City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Alpine Symphony, EIF 2012, Review

By Iain Gilmour - Posted on 15 August 2012

SCO 2012
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The Usher Hall
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Running time: 
Beethoven Symphony No 6 (Pastoral), Strauss Alpine Symphony
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Donald Runnicles (conductor)

Edinburgh-born Donald Runnicles has stamped his authority so precisely on the BBC Scottish Symphony orchestra since taking over as chief conductor that there is little to be said, except to regret that he was absent so long from the Scottish musical scene.

Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony is familiar to many music-lovers and paints a sound picture of rural life that portrays a largely unhurried, idealised existence. There may be the occasional intrusive storm but the music produced by the orchestra is easy listening with touches of grandeur.

Runnicles drew out gradations of tone from the 60-strong string section without apparent effort and there was a unity of the whole that would put many more famous orchestras to shame. All was not quite perfect but slight glitches from some violins did not jar on the listener.

There was a marked absence of brass and percussion in Beethoven’s score but this was far from the case in the Strauss tone poem. The augmented percussion section and wind machines with emphatic horns – on and off stage – tubas and the Usher Hall organ gave vivid life to the musical depiction of the Alpine storm which hit the youthful Strauss.The audience, many of them stunned by their first experience of this now little performed work, were vociferous in their appreciation.

For those puzzled by Alpine Storm, or if you want to hear it again, tune into BBC Radio 3 on Friday, September 14. If you didn’t get to the Usher Hall, tune in to find out what you missed.

Event: Saturday, August 11 2012