Review: Edinburgh International Festival Opening Concert

In these unusual times, the opening concert of the Edinburgh International Festival was much more than just a concert, of course.

It was the first chance to experience the open-air hall for orchestral concerts specially erected at the Edinburgh Academy Junior School: large and awe-inspiring built, airy and, above all, quite capable of evoking that feeling of concentration. and privacy so crucial for live music.

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Dalia Stasevska led the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a colorful concert. Image: Contribution

The occasional distant calls from gulls and oystercatchers – hardly disturbing – only made the experience even more extraordinary. The slender, socially distant BBC Symphony Orchestra (softly amplified, but hardly noticed) sounded rich, detailed and utterly compelling in the immense space, nowhere more than in Anna Clyne’s PIVOT, the ‘exuberant, at times hoarse opening of the concert, which felt like a justifiably joyful burst of energy upon the return of the live events.

However, conductor Dalia Stasevska kept Clyne’s frenzied creation under tight control and was just as precise in her beautifully nuanced retelling of Respighi’s Trittico Botticelliano that followed.

If you had to choose music to test the acoustics of a new venue, Respighi’s painstakingly detailed work would be a demanding choice, but it sounded impeccable.

There is probably a little more work to be done, however, with the vocals: Singers Rosie Aldridge, Felipe Manu and Michael Mofidian gave great performances in the final work, Pulcinella by Stravinsky, but the balance and the mix with the orchestra have not always been convincing.

Nonetheless, Stasevska directed a moving narrative, full of boundless energy, and set the appropriate jubilant tone for a return to live orchestral music in this remarkable new space.

BBC Symphony Orchestra, Dalia Stasevska (conductor)

Darcy J. Skinner

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