Classical review: RSNO/Richard Kaufman, The Music of John Williams, Edinburgh

Alongside its eclectic concert offerings, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra is rightly regarded as a fine film music orchestra for its energetic, idiomatic soundtrack playing. which is clearly becoming a significant part of the RSNO's activities, with two movie concerts in the current season, plus a live accompaniment to E.T. just announced for June's Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Composer John Williams. Picture: AP
Composer John Williams. Picture: AP

RSNO/Richard Kaufman, The Music of John Williams | Rating: **** | Usher Hall, Edinburgh

So it must have seemed only sensible to devote one of those concerts entirely to arguably the finest movie composer of them all – John Williams. If wall-to-wall Williams felt by the end like a bit too much of a good thing, conductor Richard Kaufman – himself a Hollywood stalwart – nevertheless ensured a pleasing mix of the familiar and less familiar, the anthemic and the exhilarating.

The Orchestra clearly relished Williams’ music in some gutsy, sleek performances, with Lynda Cochrane leaping athletically between piano and celeste, and bassist John Clark showing off a nice line in accordion playing in a section from The Terminal, with a slinky clarinet solo played charismatically by guest principal Fraser Langton.

There were moments of roof-raising intensity, best of all in the main theme from Star Wars, and also in Kaufman’s unexpected encores, two bristling movements from The Force Awakens. But there were also times when his conducting felt rather brisk, even perfunctory – in the moody, Ligeti-like opening to Williams’s Close Encounters score, for instance, Kaufman felt overly eager to get onto the big tunes at the end. Nonetheless, it was a rousing, rewarding evening, noisily appreciated by an enthusiastic capacity audience.