There was one main reason for travelling to Edinburgh's Usher Hall on Friday to hear the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO), but there were two reasons for leaving completely fulfilled, writes Garry Fraser. The draw was the inclusion in the programme of Korngold's violin concerto, played by the one and only Nicola Benedetti. The satisfaction was the performance of this attractive work and that of a Beethoven symphony that concluded the programme. Both were brilliant, and their interpretation and delivery left a charming Sinfonietta by Zemlinsky in the shade. The Korngold was akin to the RSNO going to the movies, and if anyone was familiar with soundtracks for films of the 1930s they could be excused for humming along. The melodies, construction and orchestration were on a par with any symphonic composer you could name, and the overall effect was highly entertaining. With the accent more on the melodic rather than the virtuosic, this gave Ms Benedetti the chance to show off her beautiful tone and lyrical strengths, particularly in the upper register an area where power and passion is sometimes hard to bring over. This she did superbly. The cadenza in the opening Moderato nobile did give her the chance to demonstrate the flair she is renowned for, as well as the rondo-like finale, but the emphasis throughout was on the lyrical side of things and it was her interpretation of this that struck me most.LyricismThe lyricism displayed in the concerto continued in Nicola's encore. Normally you associate works by Paganini with flair and panache, but this Saraband was a thing of ethereal beauty, perfectly phrased and superbly floated. Not only did it make a stunning tailpiece to her overall performance, it was also the perfect way to commemorate 150 years of Italian unification, as requested pre-concert. The other reason for the evening being such a joy was the performance by the orchestra of Beethoven's Fourth Symphony. This was one of the best I've heard of any of the composer's nine symphonies, and the catalyst in all this was Walter Weller, the RSNO's conductor emeritus. His familiarity with the work and his interpretation led to a spell-binding performance. The opening adagio could have been described as ponderous, but it led into a vivace that was brightness personified. The adagio was something to die for and the third movement was Beethoven at his best. The finale scurried along in marvellous style, with orchestra and conductor as one.
As the bumbling squire Podrick Payne, Daniel Portman’s character is one of Game of Thrones’ comic foils. He also represents the way the common man’s fate is thrown carelessly around by the whims of the powerful. The Glaswegian, currently preparing for his role as narrator of The Snowman, says being part of the hottest show in the world was life changing for him. “It’s just been an incredible job,” he says. “It’s the biggest TV show in history and there’ll probably never be anything like it ever again. I was just 19 when I got involved in the show and it’s been such an amazing thing to be part of.” The show has taken Daniel all over the world. “I’ve been in Ireland, Croatia, Seville, Iceland.” Before he starred in Game of Thrones Daniel (24) was in the BBC’s River City, the 2009 film Outcast, and had a small part in Ken Loach’s The Angels Share. In Game of Thrones Daniel played the squire of Tyrion Lannister, one of the show’s best-loved characters. He’s also one of a slender number of characters not to have been killed off by the savage pen of Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin. Daniel confirms he’ll be back for season seven, which starts screening in the summer. Before then he will be hitting the stage as part of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s Christmas Concert series. He’s narrating Raymond Briggs’ classic Christmas tale The Snowman. The RSNO’s adaptation will show the film with a full symphonic orchestra playing Howard Blake’s moving score. The film, of course, tells the story of a boy whose snowman comes to life on the stroke of midnight. They play in the child’s house before riding a motorbike and then taking to the skies, soaring over an arctic landscape into the aurora borealis. Landing in a snow-covered forest they join a party of snowmen before meeting Father Christmas and his reindeer. Santa gives him a snowman patterned scarf. The next morning the boy awakes to find his snowman has melted...but upon checking his pockets he discovers the scarf Father Christmas had given him. It’s at the Caird Hall in Dundee tonight before it moves on to Glasgow and Edinburgh. Daniel says he’s delighted to be coming back to Dundee. “The last time I was in the Caird Hall was to read soldiers’ poetry alongside Lorraine Kelly for an event commemorating the Battle of Loos. “It’s a tremendous place and it’ll be good to be there for a less sombre occasion. The Snowman is such a wonderful tale. It reminds me of childhood Christmases. When the RSNO asked if I would like to narrate it I jumped at the chance. The RSNO’s version is hosted by Christopher Bell, who has conducted with many of the major British and Irish orchestras, including the Royal Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, London Concert, Royal Scottish National, BBC Scottish Symphony, Scottish Chamber, Ulster, RTÉ National Symphony, RTÉ Concert, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestras and the City of London Sinfonia. He’ll be conducting the RSNO junior chorus who’ll follow in the footsteps of Peter Auty and Aled Jones in performing the haunting Walking in the Air. Daniel’s looking forward to being part of what should be a tremendous and heart warming spectacle. “One of the most fun things about being an actor is all the different formats you can do,” he says. “Doing a show like Game of Thrones is incredible, but it’s a lot of travel and a very punishing schedule. “There’s something great about being up on stage in front of a live audience. You get instant gratification.” www.rsno.org.uk
If getting the chronology wrong with composers is the only thing the Scottish Chamber Orchestra got incorrect at their concert on Wednesday night in St Andrews’ Younger hall, it shows what lengths one must go pick the most miniscule fault in this orchestra’s make-up. Haydn before CPE Bach? Outrageous! Seriously, it didn’t matter one jot as the programme and performance was a delicious as it could be, a two-symphonies-plus-concerto format that showed the orchestra at their magnificent best. Someone once said that Vivaldi wrote hundreds of concerti and they all sound the same. The same could be said for Haydn’s 104 symphonies. They are of a trade-mark formula but if you want to avoid any monotony, ask the SCO and conductor Richard Egarr to take a hand in proceedings. They turn music of this genre into an art form and consequently provided 20 minutes or so of exceptionally precise and superbly structured performance. If I had one legitimate complaint it would arise through the next item in the programme, CPE Bach’s A minor cello concerto. Had soloist Philip Higham moved forward a foot or two, then his magnificent performance would have come over that bit better. It did merge into the general orchestral sound on more than one occasion. But then I’m splitting the most-slender of hairs as he and the SCO strings delivered a performance to savour. Higham’s superb technique, style and virtuosity did shine through especially in the last movement, which followed a lyrical Andante, and which included a spirited 5-note motif that was tossed to and from throughout the orchestra. Incidentally, his cello was around before the composer was born – 1697 compared to 1714. The concert closed with Mendelssohn’s third symphony, the “Scottish”. It’s as Scottish as the Eiffel Tower despite the so-called “Charlie is my darling” melody in the second movement, but it is a fine piece of music. “Fine” isn’t the word you’d use for the Egarr and the SCO’s delivery. Try polished, exceptional or unparalleled and if these fall short go for magnificent and memorable. This was the final concert in this SCO St Andrews series and such a performance whets the appetite for more glorious music in season 2018-2019.
Perth Symphony Orchestra will join forces with Perth Youth Orchestra for the finale of their season. Under the direction of Allan Young, the two orchestras are set to appear together for the first time in three years at Perth Concert Hall on Saturday February 27 at 7.30pm. The first half of the concert will see Perth Symphony Orchestra perform the Overture from William Tell, Carmen Suite No. 1, an orchestration of the music from George Bizet’s opera, and Malcolm Arnold’s Tam o’ Shanter, based on the famous poem by Robert Burns. After the interval Perth Symphony Orchestra will be joined on stage by the young musicians of Perth Youth Orchestra to perform a selection of other popular classics as well as music from stage and screen including Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. “This is a very exciting finale to Perth Symphony’s Season,” said Mr Young. “A real family concert with something that will be enjoyed by all age groups. “We are particularly excited about having Perth Youth Orchestra joining PSO for the second half. This combined orchestra will feature over 180 players and is sure to make an amazing sound as well as providing an incredible visual spectacle. Many concert goers may remember the fantastic sell-out concert three years ago when the two orchestras last paired up and I am sure this concert will be just as exciting.” Tickets can be purchased in advance from Perth Concert Hall box office in person, by phone on 01738 621031 or at www.horsecross.co.uk. There is free admission for up to two under 16s with a paying adult (not available online).
An Angus musician has fulfilled a lifelong dream of being a professional tuba player in one of Europe’s top orchestras. Ross Knight from Carnoustie has just started work in the position of solo tuba with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in Geneva, Switzerland. The 24-year-old beat off competition from around 90 tuba players from across the globe who all auditioned for the coveted place. Ross graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in London with first class honours in 2014 and then again in 2015 with his Professional Diploma where he passed with Distinction and a DipRAM. He moved to Berlin in December when he won a prestigious place with the Orchestra-Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. In his few months in Berlin he has played several times with the orchestra and has been guided and mentored by the full-time tuba player Alexander von Puttkamer. He is currently undertaking a masters degree (M Mus) at the Hochshule für Musik, Theater und Medien in Hannover under the instruction of Danish Professor of tuba Jens Bjørn-Larsen. Ross has developed a very impressive CV over the past few years playing with the London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Deutches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, as well as holding the principal tuba seat with both the European Union Youth orchestra and the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester. Over and above, he continues to perform as a soloist, his most recent performances being at the Royal Northern College of Music Brass Festival and the Berlin Philharmonic Academy 'Carte Blanche' concerts. Ross who was a pupil of local brass peripatetic teacher Mike Robertson said he was very honoured to have won the seat with the OSR. He said, “My musical journey started at school through Mike Robertson and I am very grateful to him for his encouragement and support. "It was Mike who put me in touch with Professor Patrick Harrild at the Royal Academy of Music when I was sixteen and with whom I studied under for five years in London. "I am also very grateful to the Tayside Symphony Orchestra who, under the late Ron Walker, gave me my first big orchestral solo opportunity when I was 15." Ross recently performed two concerts at the Victoria Hall in Geneva with the OSR where they performed cinema concert performances of the Lord of the Rings — The Two Towers under Maestro Ludwig Wicki.
The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra has named its new chief conductor as it launches its 2015/16 season, during which it will celebrate its 80th birthday. Thomas Dausgaard will take over from Donald Runnicles as the orchestra's chief conductor in September 2016. The Dane has appeared with orchestras around the world and is currently chief conductor of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, principal guest conductor of the Seattle Symphony and honorary conductor of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra. He has also appeared as a guest conductor with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (SSO), performing a wide range of repertoire from Dvorak and Tchaikovsky to Ives, Lindberg and Schnelzer. Mr Dausgaard, who is taking up the post on a three-year contract, said: "The infectious joy of making music with the BBC SSO makes it a great honour and pleasure to become its chief conductor from 2016/17. "I am a fond admirer of the orchestra's creativity, team spirit and excellence, and I look forward very much to exploring all the exciting possibilities which lie ahead of us." During the 2015/16 season Mr Dausgaard will conduct Sibelius's three final symphonies and later will conduct Brahms's First Piano Concerto with regular BBC SSO guest Denis Kozhukhin. Current chief conductor Mr Runnicles will open and close the season with performances of Gustav Mahler's first and last symphonies. Although stepping down as chief conductor, from September 2016 he will continue to work with the orchestra as conductor emeritus. BBC Scotland director Ken MacQuarrie said: "Creativity is the lifeblood of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Thomas Dausgaard will ensure the orchestra continues to be one of the most dynamic and boundary-pushing orchestras in Scotland and the world." The orchestra will celebrate its 80th birthday in December with a special concert which includes a UK premiere from Matthais Pintcher, the BBC SSO's Artist-in-Association, as well as Mozart's Oboe Concerto and Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde.
Perth Symphony Orchestra will perform its spring concert on Saturday in the concert hall. Featuring in the concert, which starts at 7.30pm, will be former Perth musician Lawrence O'Donnell, who will perform Mozart's Bassoon Concerto. Since graduating from the Guildhall School of Music and becoming a postgraduate at the Royal College of Music, London, Lawrence has established himself as a highly sought-after performer. In a short space of time his professional experience has included working with the London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and English National Opera. Lawrence has appeared as guest principal with the Symphony Orchestra of India, Irish Chamber Orchestra, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and is on trial for principal bassoon with the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. The PSO's conductor Allan Young said, "We are very privileged to once more have the opportunity to perform a great work with such an accomplished young professional. It is especially rewarding that this talent has been home-grown. "Lawrence will, I am sure, attract a lot of young people to the concert and will provide a fantastic inspirational role model to any young musicians attending the concert. "The programme for the spring concert has been deliberately picked to be popular with concert-goers as well as hopefully attracting the many fine young musicians we have in Perth." The concert starts with concert favourite Siegfried Idyll by Wagner followed by Mozart's Bassoon Concerto. The second half is dedicated entirely to Dvorak's Sixth Symphony in D Major. Tickets are £10 with concessions £8, while children can attend for free.
The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra concert in Perth's concert hall had a programme that catered for every taste. If you wanted to be shaken and stirred by music from the 21st century, then John Adams' My Father Knew Charles Ives was just for you. If you wanted the musings of a 19th century poet, orchestrated in style and performed with passion, Mahler's Rucker-Lieder fitted the bill perfectly. Then, if the glorious rich harmonies of a classic romantic symphony were more your line, what better than Brahms' second? Individually excellent, but collectively stunning and, with this threesome on show, the performance brought the curtain down on the concert hall's Scottish Orchestras series in real style. However, despite the talent on display, one performance stood out that of mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill. The last time I heard her, she wasn't firing on all cylinders. But a fully-functioning Karen is a delight and her performance of the Mahler was outstanding. The meditative Ich Atmet Einen Linden Duft (I breathed a gentle fragrance) was superb but of the five songs Um Mitternacht (At Midnight) took the plaudits for its orchestral individuality and almost hymn-like sentiments. Adams' work, which had opened the concert, is one quite hard to call. Is it a mix of contemporary sound effects, a garbled collection of musical imagery? Or is it a cunningly constructed fusion of inspirational themes with a rich mix of colour and form? I would go for the latter; not only for its content but for the fact the work grips you, in the best possible way. I liked some of the touches of Sousa or the muted brass of Glenn Miller. The haunting trumpet solo over shimmering strings and tubular bells, which opens and finishes the work, was another appealing factor in the work. Then came the Brahms a triumph for orchestra and conductor Donald Runnicles. I found this orchestral playing of the highest order and although the work is one of the most popular in the repertoire, I detected no signs of over-familiarity in the performance.
Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...
The Auld Alliance between Scotland and France is alive and kicking as the Royal Scottish National Orchestra announce their programme for season 2011-12. This will see the orchestra connect with the best Scottish and French artists with a bipartisan repertoire. The season includes a celebration of orchestral works by Debussy, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the composer's birth. This fusion of French flair and Scottish skill marks the last season of Stephane Deneve as musical director before he moves to Stuttgart. In the last six years, Deneve has developed an affection and admiration for Scotland and wanted to mark his last season with the RSNO in a particular way. "Every season during my time as musical director has felt special, but this final year feels very special," he said. "I wanted the Auld Alliance theme to celebrate musically our warm friendship and fruitful connection." Before the end of this season, another successful partnership comes to a close, the one between the orchestra and its chief executive Simon Woods, who leaves next month to take up a post in Seattle. Woods also developed a close association with Deneve and is full of praise for the Frenchman. "It is impossible to overestimate the impact Stephane has had on the RSNO these past six years," said Woods. "I would like to take this opportunity to thank him publicly for the past few years." The season commences in Dundee on September 29, when Deneve will be joined by Nicola Benedetti for a performance of Bruch's Scottish Fantasy, with the programme also including Debussy's La Mer. The concert on November 10 features Mendelssohn's violin concerto with Vadim Gluzman, the Hebrides Overture, and the Christmas concert again contains The Snowman with Christopher Bell. A programme including Beethoven's 8th and Chopin's second piano concerto follows in March, then the season ends with a Naked Classic evening of Mendelssohn's "Scottish" Symphony. In Perth Concert Hall, during the Scottish Orchestras series, the RSNO will perform on January 12 with Sir Roger Norrington and on February 23, when Scottish soprano Lisa Milne will sing Canteloube's Songs of the Auvergne.