The Friday night Usher Hall concerts of the RSNO are a central part of Edinburgh’s musical life in the autumn. This one is a rather uneven experience under the baton of principal guest conductor, Thomas Søndergård. (Incidentally the RSNO’s Music Director seems to be largely absent this season – Peter Oundjian is only conducting 5 out of 19 concerts!). It begins with two rather minor works by Mahler – Blumine, and part of Mahler’s Third Symphony arranged by Britten. While pretty, they prove a rather underwhelming opening experience and last only 18 minutes.
Things liven up when the fine Dutch violinist Janine Jansen takes to the stage. Jansen is to the Netherlands what Nicola Benedetti is to Scotland – their international violin star. Ironically, Jansen firstly burst onto the international scene as a soloist with the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland in 2001. Since then she has gone up to be one of the leading international violinists. She doesn’t disappoint, giving a virtuoso performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto which delights the large audience and Thomas Søndergård.
After the interval, the RSNO gives a very fast and virile account of Beethoven’s great Seventh Symphony. The programme notes suggest that Beethoven was heavily into rhythm, rather like minimalist composers such as Steve Reich – a comparison between two very differing composers that isn’t immediately obvious! However, tonight the similarity in the hard driving rhythms of the Seventh is apparent. The orchestra seems to be playing well under Sondergard, which is just as well since he seems to be conducting more concerts than the Music Director!