City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

EIF: Chamber Orchestra of Europe 02 Review

By Iain Gilmour - Posted on 19 August 2013

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The Usher Hall
Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Running time: 
Richard Strauss, Duett-Concerto; Mozart, Sinfonia concertante in E flat Major; Beethoven, Symphony No 7 in A major.
Yannick Nezet-Seguin (conductor), Romain Guyot (clarinet), Matthew Wilkie (bassoon), Lorenza Borrani (violin), Pascal Siffert (viola).

Thunderous applause and prolonged cheers from a packed Usher Hall marked the end of the scintillating Beethoven Symphony performed by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe to conclude their Festival run.

Standing ovations are comparatively rare at EIF performances but almost the entire audience was brought to its feet by conductor Yannick Nezet-Sequin’s swift-paced version of this Beethoven classic.

His decision to play the symphony with barely a breath of a break between movements made compulsive and rewarding listening. The music flowed seamlessly from a more-than-competent group of players who responded unhesitatingly to his direction.

Nezet-Sequin is the most remarkable conductor I have encountered in many years of concert-going and reviewing. Certainly the most athletic of current conductors, he virtually danced around the podium.

Eschewing the traditional baton, his whole body gave instructions and encouragement. Head movements, leaning and bowing down towards various sections, coupled with continuous hand movements and an authoritative jabbing finger, brought unfaltering response.

Most conductors shake hands or embrace the Leader of the Orchestra after a successful performance. He went even further, kneeling down to kiss her hand. The applause only subsided when the conductor, taking a final bow, indicated that he was off for a drink.

Though the Symphony was the pearl in the oyster, the two works before the interval had much merit. Strauss’s Duett-Concertino was his last orchestral piece, written only two years before he died. The underlying emotional source of the three linked movements and the “duet” between bassoon and clarinet was the composer’s memory of an earlier friend. It is not regarded as one of his best works though there is undoubted beauty at the outset and ingenious instrumentation.

Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola ranks among his greatest works and is well-known to most music-lovers. The elaborate relationship between the soloists , almost operatic passages, and unusual pizzicato added up to a memorable performance and well-satisfied listeners.

An exceptional feature on this occasion was that the four soloists were not hired-in specialists but members of the orchestra, who unobtrusively went back to their normal roles.

Event: Sunday, August 18 at 7.30 pm