Edinburgh International Festival: 5 highlights of classical music

Edinburgh International Festival: 5 highlights of classical music

Labekue Sisters PIC: Umberto Nicoletti
Labekue Sisters PIC: Umberto Nicoletti

Philharmonic Orchestra, Usher Hall, 7 and 10 August and Queen’s Hall, 6 August

In addition to the Philadelphia Orchestra, the International Festival’s other major orchestral residency this year comes courtesy of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, which plays two concerts at Usher Hall and a chamber recital to kick off the concerts at Queen’s Hall on August 6. (They are also in the pit for Garsington Opera’s Rusalka at the Festival Theater from 6-9 August, see film p.6). The young Finnish conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvalli has just completed his first year as the Philharmonic’s principal conductor, and he is one of the wisest – and really funniest – figures on the podium today. Watch what will no doubt be an energetic, powerful concert of Beethoven’s “Emperor” and Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony from the Philharmonie and Ruvali on August 7. Meanwhile, the themes of oppression, freedom and resilience in Beethoven’s Fidelio (August 10) will no doubt take on added resonance in the context of this year’s global events.

Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Usher Hall, 13 and 22 August

Sir Simon Rattle IMAGE: Mark Allan

If anyone can capture and convey an authentic sense of momentum, it’s Wayne Marshall. After directing the brilliantly entertaining Great Night for Singing last year, he returns to lead the SCO in four iconic American works that blend jazz, pop and classical, from Gershwin’s sleepy Rhapsody in Blue to Copland’s fiery El Salon Mexicano. The SCO will also perform Bruch’s G minor concerto in Asher Hall on Monday 22 August, with new EIF director Nicola Benedetti.

Centuries, Usher Hall, 16 August

The performance movement of the period may have begun its mission by shedding new light on early music, but it took some time to sink its claws into works of the 20th century. Conductor François-Xavier Roth’s Les Siecles Orchestra of Paris made Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring something of a calling card, restoring the work to all its vivid, uneven glory with the instruments that could be heard at its tumultuous 1913 premiere. Get new insights into The Rite, along with a remarkable discovery from the same year: the dreamy, languid, rarely heard cantata Faust et Helene by 19-year-old Lily Boulanger.

London Symphony Orchestra, Usher Hall, 18 August

Eclectic doesn’t even begin to describe the LSO and Sir Simon Rattle’s cherry-picking international festival program this year, from Berlioz’s colorful Le corsaire to Mahler’s sentimental Blumine via the austere power of Sibelius’ troubled Seventh Symphony. Amongst the chaos is a brand new piece, Sun Poem, by Daniel Kidane, a former RSNO Composers’ Hub winner who opened Last Night of the Proms 2019 with his piece Voca. And Rattle’s take on Bartók’s cacophonous, sexually charged ballet score The Wonderful Mandarin is sure to be something to enjoy.

Czech Philharmonic, Usher Hall, August 20 and 21

The first of the Czech Philharmonic’s two concerts at the International Festival is very much a family affair, with Music Director Semyon Bychkov joined by his wife Marielle Labecue and her sister Katia for Martinu’s rousing, roof-raising Concerto for Two Pianos – rarely heard but never he doesn’t forget. when it is. Janacek’s vivid homage to the spiritual joys of nature, the Glagolitic Mass, forms an appropriate visionary counterbalance. The next day, Bychkov and his band are likely to bring perceptive authenticity to Mahler’s thorny Seventh Symphony – Czech Phil first performed the piece, under Mahler, back in 1908.

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