Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh
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Families and friends exchanged flutes of champagne on picnic blankets in Princes Street Gardens, and hoards of spectators peered for views from Princes Street itself and beyond.
It was the Edinburgh International Festival’s themes of British music and Shakespeare that the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s enterprising programme encapsulated.
Not all of the music must have been familiar to many listeners, but its energy and narrative drive ensured a good show, and gave plenty of opportunities for Pyrovision’s technicians to get creative with their colourful explosions from Edinburgh Castle.
Walton’s Orb and Sceptre – premiered at the Queen’s coronation in 1953 – kicked things off in openly patriotic style, with carefully choreographed red, white and blue rockets criss-crossing the sky. Vaughan Williams’s understated Greensleeves Fantasia drew radiant playing from the SCO strings, and subtle verdant glows from the castle ramparts provided an evocative accompaniment.
It seemed a bit strange not to end the concert with the music from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet, especially its Dance of the Knights, known to all lovers of The Apprentice, but conductor Garry Walker delivered an energetic performance nonetheless – although I doubt that many could tear their eyes away from the overwhelming all-white pyrotechnic display to be aware of him jumping around on the podium. The concluding Henry V Suite by Walton seemed a little tame by comparison, but in its final hymn of praise for the victory at Agincourt, the musical and visual explosions just kept on coming.