Review - RSNO: Jarvi Conducts Shostakovich Five

Neeme Jarvi made a welcome return to the RSNO as conductor laureate. Picture: Contributed
Neeme Jarvi made a welcome return to the RSNO as conductor laureate. Picture: Contributed
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THIS meaty all-Russian programme was a perfect vehicle for Neeme Jarvi, RSNO principal conductor in the 1980s and making a welcome return as conductor laureate.

RSNO: Jarvi Conducts Shostakovich Five

Usher Hall, Edinburgh


Despite the title, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol has a strong Scottish accent, especially the foot-tapping Alborada movements with their lively folk-inspired violin solos. The players luxuriated in this glittering and expansive soundworld while the quieter moments gave the horn, flute, clarinet, harp, and even triangle, a chance to shine. A bit more precision was needed in passages with complex, quick-changing rhythms as some of the timings were fractionally adrift. There were also rocky moments at the beginning of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.3 but soloist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, who plays virtually non-stop throughout, provided a steady anchor for the orchestra. The pianist embraced this musical marathon with elan, deftly marshalling the tidal waves of notes and conjuring rainbows of colour in the whimsical melodies. Friendly rivalry between the piano and orchestra kept the momentum fresh and sparky. Bavouzet’s encore, Etude de Concert by Gabriel Pierne, was an intriguing delight.

From the opening wail of the strings to the final thud of the timpani, via the macabre scherzo and heart-wrenching slow movement, the orchestra superbly captured the emotional intensity of Shostakovich’s Symphony No 5. With Jarvi at the helm, their performance was a tour de force, notable for the outstanding solo contributions from leader Maya Iwabuchi, principal flute Katherine Bryan, guest principal clarinet Nils Kohler and principal oboe Adrian Wilson.

Seen on 20.02.15