Music review: The Scottish Ensemble, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

Where there is music there is dance, and the Scottish Ensemble’s guest director Malin Broman ranged widely in her choice of repertoire for this dazzling, foot-stampingly good programme of dance music.

The Scottish Ensemble PIC: Hugh Carswell
The Scottish Ensemble PIC: Hugh Carswell

Scottish Ensemble, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh *****

When it comes to exotic dances that ooze sensuality few can match the tango, given a hot-blooded Latin makeover by Piazzolla’s in The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. Marijn van Prooijen’s snappy arrangement for string ensemble, solo violin and double bass saw Broman tease out her silvery transparent violin harmonics above Rick Stotijn’s smouldering virtuosic bass licks.

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As the strings expertly delivered a noisy backdrop of harmonic glissandi and scratchy double-stopping, all that was missing was the rose between the teeth.

The second half of the concert was devoted to a brilliantly interwoven medley of music that ranged across the centuries and saw the ensemble, joined by Stotijn, enhance the visual spectacle with appropriate, and often humourous, choreography.

So after the elegance of Purcell’s prelude and monkey’s dance from The Fairy Queen the strings twirled between Britten’s radical Wiener Waltz and Aria Italianna, which had them strumming their violins like mandolins, and lunged at each other like fencers in Erwin Schulhoff’s Alla Czeca.

The ensemble clearly relished the Czech composer’s take on seemingly simple nursery rhyme-like ditties, originally written for string quartet, which he gleefully transforms into stonkingly complex rhythmical exercises.

Echoing Schulhoff’s dizzying Alla Tarantella, the ensemble gave a no holds barred account of the concluding presto of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden, thrillingly conjuring this spidery dance of death. - Susan Nickalls