The Donald Runnicles Birthday Concert, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Usher Hall, Review

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BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Edinburgh Festival Chorus
Mozart, Sinfonia Concertante; Beethoven, Symphony No 9.
Donald Runnicles (conductor), Christopher Bell (chorus master), Laura Samuel (violin), Scott Dickinson (viola), Angela Meade (soprano), Elizabeth Bishop (mezzo-soprano), Stuart Skelton (tenor), Marko Mimica (bass-baritone).
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Several hundred enthusiasts were in the stalls an hour before the concert started to hear the conversation between Donald Runnicles and James Naughtie. We learned a little, but not a lot. For sure this very day was Donald Runnicles' sixtieth birthday. He had chosen the celebration programme not just to give solo opportunities to the Orchestra's principal violin and viola players but to conduct the great Beethoven's Ninth. His CD recording is highly regarded.

Edinburgh born Donald Runnicles told us of the happiest of memories of the Usher Hall where he had not only sold programmes as a youngster, but realised watching Sir Alexander Gibson conducting was what he wanted as his career. And well he has done - although a quieter life beckons after September 2016 when he becomes the BBC SSO's Conductor Emeritus.

Laura Samuel became the Orchestra's leader in 2012 after sixteen years with the Belcea Quartet, whilst Glasgow-born Scott Dickinson has been its principal viola since 2002. It is they whom Donald Runnicles had chosen to play for and against one another - in clear enjoyment for all to see - as the soloists in Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante.

Angela Meade, soprano, and Elizabeth Bishop, mezzo-soprano, are both American and together with Australian heldentenor Stuart Skelton and Croatian Marko Mimica, bass-baritone, they were the soloists for Beethoven's best known work, his Ninth Symphony - the first example of a major composer using voices in a symphony. Over one hundred-and-ten voices of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, initially sitting so quietly up and behind the Orchestra, burst into Ode to Joy well rehearsed by the redoubtable Christopher Bell. Altogether a fitting and appropriate Happy Birthday to Edinburgh's favourite conductor.

Concert: Sunday 16th November 2014 at 4pm