United Kingdom Beethoven, Mozart: Nicola Benedetti (violin), Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Jérémie Rhorer (conductor), Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 24.04.2014 (SRT)
Beethoven: Egmont Overture
Symphony No. 4
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 5
Nicola Benedetti brought the house down before she had even played a note tonight. The rousing, warm applause that greeted her when she walked on stage was a sign of how much she is loved by this, her home crowd, and the smile that was never far from her face during the Mozart concerto was proof positive that she feels comfortable and loved when she plays in Scotland. None of this would matter were she not such a genuinely great musician. She played with deliciously sweet tone, brimming over when the first movement’s main theme is finally unveiled by the violin, and her playing exuded sunny confidence throughout. Her cadenza felt graceful, even structural, with plenty of double stopping and even some cheeky pizzicati, reminding us of how technically strong she is, and she played the Adagio with real feeling, especially the minor key episode in the middle. There was also a lovely swing to the Rondo finale, and a sense of leaning into the melody as a living, breathing thing.
The players of the SCO seemed content to stay in the background for the concerto, only really thrusting forward in the “Turkish” episode of the finale, but they were fully to the fore in Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony, whose murky introduction actually felt rather colourful, and the ensuing Allegro featured playing of sparkle and plenty of wit. There was a lovely sense of legato to the Adagio, engendering a real feeling of flow, which was then blown out of the water by the ensuing Menuet and an ebullient finale that bubbled its way towards its uproarious conclusion with scarcely a pause for breath. The symphony came as an unexpected relief, though, because the Egmont overture that began the concert struck me as pale and passionless, a capital sin in this most exciting of Beethoven’s overtures. Jérémie Rhorer began the evening as a rather curt, sterile presence on the podium, and the orchestra’s tone took a long time to warm up. At least it got there in the end.