Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Keith Bruce

four stars

HOLLYWOOD composer Danny Elfman’s long weekend in Scotland did not begin well. He stopped and re-started the UK premiere of his Violin Concerto, Eleven Eleven, performed by the soloist for whom it was written, the elfin, highly mobile Sandy Cameron, and the orchestra that recorded it, the RSNO, because of problems with the amplification, and the difficulty remained unresolved although Cameron, conductor John Mauceri and the rest of the performers carried on as if nothing was amiss.

Truth to tell, the microphones on stage were more hindrance than help. When the one on Cameron’s 18th century instrument was supplemented by another on a stand, it only illustrated why active performers like Rod Stewart and Freddie Mercury found individual alternatives to remaining on one spot, and the solo singers in this Gala of Elfman music, soprano Amy Higgins and boy treble Alistair Hillis, both had the vocal chops to require theirs as little as the RSNO Chorus did.

The distraction of technical difficulties aside, the music went a long way to justifying Mauceri’s extravagant boasts of the composer’s talent. The concerto is a movement too long, both in terms of its structure and duration, but the slow movement has a lovely operatic beginning and there is something glorious about the wryly reverential scampering opening to the finale. In Cameron it has an advocate whose unique style may make performances by other violinists a considerable challenge, however.

The programme’s opening song, I Forget from Serenada Schizophrana, featuring Higgins and the women of the chorus, demonstrated that Elfman’s concert music has a history, while the second half was given over entirely to his soundtrack work for director Tim Burton. With a return appearance from Cameron and much cooing and ah-ing from the RSNO Chorus ladies, Edward Scissorhands was probably the most popular piece, although young Hillis was loudly appreciated for his contribution to Alice in Wonderland, but the Batman suite was arguably the most interesting music, with the orchestra’s second fiddles out of their seats at the start of its steam-punk waltz. But as far as inventive orchestration goes, and for all the diversity of instrumentation on stage, the opening bars of the encore performance of the theme to The Simpsons take some beating.