Tonight, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra have moved out of their normal Thursday evening home at the Queen’s Hall, to play to a half-empty Usher Hall. It somewhat takes away some of the atmosphere that a full Queen’s Hall would have generated. Given that, it is a solid, well-played concert: the SCO never give a bad concert. They respond well to their principal guest conductor, Emmanuel Krivine, who, like the SCO players, seems to enjoy making music.
The concert opens with a largely string-based SCO, playing Schubert’s Fifth Symphony. As Conrad Wilson points out in his programme notes, is not unlike Beethoven’s Fifth, but in parts is also influenced by Haydn and Mozart. This familiar music is well played by the SCO.
The concert continues with Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concerto, superbly played by the young French pianist, Bertrand Chamayou, who certainly looks the part: a tall, elegant young pianist. Mendelssohn was not only a composer but also a concert pianist, and gave the first performance of the concerto in 1831, while still in his early twenties. He described it as ‘a thing quickly thrown off’, but it certainly doesn’t show in this colourful and melodic portrayal.
The concert concludes after the interval with Schumann’s Symphony No. 3, known as the ‘Rhenish’. Again, this work can be compared with some of the symphonies of Beethoven, but the big difference is in the fourth movement of this five-movement Symphony. This is clearly “church music”, written after Schumann had seen the installation of a new Cardinal Archbishop. The fifth and concluding movement returns to a more traditional, triumphant conclusion, reminiscent of Beethoven.
The concert is well received by the half-full Usher Hall audience, but one wonders how it would have felt in the closer confines of the Queen’s Hall. Sometimes Chamber Orchestras are best in smaller spaces.