City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

EIF 2015: Opening Concert, Usher Hall, Review

By Barnaby Miln - Posted on 11 August 2015

Donald Runnicles.jpg
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The Usher Hall
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
, Edinburgh Festival Chorus
Running time: 
Brahms, Gesang der Parzen; Brahms, Liebeslieder Waltzer (orch. Brahms); Brahms, Schicksalslied; Strauss, Ein Heldenleben.
Donald Runnicles (conductor), Christopher Bell (chorus master)

After the fun of the night before when the lit-up and musical Usher Hall was the focal point of the International Festival, the opening concert got down to serious business. Conducted by Edinburgh born Donald Runnicles, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra was joined by the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, which is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. One hundred and forty voices were singing three secular works by Brahms, two serious with love-song waltzes in between.

They began with Gesang der Parzen. The singing was immediately impressive and easily received despite coming from Goethe’s drama of the Greek tragedy Iphigenie auf Tauris ‘Let the human race fear the gods!’. More cheerfully were eight of the eighteen love songs written for Brahms’ love of the Viennese waltz. And to finish Schicksalslied, Song of Destiny - composed soon after his Requiem but just as highly regarded. It was, however, a mentally challenging first half.

Those sitting either side of me could not wait to hear Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, A Hero’s Life, a tone poem without breaks; almost as if they had to endure the first half. Much is written by experts about just how much this is autobiographical - whether that be good or bad. The Orchestra gave us a treat and its leader Laura Samuel excelled. There were off stage trumpets, and it is not every day that euphonium and tuba have moments of fame.

A thought provoking opening concert rather than a crowd pleaser - but that’s what is great about the Edinburgh International Festival.

Event: 7.30pm on Saturday 8th August 2015