Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, Usher Hall, Review

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Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Gustavo Gimeno (conductor)
Renaud Capucon (violin) Members of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra
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Last night’s concert at the Usher Hall was the final one in the SCO season. Devoted to works in the nineteenth century it began with Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No 3. He had written a total of four for his opera Leonore – later renamed Fidelio – and this version of the overture is the most popular.

First performed in 1805, it was the only opera he wrote and Gustavo Gimeno was the guest conductor who is gaining a reputation for conducting opera orchestras and so felt perfectly at home working with this composition.

A dramatic work, the Overture is a symphonic poem relating the tale of the political prisoner Florestan who was wrongly incarcerated in jail but is ultimately pardoned. Off-stage trumpet fanfares announce his impending release, aided and abetted by his wife disguised as Fidelio. All the drama of the tale is encapsulated in the Overture, and the orchestra, under the baton of Gimeno, effectively elicited the emotions purveyed in this work. Alec Frank Gemmill, Principal Horn player of the orchestra, gave a flawless performance of the fanfare.

Mendelssohn conducted the first performance of Beethoven’s Overture and his Violin Concerto, written in 1845, was next on the programme. The French violinist Renaud Capucon was the soloist. A remarkable player, his nuances were superb. His top notes were unsurpassed. It was the best rendition of this popular concerto I have ever heard. As an encore, he played exquisitely Gluck’s Melody ‘Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Orfeo Ed Euridice.

The final piece in the programme was Schumann’s Symphony No 2. Astonishingly, he drafted the first movement in just three days in 1845 at a time when his mental health was beginning to deteriorate. He himself said the Symphony mirrored his turbulent state of mind – particularly the first movement. In the Scherzo, the string section played at a terrific pace and they created a sumptuous sound in the slow movement. There are dramatic crescendos throughout but the players excelled themselves in the final movement and in appreciation of their exceptional performance Gimeno magnanimously highlighted players in all the sections in this their final concert of the season.

Friday 11th May. Glasgow City Halls. 7.30pm. Tickets £16-£30