The Edinburgh International concert at the Usher Hall last night should have included Schumann's Piano Concerto, but with no notification to the audience, other than a slip of paper in the programme, and no apology, the piece was changed to Beethoven's 4th Piano concerto. Schumann's piano concerto is seldom performed, which is presumably why most of the audience had booked tickets for the event and somebody made the comment that that alteration was rather like thinking you're going to a Bon Jovi concert but instead end up hearing a boy band. However, the other two pieces in the programme remained unchanged.
The orchestra of the evening was Staatskapelle Dresden - one of the oldest orchestras in the world - who perform an abundance of operas. And it was apt that they began their programme with Weber's Overture, Oberon, written in 1826, when he was Director of the prestigious Opera in Dresden. Fabio Luisi, the conductor, has worked with the orchestra for years and they form a good partnership. He has developed a reputation in the Opera world and has the ability to draw out the most pleasing sounds from the musicians, particularly in the string section.
Beethoven was next. What used to be great about the International Festival concerts was that one would predictably hear the world's top musicians and be mesmerised by their performances. This was not the case with Helene Grimaud, the soloist in Beethoven's 4th Piano Concerto. Starting off hesitantly, her interpretation of the piece was bland and disappointingly mediocre.
In the last piece - Richard Strauss' Ein Heldenleben - the orchestra's talents came to the fore. Conducted flamboyantly by Luisi, it was a tour de force performance. Known as Strauss' musical autobiography, this unusual composition, which juxtaposes sweet melodic passages with exuberant contrapuntal rhythms, comprises excerpts from his Opera scores and features all sections of the orchestra.
Horns - which Strauss himself thought to be "always the yardstick of heroism" - woodwind, percussion, strings and a solo violin which at times sounded like an extract of a concerto. Beautifully played by the leader of Staatskapelle Dresden - Kai Vogler - this is the calibre of orchestra one expects to hear at an Edinburgh International Festival concert.