Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Queens Hall, Edinburgh

Hazel Rowland

four stars

COMPOSER Lyell Cresswell must be thrilled. The applause after the premier of his new Clarinet Concerto, Llanto, commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, was one of the most generous for a contemporary work. Engaging soloist, clarinettist Maximiliano Martín, truly excelled. His mastery was evident throughout, but came especially to the fore during his solo cadenza, where he skilfully switched from tender and controlled long-held notes to playful activity for gripping effect. Under conductor Clemens Schuldt, the SCO captured the despair of the concerto’s title (‘Llanto’ means weeping or lament). The slow and sparse string opening accompanied by repeated notes on the xylophone was hauntingly desolate, while contrasting loud passages, with the orchestra playing at its full force, were horrifically dissonant.

This sombre mood of continued with Schubert’s Fourth Symphony. The terrifying opening chord and the subsequent wistful slow introduction were certainly fitting for the symphony’s title ‘Tragic’, although the rest of the work is more concerned with drama – something that Schuldt gleefully revelled in. Playing at their full might, under Schulz the orchestra could be bracing, and were always thrilling.

In contrast, Stravinsky’s neoclassical Pulcinella Suite offered a far more jovial opening to the evening. Some of the fun that the SCO are capable of was present here, particularly in the Tarantella movement, where the brisk strings brimmed with foot-tapping excitement. There were moments when the orchestra were less cohesive, however, as the communication between soloists often sounded rather disconnected. Nevertheless, this was redeemed in the Vivo movement, where their double bassist revelled in taking centre stage during his ridiculous and pompous duet with the trombone, soliciting chuckles from the audience.