City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Minnesota Orchestra Review

By Barnaby Miln - Posted on 30 August 2010

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The Usher Hall
Minnesota Orchestra
Running time: 
Barber, Music for a Scene from Shelley; Elgar, Cello Concerto; Beethoven, Symphony No 7.
Osmo Vänskä (conductor), Alisa Weilerstein (cello)

Samuel Barber’s Music for a Scene from Shelley was his first orchestral work to be performed publicly. It was composed in 1933 at the home in Italy of his life partner, Gian Carlo Menotti, who, years later, lived at Yester House in East Lothian.

Elgar’s Cello Concerto is one of the best known works for solo cello. The young lady sitting beside me told me in the interval that it was certainly her favourite - she was a cello player herself. Alisa Weilerstein’s interpretation was sensitive, emotional and skilled. An American born in 1982 she was wearing the most beautiful scarlet dress.

Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony is very familiar to concert goers. In four movements it gets more exciting as it goes along. By the end Beethoven is almost out of control.

But the star of the concert was the Minnesota Orchestra’s Music Director since 2003, the conductor Osmo Vänskä. A native of Finland who for a while conducted the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, he has pulled the Orchestra from the list of the good to one of the very best.

I went to live and work in Minneapolis in 1968 and was a regular at its former home, the Northrop Auditorium, when the conductor was Stanislaw Skrowaczewski. I have been to concerts at its present home, Orchestra Hall in Nicollet Mall, and don’t need anybody to tell me the influence Osmo Vänskä is having. Minneapolis is a city of culture and rightly proud of its Orchestra.

Osmo Vänskä conducts with enormous energy and uses all his body as he encourages one section of the orchestra after another, often turning ninety degrees to conduct just a small group of players for several seconds.  Some would find it intrusive, but they love him even though they say he is a hard task master. He does not want to innovate - rather to have the orchestra play what the composer intended. Come back soon!

Event was at the Edinburgh International Festival Sunday 29 August  7.30pm