On a perfect summer’s evening in a part open-air, part covered venue, an anticipatory silence falls over an audience eager to hear the Scottish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Lionel Bringuier. There is a magical feel to that moment of silence, people having shuffled into the most comfortable position and just waiting with bated breath for Bringuier to lift his arms and let the music begin.
Tonight the audience are treated to an international triple bill – travelling from Japan to France and then ending in Russia. A single note holds Toshio Hosokawa’s Blossoming II together in what is a notably east-Asian sound in comparison to what most people might think of when they imagine classical music, and yet it showcases the diversity of the genre and whets the appetite for what is to come.
Moving on to France, the orchestra perform Maurice Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin. Originally composed as a suite for a solo pianist to commemorate the lives of six of Ravel’s friends lost at war, in 1919 four of the six movements were transcribed for orchestra. Although one might assume the pieces would be sombre in nature, they sound much more like a celebration of life. The entire orchestra’s masterful playing of their instruments is a fitting tribute to both Ravel and to the fallen. The pizzicato sections add a particular quirkiness to proceedings and the oboe solo gives the instrument its moment in the spotlight.
And finally to Russia with the great Sergei Prokofiev and his Symphony No 1 Classical, again in four movements. In contrast to Hosokawa’s opening piece, this symphony from Prokofiev is what most people think of when they hear the term classical music. With light, skipping beats and the build to a crescendo, it is a fitting climax to tonight’s performance. Prokofiev is well-known in classical circles for his ballet compositions – most notably Romeo and Juliet – and there is a tangible sense in the air of people wanting to move with the music.
As the orchestra stand the applause rings round the impressive structure at The Edinburgh Academy Junior School and rightly so. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra, expertly conducted by Bringuier, have brought 50 minutes of classical music to enthusiasts and novices alike. Paired with the balmy evening, it’s a wonderful way to encounter classical music – for both the first and umpteenth time.