United Kingdom Mussorgsky, Sibelius, Beethoven: Tedi Papavrami (violin), Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Emmanuel Krivine (conductor), Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 12.5.2016. (SRT)
Mussorgsky: Dawn on the Moscow River from Khovantchina
Sibelius: Violin Concerto
Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 “Eroica”
Tonight was the last Edinburgh SCO concert to have Roy McEwan in charge as Chief Executive. (Gavin Reid, currently Director of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra is lined up to succeed him.) Emmanuel Krivine ended tonight’s concert with a mini tribute that was endearing because it was so clearly improvised. Speaking in broken, off-the-cuff English, Krivine praised McEwan’s style and attributes, before leading the orchestra through a repeat of the closing pages of Beethoven’s Eroica symphony which they had just finished. In this day and age encores are carefully chosen and sharply rehearsed in advance, so this choice of tribute (together with the fact that Krivine had to chat to the orchestra before they started so they all knew what they were playing) was pleasingly off-the-cuff and, for me, all the more winning because it was sincerely meant.
Unfortunately, the symphony didn’t grab me so much the first time around. I’m a big fan of Krivine’s work with the SCO, and his recorded cycle with La Chambre Philharmonique had prepared me for his fast tempi, but not even the SCO could keep up with his lightspeed lick through the first movement (too much scrabbling to catch up, and too often), and even sections of the finale felt muddled and poorly coordinated. The Scherzo held together (just), and if the Funeral March did have gains in power then that wasn’t due to the speed, more the spacious way in which the great climaxes were opened out.
In fact, the best things came in the first half, with a breezy, transparent Dawn scene from Khovantchina and a performance of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto which turned its chilliness into an asset. Tedi Papavrami’s initial pitching problems had me worried at the start, but he turned into an all-but-ideal interpreter of the solo part, urgent and intense through the first movement, with an uncommonly searching cadenza. A quiet showman, he brought a beautiful inwardness to the slow movement, surging with post-Romantic beauty, and then a finale of lively pace but still a serious mood.