The prospect of a rousing overture, the return of a brilliant young French violinist and a favourite symphony had most of the seats in the Usher Hall filled. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra was back under the command of its Music Director, Stéphane Denève, who had been conducting in North America for a few weeks. His exuberant talent of welcome and brief introduction to the music ahead was again clearly appreciated.
Still seeking a Leader of the Orchestra, Charles Mutter, familiar to Edinburgh concert-goers, was the Guest Leader.
Richard Wagner’s Overture to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg was written after his large scale and serious work and, for him, is based on a much more frivolous story line. At the talk before the concert the associate leader, William Chandler, had described how, as a teenager, he had been taken by his father, a musician, to see him judge competing music societies and the lengths they went to curry his father’s favour. It was for a beautiful girl’s hand the same sort of people were competing which was the story in the well known overture that opened the concert.
Renaud Capuçon played the Guarneri violin, Panette, made in 1737 that had belonged to Isaac Stern as the soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. Effortlessly he appeared to bow his instrument and all the time under the baton of the conductor. He didn’t of course, but go wrong and it's almost impossible to get back on track. That’s why this music is often used as a test when interviewing prospective violinists for the Orchestra. The audience loved it, so much so that he gave an encore, again to much applause.
After the interval came one of Edinburgh’s favourite and often played symphonies, Sibelius’ Symphony No 2. But Stéphane Denève had admitted that he had not conducted it before. Word had got about that in rehearsal the Orchestra knew better, but the Conductor, in the end, got his way and stamped his mark here and there. All was well, although the second movement which was designed to be sombre seemed slightly uncontrolled - maybe on purpose. We like this symphony because it’s Presbyterian is how a regular concert-goer described it in the foyer afterwards.
Event: Friday 11 December 2009 7.30 pm, RSNO most Friday nights throughout the winter. There’s an informative talk beforehand, usually at 6.45 pm. £5 for students, Under 16’s free.