Lammermuir Festival

Scottish Chamber Orchestra

St Mary’s Parish Church, Haddington

Keith Bruce, five stars

IT WAS not at all in the style of playing, but in the full sound of the SCO under Christian Macelaru that I was transported back to the Mozart record-ings I heard in my childhood, shortly before the revolution of historically-informed performance kicked in. That fuller, old-fashioned sound, was in part the conductor’s response to the acoustic, but also, perhaps, to a clever programme, so that the opening of the “Haffner” Symphony No. 35 was ra-ther Beethovian, prefiguring the performance of Beethoven’s First Sympho-ny that concluded the evening. Its arresting beginning was also given plenty of space, although later movements revelled in tempi that were very brisk indeed.

In between sat two 20th century works that both referred back to that ear-lier era. As festival director Hugh Macdonald suggested in his programme note, Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony No.1 is pastiche, veering towards piss-take at times, from the top tune of the first movement to the false endings of the exhilarating finale, while the third movement Gavotte, un-surprisingly, prefigures his later ballet scores.

The Clarinet Concerto of Carl Nielsen plunders the entire history of orches-tral music, leaping from Baroque to Benny Goodman in the space of a few bars. It was the work soloist Mark Simpson played to win BBC Young Musi-cian of the Year in 2006, and a fitting opening to his Lammermuir residency which continues in the company of the Red Note Ensemble on Wednesday and the SCO Winds on Saturday. In a deliciously dynamic rich perfor-mance, the skills of Simpson as an award-winning composer were surely detectable in the technically taxing cadenzas of a piece that is virtuoso stuff from the start, full of zestful exchanges with the high strings over a striding bass figure.

The evening also featured a singular performance of note from percussion-ist Elsa Bradley, adding the crucial snare drum to the Nielsen and behind two different sets of timpani for the pacey final movement of the Prokofiev and the galloping Minuetto third movement of the Beethoven.