Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Benedetti
Usher Hall, Edinburgh
Keith Bruce
four stars
AS a limitation on the size of public gatherings comes into effect to combat coronavirus, intimate chamber music recitals may become the order of the day. Towards those, this concert would have been an ideal stepping stone, were it not for the box office draw that is violinist Nicola Benedetti occasioning a very well-filled Usher Hall.
She was billed as co-directing the music with orchestra leader Benjamin Marquise Gilmore, but in fact the SCO requires little guidance in Mendelssohn and Mozart. There was no ostentatious bow-waving from Benedetti, more occasional movement of shoulders and hips indicating an enthusiasm for the direction of travel. As he had done in the opening Mendelssohn Sinfonia, for what is really a beefed-up string quintet, the concertmaster supplied what cues were needed, given the Concerto’s radical placing of the soloist’s first movement cadenza. It is often forgotten how much of our orchestral music concert practice, and repertoire, is owed to the tastes of Felix Mendelssohn, but this first half was a reminder, with the Violin Concerto very nearly as seamless in execution as the composer intended.
The Mozart of the second half began with a fine rendition of the Overture to La clemenza di Tito, which is, coincidentally, one of three Mozart operas the SCO’s principal conductor Maxim Emelyanychev will be conducting across Europe in the near future. Less familiar was the Sinfonia Concertante that teamed Benedetti with viola star Lawrence Power. Very much an extended 12” remix of chamber music, there was a tripartite collaboration on the direction here, which enhanced the intimacy of the performance even as it prompted the thought that its enthusiastic audience would never be accommodated in the chamber orchestra’s proposed new home on St Andrew Square.
Orcadians who could not be among them should tune in to BBC Radio 3 on Wednesday evening, especially to hear the encore of Peter Maxwell Davies’s Farewell to Stromness in the arrangement by Sally Beamish.

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