Music review: SCO, Andrew Manze & Steven Osborne, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh

Soloist Steven Osborne’s gave a spellbinding account of Ravel’s Piano Concerto, writes David Kettle

SCO, Andrew Manze & Steven Osborne, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh ****

There were three standout musical stars in the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s Paris-themed concert – alongside, of course, the already starry musicians of the SCO itself. Most evident was pianist Steven Osborne, who received a deservedly rapturous reception for his spellbinding Ravel Piano Concerto. It was brisk and unsentimental compared with some other pianists’ wallowy accounts, but Osborne’s sensitivity, buoyancy and sheer range of subtle colours ensured the piece delivered a hefty emotional wallop (as did Osborne’s keyboard during some of the Concerto’s jazzier sections). He negotiated the first movement’s switchback changes of musical direction with clarity and assurance, and the simplicity and sincerity of his slow movement made the music all the more heartbreaking – answered by the fizz and bustle of Osborne’s crackling finale. His encore – Keith Jarrett’s My Song, transcribed and lightly embellished by Osborne himself, conductor Andrew Manze informed us after the interval – provided just the jazz-tinged lyrical come-down we needed.

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And it was Manze himself who represented the concert’s second musical star – indeed, he’d just been announced as the SCO’s new principal guest conductor from next season. He was unshowy yet deeply communicative on the podium, inviting rather than demanding musical responses – and the SCO glowed with richness and detail as a result. His opening Honegger Pastorale d’été rippled with fresh mountain breezes in its slinky, jazzy string accompaniments, while his Ravel Pavane pour une infante défunte had poise as well as sophistication. If the closing Haydn Symphony No. 87 – the last of the composer’s “Paris” symphonies – felt like quite the contrast, Manze nonetheless went for its wit and its sense of lavish spectacle, with particularly entertaining, galvanising results.

Steven OsborneSteven Osborne
Steven Osborne

As for the third musical star – well, horn player George Strivens found himself firmly in the spotlight with prominent, finely judged solos in all three of the concert’s opening pieces, providing a particularly succulent richness to the long, arching tune in Honegger’s summer idyll. Credit where it’s due.



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