Scottish Ensemble: Continental Drift, Summerhall, Edinburgh ****
Though the Scottish Ensemble’s Continental Drift concerts had been put together in just a couple of days, as Artistic Director Jonathan Morton explained, they struck a generally convincing balance between the two, with a bit of show-and-tell explanation providing context, but plenty of music to allow conversations and collaborations without words.
Most inspired were Sinopoulos’s sinewy accounts of three of Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances, their folk melodies returned to an instrument the composer may well have heard when collecting the tunes, with wheezing harmonica-like accompaniment from the Scottish Ensemble strings.
The musicians were at one, too, in the intricate additive rhythms of Keyvan Chemirani’s tricksy 138, and the showy improvisations of his raga-like Indian Way. Their closing Baroque dances from Purcell’s The Fairy Queen and Rameau’s Les Indes galantes were less illuminating in terms of cross- fertilisation, but bracing, gritty and vigorous nonetheless.
Ultimately, Continental Drift was a valuable, enlightening project, and one that managed to be both compelling and instructive.