City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

EIF 2015: RSNO MacMillan and Sibelius, Usher Hall, Review

By Barnaby Miln - Posted on 15 August 2015

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The Usher Hall
Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Chorus, Edinburgh Festival Chorus
Running time: 
MacMillan, Percussion Concerto No 2; Sibelius, Kullervo.
Edward Gardner (conductor), Colin Currie (percussion), Anna Larsson (contralto), Jukka Rasilainen (baritone), Christopher Bell (chorus master), Gregory Batsleer (chorus director)

For twenty five minutes Scottish percussionist Colin Curry mesmerised the audience as he seemingly pranced across the stage from marimbas to drums to aluphone, vibraphone and crotales. Sometimes he checked the score but more often there was no need. Behind him, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra was playing a fast first movement which rolled in to a dreamier second and straight on to an exciting build up of the final movement. Tom Dunn, principal viola, had his moment of glory.

Sir James MacMillan was there to hear the first Scottish performance of his second Percussion Concerto dedicated to Colin Currie and which was first performed, as he told me, less than a year ago in Holland. His first Percussion Concerto of twenty years ago was written for a smaller orchestra. The composer seemed pleased with how his work was interpreted.

Sibelius' choral symphony Kullervo is based on The Kalevala a nineteenth century work of epic poetry from Finnish oral folklore and mythology which helped unify the Finnish language. And this was the language the men of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Chorus and Edinburgh Festival Chorus were singing. But only in the third, the longest movement, and the fifth. Joining them were Anna Larsson, singing the part of Sisar, long lost sister of Kullervo, sung by Jukka Rasilainen. The tale of their entanglement is tragic. The music reflected the nationalistic grandeur of one of Finland's folk heroes through to close-on funeral music following his suicide. It was extraordinarily entertaining. At the end the men of the Chorus, by their applause, made it very clear how much they had appreciated Edward Gardner's conducting.

Event: 7.30pm on Friday 14th August 2015