Music review: Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Nicola Benedetti, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

THERE’S a growing trend for soloists to also direct when playing with smaller scale chamber ensembles, and why not? After all, Mozart did. Leading this performance of two of his violin concertos, Nicola Benedetti was able to enjoy a closer and more intimate rapport with the orchestra.

Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti enjoyed a close and intimate rapport with the orchestra.. Picture: John Devlin

The SCO and Nicola Benedetti, Usher Hall, Edinburgh ****

In the Violin Concerto No.3 in G there was a beautiful, song-like quality to her silvery tones, spun over dance-like strings and embellished by flutes and horns. The ensemble calibrated the dynamics of the accompaniment with sensitivity, teasing out the delicate musical threads.

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Mozart’s Violin Concerto No.5 in A “Turkish,” is a more harmonically adventurous concerto, with Benedetti unfurling a stunning cadenza in the opening movement. This was a stylish reading with the players relishing the pseudo-eastern effects, including the clack of wood on strings from the cello and bass bows, while Benedetti’s precise and elegant phrasing was spot on.

The swagger of the timpani and warmth of the natural horns and trumpets drove an effervescent account of Mozart’s Symphony No 35 in D “Haffner,” directed by Benjamin Marquise Gilmore. While there tended to be a loss of momentum in some of the quieter sections, the finale still galloped to its upbeat conclusion.

There was a haunting exoticism to Anna Clyne’s Within Her Arms for strings. Standing in a horseshoe shape, each of the 15 players contributed to the polytonal textures of this seductive work. With Clyne becoming SCO Associate Composer in September, audiences are in for a treat next season.