As we approached the Usher Hall we saw Stephen Duffy interviewing Donald Runnicles on the huge screen on the plaza outside the Sheraton Hotel, across the road from the Usher Hall. The former George Watson’s College pupil, who went on to sell programmes in the Usher Hall in order to get to hear some of the world’s finest musicians perform there in the early seventies, was saying just how good it was to be back in the Usher Hall. In his view its acoustic is amongst the best five in the world. And his own world wide career as a conductor is putting him high on anybody’s list.
The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra does not give us many concerts outwith the Edinburgh Festival and so its supporters were out in force on a Sunday night for a well heeled programme of familiar music.
Wagner’s Tannhäuser is rousing music and got us in the mood for the quite exquisite soprano voice of Christine Brewer. She sang, in German, six of Richard Strauss’ songs - All Souls’ Day, Cradle Song, Cecily, Rest, my soul!, Released and Dedication. Originally written for piano and voice each had been orchestrated later, some not by Strauss.
It was not surprising that the BBC recently rated Christine Brewer, an American, one of the top twenty soprano voices of our time. It was an extraordinarily comfortable and beautiful performance. The applause was good enough for us to be treated to a short encore and the night’s guest leader, Marcia Crayford, praised for her special part.
After the interval came Beethoven’s Symphony No 7 written in 1811 whilst the composer was recovering from one of his illnesses in the Bohemian spa town of Teplitz. Donald Runnicles style of conducting came to the fore. He worked the orchestra hard, really hard, in the first movement and once into the second seemed happier with what turned out to be a fine performance of one of Beethoven’s great symphonies.
From what I could overhear from conversations on the way out the audience went away very happy.
Event: Sunday 21 March 2010 7.30 pm