Only in Edinburgh. The second of Pierre-Laurent Aimard's spellbinding late-night concerts turned out a tad later than planned thanks to an almighty round of fireworks up the road at the Tattoo, then an ensuing pipe band marching its way directly past The Hub. International Festival organisers sagely realised that even the clanging palette of pitch and pulse in Stockhausen's Kontakte might struggle to compete, so added an impromptu long interval, during which most of the audience decamped to the street to watch the parade.
What Stockhausen would have made of one of his landmark works being waylaid by fireworks and military bands, who can say; I suspect he would have been tickled by the grandeur.
But to the performance, which was another captivating, at times deeply moving, demonstration of Aimard's technical and musical versatility. The French pianist opened with Le Traquet Stapazin from Messiaen's Catalogue d'oiseux, in which the calls of a Black-eared Wheatear jostle among larks, gulls, crows and warblers. With a multitude of articulations, Aimard's playing captured the savagery as well as the splendour, the brutishness as well as the serenity of Messiaen's vivid natural world. The final few chords depict darkness descending over Mediterranean cliffs, and sounded quietly transcendent.
Messiaen composed his Catalogue in 1958, just a year before Stockhausen began work on Kontakte in Cologne's West German Radio studios. The soundworlds of these two monuments of 20th century composition are equally kaleidoscopic, but through radically different means.
Stockhausen's part-electronic, part-acoustic score hangs, constellation-like, in a series of musical moments with no linear route between them. "Catch the sound and fly with it," he once said. Aimard's dexterous delivery with French percussionist Samuel Favre and Italian composer/electronicist Marco Stroppa did exactly that.