United Kingdom Prokofiev, Barber, Mozart, Rodrigo: Craig Ogden (guitar), Royal Northern Sinfonia, Bradley Creswick (leader/director), Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 29.11.2015 (SRT)
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 1 “Classical”
Barber: Adagio for Strings
Mozart: Symphony No. 36 “Linz”
Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez
Solo set by Craig Ogden
The marketing strategy for this concert was pretty clear. It was the face of one man that appeared on all the posters and, in all the publicity, his name features at the top: Miloš; so famous that he doesn’t need a surname. However, the poster boy pulled out due to a thumb strain – pretty insignificant for most people, but when you’re Miloš your thumbs are worth a lot of money – so gamely into his place stepped Craig Ogden, and a very good job he did too. Ogden knew he couldn’t compete with Miloš’ international stardom and matinee looks, so instead he won us over by talking about his children and by guiding us very nicely through the technicalities behind the pieces he was about to play in his solo set. At one point he even said, “I don’t know why I’m teaching you how to play the guitar!” A very fine guide he was, too, and his choice of solo pieces ranged from an entertaining version of Here Comes the Sun, through Takemitsu’s much more esoteric arrangement of Yesterday to Gary Ryan’s Rondo Rodeo. To tick off some Spanish classics, he also gave us a tremulous take on Memories of the Alhambra and, best of all, a joyous rendition of Albeniz’s Sevilla.
When Ogden was joined by the Royal Northern Sinfonia for the inevitable Concierto de Aranjuez, they surrounded him with delicately shaded sound that fitted him like a glove. The dynamics, so critical to this work, were always perfectly chosen and they were gorgeously evocative at the start of the famous Adagio, the keening cor anglais solo offset by a gentle bed of strings. Those same strings had sounded pretty small in the opening number, Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony, and were a little underwhelming in Barber’s famous Adagio. However, the orchestra as a whole were at their finest during a delightful performance of Mozart’s Linz Symphony, full of flexibility, rhythmic responsiveness and a vibrant sense of moving together. They were led throughout by Bradley Creswick, who bounded on and off the stage with the energy of an irrepressible schoolboy.