Music review: Orchestra of the Americas, Usher Hall

Drawing their young players from more than 25 countries, the Orchestra of the Americas is a phenomenon that attracts 5,000 musicians to audition each year.

Orchestra of the Americas, Usher Hall (****)

For their Edinburgh debut at the Usher Hall on Tuesday they brought Mexican composer Carlos Chávez, Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto and Copland’s Third Symphony, but it was the evening’s unprogrammed fun and games that captured the spirit of the orchestra. Improvisation is a skill for which close collaborator, Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero, is particularly noted.

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Polishing off the beast of a concerto with the words, “well, that was a work out,” her encore was two immaculate, but completely spontaneous, improvisations on Scottish folk tunes randomly suggested from the audience.

A force to be reckoned with in the concerto, Montero took the high-charged power demanded by it in her stride, working in complete accord with conductor Carlo Miguel Prieto to bring a dreaminess in the slow movement. Despite occasional loss of finesse in the brass and wind, the warmth and passion of the orchestra’s overall sound gave colour, character and conviction no matter what they played.