IT'S been a very long year, 2012.
In musical terms, it's been longer than a year: and it's also been a year of Farewell, Hello, and Welcome. What am I going on about? There was a long runway into the departure of Stephane Deneve as music director of the RSNO. It began in the spring of 2011 and stretched through until his final concert. But every element in his last season fed into that farewell, which symbolised the amazing relationship he developed with Scotland and his public. So the au revoir concert, in May, with high-octane performances of James MacMillan's Britannia, Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel and the great canvas that is Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe, was charged with emotional intensity.
Then it was a big hello to Deneve's successor, Peter Oundjian. We've not heard that much from him yet, in his first season, though I was more impressed by his Shostakovich 11 in early October than some; and the varying lighting scenario that did strike some as a bit gauche and gimmicky didn't actually bother me. So let's just see how this develops.
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There is no question that the Donald Runnicles-BBC SSO relationship goes from strength to strength and has, this year, resulted in a series of highlights, initially with a towering performance of Strauss's Alpine Symphony at the Edinburgh International Festival in early August, then on into the current season with blazing performances of the first two acts of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde.
Many individuals and organisations, from Steven Osborne to the SCO, Perth Concert Hall, the Scottish Ensemble and the Cottier Chamber Project, who have done special things in 2012, are not getting a mention in this wee space: this has to be a highly selective slot. We've had a Farewell and a Hello. But there is a very big Welcome to some 2012 developments. Back in early June, Richard Egarr brought his Academy of Ancient Music to the Usher Hall. It was a Jubilee concert, direct from the Thames the previous day. It was, thus, site-specific, and a one-off. Or so we thought. Two months later, during the festival, word crept out that the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra was coming to Edinburgh in October with Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony, which proved a fantastic concert. A few breaths later news filtered out that the Dresden Philharmonic was coming to the Usher Hall with violinist Sarah Chang, also in October, in what proved another special event.
Then, as the dust from the Edinburgh Festival cleared, the Usher Hall rolled out more international events, with the Academy of Ancient Music returning in early December, the Bergen Philharmonic coming with Andrew Litton at the end of January to play Grieg's Piano Concerto and Strauss's Heldenleben, the great Czech Philharmonic coming in early April to play, with an authentic accent, Dvorak's Fifth Symphony, and, less than a fortnight later, an unpredictable and no-doubt iconoclastic evening with Nigel Kennedy.
So what it all amounts to is this: this year he Usher Hall has taken the promotional bit between its teeth and re-introduced to Scotland an International Classical Season, dropped a few years ago by Glasgow, which wanted to explore different territories. And that, for this music addict, is one of the major developments and highlights of 2012. A huge welcome to it, and long may it be supported by Edinburgh City Council. The series is now unique in Scotland.