Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Queen's Hall, Edinburgh
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TO the list of valued collaborators the SCO welcomes to the podium must be added the name of Alexandre Bloch, whose Gallic charm introduced the music of his teacher Thierry Escaich at the start of this concert and whose expansive, baton-less, whole-body conducting style – crouching on his haunches for quieter moments – produced a superb account of Beethoven's Eroica Symphony to bring it to a climax.
In between, cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras gave a ravishing rich-toned account of Haydn's Concerto in D, that was also all about ensemble performance, notably in his dialogue with guest leader Benjamin Gilmore and notwithstanding his virtuoso playing of the cadenza that concludes the first movement. He granted us a little more of that with an encore of the Prelude from Bach's Third Suite.
The cello was also to the fore in Escaich's Baroque Song with principal Philip Higham ably stepping up for the solo part in the final movement, appropriately labelled Allegro molto energico. There is, however, nothing pastiche about this post-baroque, Bach-quoting gem, which opens at pace with the winds in full flight and is dramatically and arrestingly orchestrated throughout, as the composer translates his expertise as an organist into a tribute to the master composer for the whole orchestra.
Mirroring that, Bloch's Eroica was performed with appropriate respect for period performance technique but without sacrificing an iota of its lyrical Romanticism. Working without a score, the conductor added details to the mix with large gestures like some sonic pharmacist, and the detail from the winds and dynamic range of the strings rewarded him in spades – building to a Finale of tremendous energy.
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