Music review: The SCO and Nicola Benedetti

One of the great joys in hearing 29-year-old Nicola Benedetti play the traditional warhorses of the violin concerto repertoire these days is to see how far she has travelled as a musician since her earlier teenage performances. Friday presented one of these moments, where her command of the expansive Beethoven concerto, administered magisterially with the SCO, pitted technical wizardry and assurance against confident and instinctive musicality.
Nicola Benedetti PIC: Chris Radburn/PA WireNicola Benedetti PIC: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Nicola Benedetti PIC: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

SCO and Nicola Benedetti ***

City Halls, Glasgow

This was no attempt to stamp artificial, force-fed individuality. There’s no need really, when you possess, like Benedetti, a quality and quantity of tone that gave natural radiance to each note, that shaped long, lyrical paragraphs with a profound eloquence.

In the quiescent slow movement, an easeful, silken stream of melody issued from her golden-voiced Stradivarius. The finale bore a scintillating sense of the inevitable, lithe, logical and crisp.

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So why, under Joseph Swensen, did it all seem such hard work for the orchestra? Even Benedetti appeared slightly pressurised in the opening movement, which Swensen painted as raw and rugged. It didn’t help that the natural horns periodically fluffed, that the trumpets jabbed at one particular repeated note pattern with irritating persistence, or that Swensen’s connection with the music seemed occasionally fretful.

Where the orchestra was the only vehicle to manoeuvre – in Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No 1 (like Berlioz ahead of his time) and the Symphony No 4 (brazen and thrustful) – the results were more collective, cohesive and responsive.