THE SCO paid a price on Friday night for an unusual programme with a number of rarities on the playlist: a low turnout.
Yet the line-up of composers was hardly a scare-list, with music by Mendelssohn and Schumann featuring prominently, and only one "modern" piece on the programme.
Perhaps the fact that the Mendelssohn piece, his brassy Trumpet Overture, though full of hints of the Mendelssohn to come, is little-played, might be a factor. As too might be Schumann's Cello Concerto, often dismissed and largely ignored by orchestras. But the performance of the Mendelssohn, exuberantly directed by Andrew Manze, suggested the piece deserves a place in the repertoire.
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And the playing of the Schumann, with SCO principal cellist David Watkin as soloist, urgently suggested a re-think of the concerto, a much better piece than many people allow. Watkin's beautiful performance, capturing the drama and the poetry of the music, with its melting little co-ordination in the brief slow movement between soloist and the acting leader of the cello section, exquisitely characterised the intimacy of the music of this most individual of Romantic composers. Watkin followed the concerto with a heart-stopping encore in the Allemande from Bach's Sixth Cello Suite, one of those soulful contemplations where time stops and all that remains is the concentration of the moment enshrined in music: philosophy in sound.
After Rolf Martinsson's expressive homage to Schoenberg's Transfigured Night, Manze and the SCO, brilliantly energetic and zestful, cleared the air with a dashing performance of Beethoven's First Symphony, with the music so fresh and exhilarating the symphony felt newly-minted.