Music review: Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

ACCORDION concertos are somewhat thin on the ground, but in the world premiere of Jonathan Dove’s Northern Lights, soloist Owen Murray made a convincing argument for the addition of this resonant instrument to the orchestral blend. The episodic nature of the opening, echoing minimalists Adams and Reich, gradually settled into a more coherent structure as Dove developed his own voice. Murray’s free-bass accordion has a mellow tone that’s husky at the bottom and piercingly bright at the top. Just like the shapeshifting northern lights, the accordion’s kaleidoscopic colours danced beguilingly with the shimmering percussion in the central section.

Accordian soloist Owen Murray
Accordian soloist Owen Murray

Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh ****

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Originally the late Sir Peter Maxwell Davies was to write this concerto for Murray, so it was poignant to hear one ofthe composer’s most evocative melodies, Farewell to Stromness, woven into the finale - first with accordion and pizzicato double bass and then in full orchestral splendour as the trumpets carried the tune right to the last ting of the triangle.Sparks flew in the SCO and conductor Clemens Schuldt’s boisterous delivery of Ligeti’s Concert Românesc, his larger than life versions of Hungarian folk songs. The strings sharpened the edges of the dizzying foot-stamping rhythms while the clarinet and cor anglais smoldered in the less hectic moments.

The concert was book-ended by barnstorming accounts of Mozart’s Symphony No 34 and Haydn’s Symphony No. 90, both in C. The SCO have these classical symphonies down to a fine art with their natural horns, trumpets and timpani giving the music an authentic kick.

SUSAN NICKALLS