Edinburgh Usher Hall 2019-2020 Orchestral Season

Edinburgh Sunday Classics 2019-2020

Karl Chapman (Director of Edinburgh Concert Series) (c) Duncan McGlynn

For some years, the series of international orchestral concerts, traditionally held on Sunday afternoons, has been a highlight in Edinburgh musical life. The season follows the Edinburgh International Festival maintaining a cultural level emphasizing the status of Scotland’s capital as the center of Scottish arts and music.

The series allows an opportunity for Edinburgh music lovers to compare the standards of the nation’s national orchestras with the best international ensembles. In the season starting in October are several well-known ‘friends’ who have visited in past years, and several orchestras who offer something quite fresh for Edinburgh audiences.

Last season, orchestras from India and, from Japan, made their Scottish debuts and added to the occasion bringing music from their respective countries and highlighted the musical calendar. The new surprise packages will be the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the Siberian Symphony Orchestra. However, the Iceland musicians have proved a highly gifted group of musicians and earned a high reputation for their recordings, one of which was nominated for a Grammy. The Siberians hail from Omsk – a city with a long-standing musical tradition and a regular visitor to St Petersburg and have toured for many years to the West.

The first visitors are the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra under their Music Director Yuri Simonov with a programme of popular favourites including Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto and featuring the young Romanian Alexandra Dariescu – a new star of the keyboard. The mighty Tenth by Shostakovich will provide a suitable close to this afternoon of Russian classics.

The brilliant guitarist Miloš Karadaglić was a great attraction on his Edinburgh debut several years ago and this much-anticipated performance will be the highlight of the visit by the Flanders Orchestra. Milos will play three preludes by Villa-Lobos, and the Guitar Concierto de Aranjuez by Rodrigo. There is a distinctly southern flavour with Rossini’s Barber of Seville overture and colourful pieces by De Falla and Bizet under the baton of Jose Luis Gomez.

The Finnish conductor Pietari Inkinen returns to Edinburgh – on this occasion – with the Prague Symphony Orchestra (one of his other orchestras) in a programme of Mahler’s huge Third Symphony with the Czech-born contralto Ester Pavlů. The choral forces will be based on Edinburgh choirs who are renowned for world-class singing.

Another return visitor is Joshua Bell with his Academy of St Martin-the-Fields with a classical programme of Bach, Schubert, and Piazzolla in January 2020. This is followed by the big surprise package of this season in the Iceland Symphony Orchestra – it is probably the biggest ‘invasion’ of Vikings for a millennium! Certainly, Iceland has been making headlines for their ability to surprise in Scandi TV dramas and a remarkable football team in last year’s World Cup! They bring us a programme of Ravel and Bizet, and Sibelius, but also music by the young Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir – Aeriality. The orchestra have toured extensively and have played at Carnegie Hall, and at the Musikverein in Vienna. Their recordings are on Chandos and Naxos, including all the Sibelius symphonies, and the works of Vincent D’Indy. This will be eagerly awaited together with the brilliant young Korean pianist Yeol Eum in Ravel’s Piano Concerto for Left Hand, all under the principal conductor – Yan Pascal Tortelier.

March brings a world-class violinist in the shape of Victoria Mullova and another ensemble making their debut here – and again from Scandinavia – the Swedish Philharmonia under Jaime Martín bring a programme of Prokofiev, Sibelius and notably, Mendelssohn’s ‘Reformation’ Symphony. The Siberian Symphony Orchestra from Omsk arrives in April with a familiar Russian programme of Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich along with Freddy Kempf and Dmitry Vasiliev their music director.

More Slavic music comes in May from the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra under Dmitry Alexeev with the Japanese pianist Noriko Ogawa playing Rachmaninoff’s First Piano Concerto, plus Sibelius’s Finlandia, and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet suites.

The final concert includes an old favourite – former Music Director of the RSNO – Stéphane Denève and his Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra with the world-class French pianist Jean Yves-Thibaudet. He will play the Liszt First Piano Concerto and the season will culminate with Mahler’s great First Symphony. A special work will be Anna Clyne’s new piece – This Midnight Hour. Putting the rest of Scotland’s cities in the shade, once again Edinburgh City Council deserve the highest praise for arranging a top-class series of International Concerts offering world-class musicians and entertaining music matching the best that the Edinburgh International Festival can offer.

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