Edinburgh International Festival Musical Revues: Scottish Chamber Orchestra & Nicola Benedetti | Pavel Haas Quartet
Scottish Chamber Orchestra & Nicola Benedetti *****
In what must be a first in its 75-year history, a new director of the Edinburgh International Festival was the star on stage Monday night at Usher Hall. What Nicola Benedetti has in store for her first EIF program remains to be seen, but for now she has once again mesmerized a near-full audience with a performance of exceptional depth and beauty. Supported by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and their dynamo Principal Conductor Maxim Emelyanychev in intense, focused energy, Bruch’s ever-popular Violin Concerto in G minor was heard with both exquisite tenderness and thoughtful granularity, its pleading lines taking on an imminent sense of urgency from both soloist and orchestra. Glorious and lush, the SCOs are superbly expressive with Emelyanychev coaxing and shaping their sound and dynamic range. Tchaikovsky’s score for the ballet Sleeping Beauty overflows with melody, the SCO picking up the narrative of the Prologue and the first two acts with ardor and excitement in Emelyanychev’s expansive gestures. The strings were silky smooth in the famous waltz scene as the princes vied for the hand of the young princess, the music eventually culminating in triumph as good prevailed over evil. Carol Main
Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh
As the players of the Pavel Haas Quartet leaped onto the Queen’s Hall stage – cellist Peter Jarůšek with sleeves rolled up in an 80s suit, ready for action – they were clearly serious. And they’ve also done business in several flamboyant FEI appearances in the past – which no doubt drew the gig’s huge, enthusiastic and eager crowd. But on the contrary, it was probably a more measured and balanced performance than Pavel Haas’ players have delivered before – certainly in Schubert’s famous and monumental G Major Quartet, D887. Here, the composer’s restless fluctuations between major and minor felt in Pavel Haas’s hands not as a brutal battle between joy and despair (as is so often the case), but rather as a collision elemental between primal forces, always striving for dominance, forever finely balanced. Cellist Jarůšek stood out in a beautifully judged slow-movement solo, eloquently played with straightforward simplicity rather than syrupy sentimentality.
Their overture Haydn Op. 76 No. 1 took its first move to warm up properly, with some unexpected lapses in intonation. Their Martinů Seventh Quartet, however, was a joy and a real discovery – little known to many in the public, surely, but bubbling with invigorating neo-classical spirit and delivered with overflowing, smiling enthusiasm. Yes, they were serious and they did too. David kettle