A Pair of Christmas Concerts by SCO Chorus & RSNO Extend Season’s Greetings!

23/12/2017

Music for Christmas – Light and Gold: Philip Higham (cello), SCO Chorus / Gregory Batsleer (conductor), Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh, 20.12.2017. (SRT)

RSNO Christmas Concert: Amit Walkey (treble solo), Royal Scottish National Orchestra / Christopher Bell (conductor), Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 22.12.2017. (SRT)

Edinburgh is very lucky to have such a variety of Christmas music on offer. Every year I go to only a fraction of what’s available, and this year that included the Dunedin Consort’s gold-plated Messiah. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra Chorus’s annual Christmas concert (without the orchestra) is always worth catching too, however.

This year their selection was varied and typically intelligent, with a festive atmosphere throughout, if not always explicitly festive content. They began with a radiant Mendelssohn Frohlocket, which resonated through Greyfriars Kirk with bell-like clarity and a wonderful sense of joy, and they brought beautiful warmth to classics like Britten’s Hymn to the Virgin, as well as a really impressive Scottish premiere of Remember Bethlehem by Richard Wilberforce. I though their selection of Bruckner motets worked particularly well, showing an understanding of the words, particularly in Virga Jesse, and of the acoustic, where they swelled to fit the church’s space very impressively.

They were quick to hit their max, though, meaning that several times their volume was at the point where they had nowhere else to go. Furthermore, their pitching, normally one of their strong points, was allowed to slip in some of the longer numbers, noticeably in the two hymns by Johannes Eccard and in Arvo Pärt’s Magnificat, which was otherwise ethereally beautiful with an especially strong underpinning from the basses. However, they finished with a beautifully immersive performance of Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque; immersive because they sang it while spread around the audience throughout the church. They’ve done this before, but the effect is always magical, and it made Whitacre’s squelchy harmonies and progressions (of which I am often sceptical) come alive in a way that convinced even me.

Instrumental variety was provided by four solo cello numbers from Philip Higham, the SCO’s principal cello, ranging from the Baroque austerity of Domenico Gabrieli and the songfulness of Bach, through to the throbbing Romanticism of Reger and the lean cantabile of Hans Gál. It may have not have been particularly festive, but when it’s as musically intelligent as this it’d be churlish to complain.

More overtly popular entertainment was on offer in the RSNO’s annual Christmas concert across town in the Usher Hall. Conductor Christopher Bell is mostly known in this neck of the woods for his work with the Edinburgh Festival Chorus and the National Youth Choir of Scotland. He’s a showman for whom no ounce of applause must remain unmilked. However, I have to admit to being a sucker for those big symphonic carol medleys by Malcolm Arnold and Leroy Anderson, always played wonderfully by the RSNO, and watching The Snowman while the orchestra accompanies never becomes dull, despite their doing it every year. Furthermore, the children I was with absolutely loved the singing and the action songs, so I will pack away my humbug and wish you a Merry Christmas.

Simon Thompson

Print Friendly

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! The Piccadilly Chamber Music Series in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera and More in Buenos Aires in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Gloucester Choral Society’s Hubert Parry’s Centenary Celebrations in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Spend a Penny for Grange Park Opera’s Lavatorium Rotundum __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018 Lucerne Summer Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder’s Forthcoming Schubert Song Series in Leeds and Sheffield __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Ballet’s 2017 – 2018 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Contemporary Music from Manchester’s Psappha in 2017-18 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! I Musicanti’s Alexandra and the Russians at St Johns Smith Square in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov’s Return to London in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! St John’s Smith Square announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Pierre Boulez Saal’s 2017/18 Season in Berlin __________________________________
  • UPDATED! The Glyndebourne Opera Cup and Glyndebourne in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Opera’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House Announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • UPDATED! SOME OF OUR REVIEWERS CHOOSE THEIR ‘BEST OF 2017’ __________________________________
  • NEW! OMER MEIR WELLBER IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • NEW! GREGOR TASSIE IN CONVERSATION WITH VALENTINA LISITSA __________________________________
  • NEW! Dénes Várjon Talks to Sebastian Smallshaw About Budapest’s Kamara.hu __________________________________
  • R.I.P. IN MEMORIAM – DMITRI HVOROSTOVSKY (1962-2017) __________________________________
  • NEW! Ann Murray’s Masterclass at the V&A Part of Opera: Passion, Power and Politics __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Carly Paoli is ‘Singing My Dreams’ at the Cadogan Hall in February 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! A Composer Speaks Up for the Environment: An Interview with Margaret Brouwer __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Russian Ballet Icons Gala at the London Coliseum on 25 February __________________________________
  • NEW! Twelve Years of Celebrating Malcolm Arnold in Northampton __________________________________
  • NEW! What is the Critic’s Job? A Review of A. O. Scott’s Recent Book __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival in Yorkshire Lifts the Lid Off an English Treasury __________________________________
  • NEW! A FULLY STAGED PILGRIM’S PROGRESS IN ORLEANS, MA __________________________________
  • NEW! JIŘÍ BĔLOHLÁVEK (1946-2017) AND THE CZECH CONDUCTING LEGACY __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H