Brussels Philharmonic

Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Keith Bruce

four stars

EXACTLY one month ago to the day, Hungarian violinist Kristof Barati gave an opinion-dividing account of the Bruch Violin Concerto with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Glasgow, since which time that orchestra has toured in Europe with Nikolaj Znaider playing the Brahms concerto. On Sunday Znaider brought his Bruch to Scotland, touring with conductor Stephan Deneve and the excellent Brussels Phil – it is a small musical world indeed.

Znaider’s Bruch had none of the bracing austerity of Barati’s, but neither did it go for wild gypsy abandon in the finale, and that middle way seemed to please the Usher Hall audience, even if it did wallow a little in the slow movement. There was plenty of excitement in the second half of this concert though, with Deneve’s own idiosyncratic selection of music from Prokofiev’s ballet Cinderella, which is narrative nonsense but is highly effective musically in its delight in the composer’s orchestration and rhythmic variety, and is about to be released by Deutsche Grammophon. It was followed by the huge orchestra (15 winds, 5 horns, two harps) required for Ravel’s ballet music in the Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2, with a brilliant performance of what is arguably the best evocation of dawn in all music and a truly shattering climax.

Deneve, who is also music director designate at St Louis, has particularly championed new music in Brussels and he brought his Gallic charm to the podium at the start of the concert to introduce Passchendaele, the latest First World War-inspired work from Mark-Anthony Turnage, receiving its Scottish premiere at the precise centenary of one of the bloodiest battles of that conflict, when half a million lives were lost in three weeks.

Although there are perhaps echoes of the Last Post in solo lines for trombone, horn and trumpet, mostly this is elegiac non-military brass and strings, with some exotic percussion, and a very moving work to mark Remembrance Sunday.