SCO, Clemens Schuldt and Colin Currie, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh *****
“Wall of sound” is hardly a term you’d usually associate with the buoyant, translucent playing of a 40-piece chamber orchestra. But it perfectly captures what visiting German conductor Clemens Schuldt achieved in his big, powerful, forcefully projected performances with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. He made for a fascinating figure on the podium, dancing and swaying along to the music, at times simply letting the SCO players get on with it with just a few tiny, cursory gestures, only to explode into action at key moments.
And his results – certainly in the closing Beethoven Symphony No. 4 – were quite simply thrilling. It’s something of a Cinderella, overshadowed by the more extrovert, heroic Third and Fifth either side of it. But Schuldt made a compelling case for the Symphony’s terse arguments and gruff humour in a dense, energetic account, especially hefty in a sonorous scherzo, but one that was also nimble on its feet and beautifully shaped.
That sense of sonic density was already there in the multi-layered, seething and teeming textures of Helen Grime’s earlier Percussion Concerto, getting its Scottish premiere from Edinburgh-born percussionist Colin Currie. It was Currie who gave the premiere just three years ago, but the piece is clearly deep in his blood: he delivered Grime’s cascading flurries of vibraphone and crotales, and the gentle throbs of her drum writing, with exquisite subtlety and utter conviction. Similarly, Schuldt drew a wonderfully precise, elegant account from the SCO players, teasing apart Grime’s coruscating textures while retaining their power, with a firm grip of the piece’s somewhat elusive architecture. It was the kind of music where you’d peer deep into the orchestra, wondering where that sound was coming from – and Currie and the SCO conveyed that magic brilliantly.
Two desert island overtures – one from Haydn, and a compelling, noisy discovery from lesser-known Anton Eberl – completed a captivating, revelatory, thunderous evening.
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