How precisely do you open one of Edinburgh’s key festivals (not that one)? The Edinburgh International Festival is often seen as the less chaotic sibling of the Festival Fringe. It brings what many consider the pinnacle of influential music, theatre, arts and dance to Edinburgh. Kicking it all off, the LA Philharmonic plays music from the Golden Age of Hollywood – featuring Korngold, Herrmann, Waxman and a selection by John Williams. A smorgasbord of cultural phenomena flats across the stadium as Scotland welcomes the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Without a doubt, the roaring responses come from the names we recognise and grew up with.
What is so refreshing to realise, is that despite playing these famous melodies and scores hundreds of times across the globe, the orchestra knows the impact they carry. We can feel the weight of each number — the adoration from the composer to musician and into the audience.
It would seem even the gulls want in on the splendour of orchestral composition at the height of its craft. They even offer us a glimpse into conductor Gustavo Dudamel’s lighter side, offering a personal connection to the crowd. Breaking with tradition, Dudamel converses with the stadium briefly to introduce YOLA national, who rightfully rob Harry Potter and Star Wars of the thunderous applause.
That is not to say they aren’t in for a fight, with recognisable renditions of Fawkes the Phoenix, The Imperial March and a sumptuous rendition of Sunset Boulevard. They are though, tragically, slightly impaired by the venue. As accommodating as a football stadium is, it does not resonate sound the same way the Orchestra’s main home during the International Festival (the Usher Hall) does.
It would be cruel to single out areas of the orchestra, given the wealth of talent on offer, but we’ll do it anyway. Praise must be gushed upon pianist Joanne Pear and principal violinist Lydon Taylor. With multiple numbers this evening containing pivotal moments of sharp, identifiable notes, they capture the moments which make our skin erupt in goosebumps.
For this reviewer, it was Hedwig’s Theme. For others, it was the Main Theme from Jurassic Park. This piece of the Edinburgh International Festival’s opening was for the people. It was for the crowds, the families, and those who deserve the right to hear renditions from orchestras across the globe. Art needn’t be for the elite. Symphonies not for the privileged. This event reminds us that any age, gender, race or nationality can appreciate the Pink Panther tune.