Photo: Simon Fowler

@ Usher Hall, Edinburgh, on Fri 16 Mar 2016

The first half of tonight’s concert brings two of Scotland’s finest musicians together. The first is composer Sir James MacMillan, whose Little Mass is given its Scottish première. Rather like Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, which is neither small nor solemn, MacMillan’s Mass can hardly be regarded as ‘little’, playing for nearly thirty minutes. It is set for children’s voices (here the excellent RSNO Junior Chorus) and uses just the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. The orchestral writing is dark-hued, and at times violent, except in the Sanctus, which is exuberant.

The renowned Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti, follows this with Szymanowki’s second violin concerto, which is again a work with deep orchestral colours. It is in one continuous movement and is a bravura tour-de-force for the soloist, especially in the central cadenza. Szymanowki’s musical language is very advanced, even for 1933, and had a significant effect on his successors, especially Lutoslawski.

In the second half we have both addiction and obsession in the form of Berlioz’s masterpiece, the Symphonie Fantastique. The addictions are drugs and love; the obsession is the one theme that permeates all five movements, coming to its climax at the end, which describes the witches’ sabbath. The effect is stunning—if slightly crazy—but it is played fabulously by the RSNO, who are on good form at the moment.

A thoroughly wonderful concert.