Music review: SCO/Kevin John Edusei, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

THE upside to an advertised conductor being indisposed, of course, is the opportunity to experience the skills and vision of a new, perhaps unfamiliar name. And while Emmanuel Krivine – unable to conduct because of illness – would undoubtedly have offered a fine, idiosyncratic vision in the first of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s four-concert Beethoven symphony cycle, young German conductor Kevin John Edusei, his last-minute stand-in, delivered a thoroughly accomplished, thought-provoking and idiosyncratic vision all his own.

Young German conductor Kevin John Edusei
Young German conductor Kevin John Edusei

SCO/Kevin John Edusei, Usher Hall, Edinburgh ****

Edusei is clearly going places, as chief conductor of the Munich SO and fresh from a European tour with the Chineke! Orchestra. There’s no doubting his exceptional skills – especially in faster music. His Beethoven First Symphony zipped along with remarkable verve and vigour (his “slow” movement Andante felt like more like a power walk than a saunter) but – miraculously – there was no lack of detail, with the SCO players on exceptionally incisive form. The opening movement of Edusei’s Eroica Symphony, too, was bracingly brisk but never driven, and he was good at highlighting inner details across both symphonies, even if some of their more obvious dramatic moments seemed to pass by unmined.

Edusei seemed less at ease in slower music, however, notably the Eroica’s funeral march, which unfolded as a series of vaguely connected episodes rather than with dramatic inevitability. His Eroica finale, too, felt strangely anticlimactic rather than the joyful apotheosis of all that had preceded it.

It was a memorable evening nonetheless, showcasing a conductor with plenty to say – and a fine ensemble with which to say it.