Music review: The SCO & Håkan Hardenberger, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

IT FELT like a comedy sketch. Twelve tiny Contredanses by Beethoven, none lasting more than a minute, were separated by pauses of almost as long as the SCO’s two horn players carefully removed and replaced the crooks – differing lengths of tubing tuning their instruments to different keys – of their natural horns. Conductor John Storgårds made sure the two players got a special bow at the end – but with all eyes on them during their endless instrumental adjustments, how could he not? Despite its acknowledgement of instrumental authenticity, it made for a frustratingly start-stop conclusion to what had been a surprisingly patchy concert.

Swedish trumpeter Hardenberger showcased his effortless agility and articulation
Swedish trumpeter Hardenberger showcased his effortless agility and articulation

The SCO & Håkan Hardenberger, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh ***

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Swedish trumpeter Håkan Hardenberger was the evening’s star soloist. He gave an unexpectedly thoughtful, mellow account of Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto, which showcased his effortless agility and impeccable articulation marvellously, not to mention the golden glories of his rich, oily tone. But his bigger work – the 2007 Busking by Viennese iconoclast HK Gruber – was less convincing. It began wittily enough, with Hardenberger parping a little tune through his trumpet mouthpiece alone, to the accompaniment of banjo twangs and wheezy accordion interjections. But the overly complex, multi-layered textures of its second and third movements didn’t live up to the work’s initial promise, and offered little that was particularly distinctive or memorable, despite some beautifully shaped playing from Hardenberger.

Storgårds was in his element in the concert’s engaging opener, the bracing 1914 Serenade by Erwin Schulhoff, but even here, with its large-scale repetitions of material, there was a feeling that the piece had rather outstayed its welcome. - DAVID KETTLE