Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Kuusisto

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

Keith Bruce

four stars

ALONGSIDE the arrival of new principal conductor Maxim Emelyanychev, the SCO’s featured artist Pekka Kuusisto and newly appointed associate composer Anna Clyne mean that Scotland’s smallest orchestra has set the bar very high indeed this season in its selection of collaborators.

Two of those new elements came together magnificently here with Kuusisto partnering orchestra leader Benjamin Marquise Gilmore in a performance of Clyne’s 2014 double violin concerto Prince of Clouds and then conducting the world premiere of a brand new work, Sound and Fury, co-commissioned with the Orchestre National de Lyon.

The former is a beautifully fluid duet with string accompaniment in which the team-work of the ensemble is essentially supportive to the virtuoso dialogue. Written as a companion piece to the Bach double violin concerto it was instead here bracketed by Beethoven, the Prometheus overture, and Mozart’s very familiar Divertimento in D. We are going to be hearing a lot of Beethoven, and if it is all as bright as Kuusisto’s we shall be fortunate indeed, while the fluidity of the Clyne piece was perfectly matched with the approach to the Mozart, which also sounded box-fresh: there is something very special indeed about the way the SCO players respond to this young Finn’s direction.

A much larger group was assembled after the interval for the premiere, with new percussionist Louise Goodwin trading her kettle-drums for a marimba the length of a small Land Rover. In contrast to Prince of Clouds, Sound and Fury is frantic stuff from the start, inspired by Haydn’s “Il Distratto” Symphony No 60, which followed it, and by the “Tomorrow and tomorrow. . .” soliloquy from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I am not convinced that a taped performance of those words, culminating, of course, in “sound and fury, signifying nothing”, towards the cacophonous end of the piece, actually added anything to the composition, paradoxically enough. Come to that, it might also have been more instructive to hear the Haydn first, but as a finale it was as characteristically smile-inducing as the Mozart had been an hour earlier.