Music review: SCO, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

REINFORCING the case that the Scottish Chamber Orchestra really does deserve a home base better suited to its needs than the Queen’s Hall, Thursday evening’s concert posed a challenge to both the orchestra and its near capacity audience.

Queens Hall, Edinburgh. Picture: Neil Hanna

Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

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Rating: ****

For the latter, once again, a seriously over-heated auditorium was the subject of several justified grumbles. For the orchestra and Principal conductor, Robin Ticciati, it is not just the temperature that’s problematic, but how to play an acoustic that is essentially too small for their size and sound. Dvořák’s delightful Legends seemed constrained in the physical space, one result being less taut rhythmic bite than the music asked for, another being loss of characterisation to the composer’s colourfully inventive scoring.

Not so with Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 3, nicknamed “Scottish”. From the outset, the winds brought a distinctly Scottish inclination to this inherently cheerful music, even if the opening is distractingly soulful. Confident interplay between the instruments produced a real sense of dramatic expression throughout.

Scottish audiences have long held a soft spot for cellist Steven Isserlis and it is easy to hear why. Tone and sense of lines are beautifully formed by his elegant long fingers, but balance between soloist and orchestra took a while to settle. This was less of a problem for the orchestra’s principal viola player, Jane Atkins, whose solo spot in Kurtag’s Movement for Viola and Orchestra was a true highlight not just of the evening, but surely of the orchestra’s whole ­season.