Saturday 20 March 2010

The Scottish CHAMBER Orchestra subscriber concert

I've mentioned before that it's a pity there are only two chamber recitals as part of the official 2009/10 SCO season, which makes the annual subscriber concert all the more a treat. Tickets are free to all subscribers and supporters, and judging by turnout there's a healthy, if somewhat greying, number of both (the demographic seeming significantly more skewed in that direction than the average SCO concert).

It marked the introduction to Edinburgh of the Scottish Chamber Soloists, a wind and piano quartet formed by the orchestra's section principals and pianist Peter Mitchell for some concerts in Nassau. They began, however, with Beethoven's Trio for Flute, Bassoon and Piano, WoO 37. Like many of the 'without opus' works, it is very early Beethoven and it does feel it. It seemed often to be a series of duets, between either piano and bassoon or piano and flute, rather than the genuine conversation that marks out the greatest chamber music. Still, it provided a nice showcase for Alison Mitchell (flute) and Peter Whelan (bassoon) to display some beautiful playing. On the piano, Peter Mitchell (no relation) had a nice delicate touch, though didn't quite bring off the most intricate passages.

This was followed by a new work, written for and commissioned by the ensemble: Rory Boyle's Dance MacAber (a play on macabre). Alison Mitchell explained that they had wanted something with a Scottish feel and that Boyle had mixed Scottish dances with a sense of the macabre and fun. It didn't entirely work. The opening section was a bit too cluttered and the Scottish influences didn't feel very obvious. The slower central section was much more effective, with much clearer melodies and yet still being played with. The final section was again busier, but there was a nice wit to the ending. They played well, having been joined by Maximiliano Martin on clarinet, with Mitchell switching effortlessly between flute and piccolo.

The concert closed with Glinka's Trio Pathetique for Clarinet, Bassoon and Piano. Whelen introduced this, noting that Glinka was the first composer to call for vibrato from wind players and that, amid a particularly woeful time of his life, he had poured all these feelings into the work. He may have done, but it actually didn't feel too sad, save for the penultimate section. It did, however, feel intensely operatic, like arias and duets without words. Mitchell seemed stronger here than in the Beethoven, with Whelan and Martin dazzling as one has come to expect.

Readers in the Bahamas, of whom Google Analytics helpfully tells me we have a grand total of zero, could do a lot worse than catch their concerts on 26th and 27th March.

Mitchell closes her blog post with a note to the effect that:

We've had a brilliant time playing together and are looking forward to further projects and maybe another new commission!

Certainly I hope it's not too long before we hear the Scottish Chamber Soloists in concert in Edinburgh again.

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