Wurth Philharmonic

Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Keith Bruce, four stars

ONE might quibble with some of the publicity around the first Scottish visit of this new Stuttgart-area outfit. If creating an orchestra, and a concert hall for it to play in, that bear your name and that of your wife is not strictly “philanthropy”, neither do the musicians of the Wurth Phil – particularly the gents – look exactly “young”. And Reinhold Wurth’s is a conspicuously blokey band by modern standards, with just eleven women among the strings.

The music, and the headline attraction as soloist and, later, conductor in Maxim Vengerov, was as billed, however, and a fine tasting menu of balanced courses it turned out to be. Stamatia Karampini was on the podium for the first half beginning with Strauss’s Die Fledermaus Overture, which opened with an oddly muted chord but acquired tonal sharpness as it progressed – at a pace that was about as fast as possible in places.

Vengerov seems to have put his frock-coated Flash Harry days behind him, if this account of the Bruch Violin Concerto is any indication. Full of expression on the part of both soloist and orchestra it certainly was, but what was most striking was the ensemble sound of the finale, with none of the grandstanding on the part of the violinist that often characterises performances of the work.

Following that with Saint-Saens’s Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso was almost a case of building the encore “lollipop” into the programme, but there was no way the packed house would let the violinist away with that, and he was persuaded to return with a little solo Bach.

His move to a successful conducting career is assured though, to judge by the masterly Shostakovich 10 that followed the interval. No less attentive to details than Karampini, he infolded the map of the symphony with real style, helped by some star turns among the players. This “Stalin Scherzo” second movement was more meteorological than military, and the Allegretto that followed glowed with echoes of Mussorgsky and Borodin, and ended with a precision-timed transition to a finale that may the best the composer wrote. Vengerov and the Wurths made a compelling argument for that.