guest conductor Enrique Mazzola. Picture: Getty Images
Spanish guest conductor Enrique Mazzola. Picture: Getty Images
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A RADIANT musical dawn made for a wonderfully appropriate – and sonically resplendent – opening to the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s new concert season. It came in the form of Nielsen’s Helios Overture, given a stylish, sharply defined account under returning guest conductor Enrique Mazzola – a performance that had all the warmth and caressing energy of the sun’s rays (even if the SCO strings occasionally sounded a little overpowered by the luminous horns and brass).

SCO, Enrique Mazzola and Vilde Frang, Usher Hall, Edinburgh ***

Mazzola’s interpretation of Sibelius’ Third Symphony that followed was simply exquisite: high-definition without being finicky, kept buoyant with a gentle sense of propulsive energy, fresh, unfolding with organic inevitability. There was a supple flow to his lightly dancing slow movement, and an immense sense of momentum generated as the finale approached its sonorous 
conclusion.

Together, they made for a magnificent first half, and the SCO players responded enthusiastically to Mazzola’s precise direction. After the interval, however, things took a bewildering turn. Star Norwegian soloist Vilde Frang was the show’s big sell in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, and it felt like two worlds colliding: one of graceful elegance and almost Rossinian wit from Mazzola and the band; the other of Brahmsian indulgence and wallowing emotion from Frang. There’s no doubting her clean, nimble playing, nor her vivid musical personality, and her non-heroic approach to the Concerto was admirable. But rather than vulnerably human, Frang’s Beethoven sounded simply self-indulgent – and entirely at odds with Mazzola’s bracing directness. It was, as they say, very much a concert of two halves. -DAVID KETTLE