Music review: The RSNO, Lahav Shani & Adrian Wilson

The RSNO is fast becoming an orchestra of soloists. Following principal flautist Katherine Bryan's two-concerto concert a month back, as well as a clutch of orchestral principals stepping out front as concerto soloists last season, it was the turn of principal oboist Adrian Wilson to take the spotlight, in Vaughan Williams's seldom heard but touchingly poignant Oboe Concerto.

Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Lahav Shani & Adrian Wilson ***

Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Wilson gave rather a reserved, decidedly unshowy account, focusing attention squarely on the telling subtleties of his playing – his beautifully rounded sound, tonal flexibility, unforced phrase shaping. But maybe with a little more fantasy and flamboyance, he could have delved even more deeply into the music’s transcendental visions.

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His orchestral colleagues gave sharply defined support under young Israeli visiting conductor Lahav Shani, who had summoned a determined, demonstrative Dvořák Carnival Overture with his sometimes brusque gestures – rousing, if also a little raucous. It’s tempting for any conductor to want to stamp their mark on Beethoven’s epoch-defining Eroica Symphony, but for Shani, that seemed to involve ponderous tempos, a frustrating smoothing over of Beethoven’s dramatic contrasts, and an almost complete absence of wit, grit or swagger. It was a pleasant, well-meaning account, unencumbered by period considerations, but where was the energy, the revolutionary zeal? Instead, Shani made parts of the first movement sound like note-spinning, and took the second movement’s funeral march so glacially slowly that it became a hesitant lament – with sometimes ragged entries from apparently confused orchestral players. With so much thought and energy devoted to the Symphony over the centuries, Shani’s reading just wasn’t convincing.