NO GRAND celebration, no poignant leave-taking: a programme of Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Schumann felt like a curiously low-key way for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra to close its 2017-18 season, perhaps inevitably so after the Orchestra’s more emotional farewell to departing Principal Conductor Robin Ticciati back in March.
Usher Hall, Edinburgh ****
Things began in a pretty reserved way, too, with a Beethoven Leonore Overture No. 3 in which Spanish conductor Gustavo Gimeno brought all that’s best in the SCO’s playing firmly to the fore – its richness, its smoothness, its exquisitely rendered articulation – but seemed less keen to convey the work’s dramatic storytelling.
French violinist Renaud Capuçon produced a nimble, athletic account of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, brilliantly fresh and sometimes surprising, negotiating the brisk, sometimes slightly breathless pace he set with impeccably clean articulation. With a gentle flow to the slow movement, and a finale that felt propelled along with vigour, but never less than buoyant, it was a tightly controlled, strongly projected reading, even if the bright, intense sound of Capuçon’s Guarneri ‘del Gesù’ violin – equally strongly projected – sometimes verged on the piercing.
Gimeno discovered a far deeper sense of drama for his closing performance in Schumann’s Second Symphony, which felt just as much of a struggle in performance as it had no doubt been to write given the composer’s fragile mental state. Impending turmoil was there from Gimeno’s uneasy opening, and his scherzo nicely balanced bubbling fun with nervous anxiety. By his bright, breezy, bounding finale, Gimeno had seemed to overcome Schumann’s demons, but it felt a hard-won achievement nonetheless.