tue 25/06/2024

Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh online review – two Parisian gems | reviews, news & interviews

Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh online review – two Parisian gems

Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh online review – two Parisian gems

Salon music – but only from your own salon

Flautist André CebriánNacho Moran

Though live performances are, thankfully, starting to reappear throughout the country, and socially distanced seating, mask-donning and constant hand sanitising becomes the norm for audiences south of the border, those in Scotland are still eagerly anticipating the opportunity to once again be in a concert hall experiencing live music first hand.

Thankfully that hasn’t deterred the Scottish Chamber Orchestra from returning to Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall for a series of live streamed chamber concerts. Thursday evening’s focused on French repertoire, with Francis Poulenc’s Sextet, paired with Louise Farrenc’s Nonet.

SCO flautist André Cebrián introduced the Poulenc, describing it as ‘an exciting trip to the cafes, cabarets and jazz clubs of Paris of the ‘30s, with plenty of humour and irony.’ Motifs inspired by music halls and circuses abound, and the rambunctious spirit of the piece was evident from the very first chord. Clarinettist Maximiliano Martin’s pithy, punchy passages in the first movement were beautifully matched with more delicate playing from Cebrián on flute, and Alison Green on bassoon. As the music grew warmer and only slightly less irreverent, Cebrián’s feathery flutter-tonguing was well balanced with delicate keyboard playing from Simon Smith. The raucous fun soon resumed, as the movement ended with a stylish flourish.

The middle movement takes on a more reserved style, with much heavily borrowed from Mozart, but given Poulenc’s witty twist. The players perfectly capture the music’s mood, with a few cheeky nods offsetting its apparent tranquillity. The prestissimo finale had a spiky, boisterous opening, though its more ponderous end section perhaps stood out more, with each players’ lines beautifully melting into one-another, culminating in a surprisingly elegant ending. SCO windMoving on to another Parisian composer, Louise Farrenc, the winds were joined on stage by one of each orchestral string instrument for what Cebrián – who also introduced this work – described as a "symphony in miniature".. Indeed, despite being scored for only nine players, Farrenc’s nonet is a vividly detailed musical canvas brimming with colour, with the group onstage producing a full sound which belied their number. Playing with innate synchronicity, the piece began with marked, stiking string chords punctuated by delicate woodwinds. The first movement – and the work’s longest – was played with a mature poise, with beautiful singing passages from violinist Kana Kawashima.

The Andante con moto certainly had a fair bit of movement, though the overall pace felt relaxed, with flurried movements in the winds balanced by more leisurely strings, and vice-versa. The third, scherzo movement, had an energy so infectious I momentarily forgot I was only seeing the musicians via a screen. The violin's and cello’s pizzicato gave the movement’s opening minor bars a stealthy edge, before the music took a resplendent shift to major. The continuous shifts between major and minor were executed with zest and vigour, before the more reverent finale, which was played with poise, gravity and depth.

While of course the regulations in Scotland surrounding live performance make things difficult, both practically and emotionally, for performers, managers, critics and audience alike, it  was still a treat to hear this salon-style music played live, in the comfort of my own salon, and to see the Queen’s Hall filled with music once more.

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